UFO hacker Gary McKinnon beats US attempts at extradition

16/10/2012

So who’d a thunk it?  Gary McKinnon, intrepid UFO-conspiracy theory nut who skilfully hacked into NASA and US Department of Defence (robustly protected with no, I repeat no passwords, has finally won his appeal to home secretary Theresa May.

Then again, a cynic (who, me?) might argue that the government really needed the PR boost this decision has given them.  For a long time people have been protesting the blatantly skewed US/UK extradition.  Britain recently extradited the half-blind (heh) Abu Hamza to America. May says her decision was made solely on medical grounds, but it was obviously a sop for those who say that Britain is just the USA’s poodle.  I doubt very much that America will make much fuss over this – after all, it ain’t like McKinnon is an al-Qaeda operative who beat state-of-the-art intrusion systems to access military secrets – he’s a UFO nut who got into unprotected computer systems looking for evidence of LGM at Area 51 or somesuch crap.  So now May and her successors can point to the McKinnon case whenever someone accuses the UK government of extradition to America on demand.  Because we all know that’s what the US/UK treaty amounts to really, don’t we?  Well, don’t we?  Please don’t tell me anyone’s actually fallen for this theatre!

It’s also important to remember that McKinnon has been under threat of extradition for over eight years!  That’s a long time to sit worrying that you might soon be on the way to Gitmo.  As Gary’s mother wrote in an open letter in September:

My son has now been under arrest for longer than any British citizen ever has. He hasn’t raped anyone, he hasn’t murdered anyone, so can’t understand how this can be happening to him, as no matter how much anyone may choose to exaggerate his crime, the fact is that his crime was tapping on a keyboard in his bedroom in north London in search of information on aliens from outer space.

Gary rarely ever leaves his home as he is traumatised to the core. A boy who cycled, swam, composed music and sang, now sits in the dark with his cats and never wants to see or speak to anyone.

He has no life, and is broken, like a wounded animal with no outlet and no hope, seeing only the dark side and the cruelty that exists in the world. My only child has lost 10 years of his youth and has aged and died before my eyes.

Also spare a thought for the families of Babar Ahmad, and others who have been extradited to the US by virtue of our “special relation” no matter how flimsy the evidence.  Ahmad’s family released a statement:

We strongly welcome the decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon – we would not want his family to experience the pain and suffering we have all been enduring since Babar was extradited.

However, questions do need to be asked as to why, within the space of two weeks, a British citizen with Asperger’s accused of computer related activity is not extradited, while two other British citizens, one with Asperger’s, engaged in computer related activity are extradited. A clear demonstration of double standards.

That Theresa May felt compelled to postpone both the McKinnon decision on several occasions and the introduction of the forum bar (which would have prevented Babar’s extradition) demonstrates her willingness to make vulnerable individuals like Gary suffer in her determination to extradite others.

Many of our supporters are angry at what appears to be blatant old-fashioned racism under which all British citizens are equal but some are more equal than others.

It looks like the McKinnon decision is a victory in a war we’ve already lost.

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Secret courts, FFS – Now tell me the Tories aren’t Nazis!

11/09/2012

The government’s proposed justice and security bill, which they are trying to get through Parliament, will enable them to cover up any involvement in torture – past, present and future – as well as denying defendants any right to a fair trial.

As an example: British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was seized in Pakistan in 2002 and rendered to Guantamano Bay, went to court to get compensated for the cruel and brutal treatment he got from the CIA with the full knowledge and complicity of the UK intelligence services. The high court ruled that CIA information that revealed MI5 and MI6 knew of Mohamed’s ill-treatment should be disclosed. The ruling provoked a storm of protest, with some in the government claiming the US had threatened to withhold intelligence from the UK.

At the same time, to avoid further incriminating evidence being disclosed, the UK government paid undisclosed sums, believed to amount to millions of pounds, in an out-of-court settlement to British citizens and residents who had been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay.

So now, the government’s proposals will prevent the disclosure of any information in the hands of the security and intelligence agencies from being disclosed in civil cases. The Tory ex-justice minister Kenneth Clarke said that it was necessary to keep evidence secret from the defence – otherwise “you would have terrorists in the public gallery, lining up making notes.”

And now Prof Juan Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture,is expressing “deep concern” about the government’s plans. He says they will allow intelligence services to be party to torture without any fear of disclosure of their role. Many people who have been tortured by “third party” countries allege that MI6 officers were giving the torturers lists of questions they wanted the torture victims to be asked.

