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America's zealous and vindictive pursuit of computer hacker

PUBLISHED: 11:11 05 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:16 07 September 2010

COMPUTER hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his appeal against extradition for breaching United States IT security systems, an offence which in American law could see him facing a lifetime in prison. It is shameful that things ever reached this point. Mr McKi

COMPUTER hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his appeal against extradition for breaching United States IT security systems, an offence which in American law could see him facing a lifetime in prison. It is shameful that things ever reached this point.

Mr McKinnon's crime was to hack into Nasa and naval networks six years ago. Arguably, he was doing America a favour, highlighting weaknesses not long after September 11, when national security was supposed to be the country's biggest priority. The idea that an amateur hacker could infiltrate the military secrets of the world's greatest superpower would have been laughable had the implications for Mr McKinnon not been so serious.

Of course he acted foolishly but he should not have been subjected to a legal process more often used to extradite terrorists and international criminals. America's embarrassment is acute, but there is no justification for turning Mr McKinnon into a scapegoat for its own failings.

With his impressive self-taught skills Mr McKinnon could be gainfully employed to bust paedophile rings or track down internet fraudsters. Instead he has been threatened with military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay and could spend more years in prison than Radovan Karadzic will serve for his brutal and bloody war crimes.

That comparison alone points to only one conclusion - that Gary McKinnon has been pursued with excessive zeal and in a vindictive manner by a country that suffered no real harm apart from a blow to its pride, delivered from a north London flat by a self-confessed computer nerd.


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