The “war on terror” is enabling governments in supposedly free democratic countries to strip their citizens of any rights. Secret courts and torture should have no place in our institutions. The treatment meted out to Binyam Mohamed should have been stopped. But things have only got worse over the past decade. All the government needs to do a bit of hand-waving and mention the word “terrorism” and bang! There goes another fundamental human right. What is the matter with us? Why do we allow our evil governments to exist? Something needs to be done about it.

Some relevant links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/29/secret-justice-bill-not-perfect
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/secret-justice-bill
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/sep/11/un-official-secret-courts-torture

Please have a look at them. This is important!

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Ecuador grants Assange political asylum – but how will he get from London to Quito?

17/08/2012

News about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden and the possibility of being sent to the USA to face spurious but all too serious espionage charges. In June he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embasshy in London, requesting political asylum. Well, the Ecuador government has made its decision: as things stand, Assange is a potential political prisoner, and if he’s extradited to Sweden there is a very definite possibility that he will be forwarded to America, where faces charges relating to “top secret” communiques that were leaked by Wikileaks and published by the New York Times and the Guardian. Hmm, that’s a thought: how come the New York Times editor hasn’t been charged with espionage? Why isn’t the USA calling for the extradition of Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian? Rhetorical questions of course. Newspapers have been around a long time, as has been the notion of a free press. But many governments say that online reporting isn’t really journalism at all – and of course Wikileaks is a pain in the ass that the US/UK would like to stomp to death pour encourager les autres.

Countries usually respect the embassies of other nations, regarding diplomatic posts as the legal territory of that foreign nation. But William Hague, British foreign secretary and effectively the prime minister as the real prime minister (David Cameron) and the deputy PM (Nick Clegg) has made some ominous threats. He’s already said in public that Assange would be arrested if he leaves the embassy in London where he has lived for nearly two months, and Ecuador claim that British authorities are threatening to storm the embassy to arrest him.

Hague responded to the asylum decision saying it was “a matter of regret” that Assange had been granted asylum, and that Assange would be arrested when he left the embassy regardless.

The British government sent a letter to Ecuadorean officials in Quito outlining the powers of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which allows revocation of a building’s diplomatic status if the foreign power occupying it “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post”. Hague said this was not a threat, simply an explanation of British law, allegedly in line with international law.

If government agents (ie. the police) invade the embassy to arrest Assange, it will be setting a precedent with possibly explosive outcomes. In recent history foreign embassies have been sacrosanct. Earlier this year, the lawyer and dissident Chen Guangcheng took refuge in the US embassy in China; and the People’s Revolutionary Army didn’t storm the building – when Chen left the embassy it was completely freely. And many other people have gained sanctuary in another countries’ embassies – check out the list here. If the British government think the Ecuadorean embassy is fair game, what will happen to the British Embassy in Ecuador… or anywhere else?

Think, Hague, think. If Dave comes back from holiday to a diplomatic crisis, heads will roll. Even yours. :p

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Why won’t Theresa May just say clearly if she intends to allow Sweden to extradite Assange to USA?

27/07/2012

Interesting article in the Guardian: Julian Assange, and the Ecuadorian government (in whose London embassy Assange has taken refuge for the past five weeks),have no problem per se with extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. Ecuador, which wants to be an “honest broker” in this matter, is concerned that Sweden will go on to send Assange to the US where he faces possible charges of espionage and a natural life prison sentence for his role in Wikileaks’ publication of “top secret” diplomatic dispatches. Assange’s US lawyer, Michael Ratner, has said he was certain Assange had already either been secretly indicted by a grand jury in Washington or would face extradition with a view to prosecution. He believed the death penalty remained a possibility – which is a major reason why Ecuador opposes the extradition.

According to the Guardian article, there is a concept in extradition law called “specialty”: this means that if the UK extradite Assange to Sweden, the Swedes will not be allowed to extradite him to a third country (such as the USA) once they’ve finished with him – they will have to give him a 45 day grace period during which time he will be allowed to travel somewhere else (perhaps Ecuador). However, specialty can be waived by the country granting the initial extradition request – in this case the UK – thereby allowing an individual to be extradited to a third country. If home secretary Theresa May waives specialty under section 58 of the Extradition Act 2003, Sweden will be able to extradite Assange to the USA.

Assange is willing to be extradited to Sweden if specialty is not waivered. But the British government refuses to make this commitment. Instead they keep coming out with non-committal statements like:

Since Mr Assange first entered the Ecuadorean embassy five weeks ago, we have repeatedly made clear to the Ecuadorean government that the UK has a binding legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences. We have been seeking a diplomatic solution and expect Ecuador to resolve this issue in accordance with its international obligations.

The UK courts, including the supreme court, have confirmed that Mr Assange’s extradition to Sweden complies with all the requirements of the UK’s Extradition Act, including as regards the protection of his human rights. We have gone to great lengths to explain to Ecuador the human rights protections inherent in our law.

Britain usually refuses to extradite people to countries where there exists a possibility of cruel and unusual punishment – which includes the death sentence. Of course, if Assange is extradited to Sweden, this principle will have been upheld – Sweden has no plans to execute Assange. But if May waives specialty, she will effectively be sending him to the USA, where cruel and unusual punishment is a distinct possibility (remember, the USA would like to make an example of Assange, a foreigner whose own government doesn’t give a toss for – the US authorities can’t take action against the New York Times or the Guardian, the papers that actually published the leaked documents, because of how that would look in a country that supposedly prides itself on the “freedom of the press” – but destroying Assange would barely raise an eyebrow amongst Americans).

So come on May – tell Ecuador what your plans are regarding specialty in the Assange extradition case. Are you planning to have him sent on to the USA and possible execution? Or are you really just trying to abide by your legal obligations to Sweden?

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US want to extradite UK citizen for *not* breaking the law!

30/03/2012

This is one crazy story, but I swear it’s true – have a look at http://juliasblog-the-fight-of-our-lives.blogspot.co.uk/ if you don’t believe me…

Basically, British citizen Richard O’Dwyer, who lives in Britain and hasn’t been to the US since a trip to Disneyworld when he was five, has been running a website where he provides links to various TV shows and movies. Remember that: he doesn’t host the video files himself, he merely provides links to other sites, which he has no connection with. He was arrested for this in the UK, but not taken to court because, basically, he has not broken the law in the UK, and any trials based on providing links have failed.

But that’s not good enough for the US government. They are trying to extradite Richard to America to put him on trial… even though it’s not clear that his actions are criminal in the USA! Bsically, they want to bang him up in a hellhole of a federal prison and force him into some kind of plea-bargain. And this is all too possible, as we have an insane extradition treaty with the USA, hurried through parliament after the 9-11 thing. According to the treaty, UK citizens can be extradited to the US on the flimsiest charges, whereas there’s no way at all that America would extradite their citizens here for such a ridiculous “crime”.

I swear, this is all true – check out the blog I linked to above, and also have a listen to the 28 March episode of the radio show Off The Hook, which is available as a podcast at www.2600.com. Absolutely crazy…

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Megaupload.com shut down by USA… even though it’s run from New Zealand

21/01/2012

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past few days, I thought I’d fill you in: the popular “internet locker” storage site Megaupload.com has been closed down by the USA because of charges of alleged “piracy”. Apparently:

Shotguns, a Rolls Royce Phantom and millions of dollars were seized from properties linked to Megaupload on Friday, as the US sought to extradite the file-sharing firm’s founders over online piracy claims

and it seems that our of the seven Megaupload executives arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom, appeared in a New Zealand courtroom for a first appearance in what is likely to be a lengthy extradition process. USA authorities, clearly following orders from the vested interests in the SOPA/PIPA controversy, the US wants to put Megaupload bosses on trial for charges including accusing them of racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. It’s widely reported (even by the Guardian, damn their eyes!) that Aukland police seized luxury cars, firearms and millions of dollars in cash. As if ownership of nice legal stuff somehow makes these people guilty.

When Kim Dotcom spoke to press, apparently unfazed, he said he has “nothing to hide”

I really don’t get this raid at all. Megaupload.com is an online locker service, where the pubic can buy storage space for files. Megaupload does not examine all these files, but if someone reports that their intellectual rights are being infringed, Megaupload immediately take down the content in question. This all suggests to me that Megaupload is exactly the lawful, prudent service that should be protected under “safe harbor” laws. Ad I certainly don’t get where the US authorities are involved. As the EFF put it: “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”.

This is all clearly meant to bolster the case of those who back the draconian SOPA/PIPA laws being considered in the USA. SOPA/PIPA garnered a lot of bad press on “black-out Wednesday” and President Obama’s stated intent to veto the ridiculous laws.

One more interesting factoid: The Pirate Bay was nearly wrecked by Swedish authorities following US orders. And now New Zealand has done the same. So tell me something: when did the entire world become USA juridiction? And WTF are we going to do about it?

Go to Megaupload.com and you get to see this

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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