Friday, 31 July 2009

Gary McKinnon

The decision to allow the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US on charges of hacking US defence computers raises a number of questions for both administrations. As an individual with Asperger's Syndrome the fate of Gary McKinnon must strike fear into the families of those with children or siblings with the same condition. The intense focus on a particular issue is a consequence of the syndrome and in many cases this could be a mundane subject such as cricket scores, trains or the weather. In Gary's case his focus was on the presence of UFO's and believing the US was covering up their existence he went looking for evidence. Using a normal computer with an internet connection he delved into the files of 97 US government computers looking for the evidence he believed was being hidden. He was identified while downloading a picture of what he believed was a UFO from one such computer to his own email address. He now faces a prison term of 60 years in a US maximum security prison. The question for the UK Government is to define the level of care provided to those with conditions such as Asberger's where the condition itself is not dangerous or threatening but its outworkings can leave individuals vulnerable.

For the US Government the questions are more practical. Having had their most secure computers infiltrated by someone in the UK with a basic computer and internet connection how secure can their systems be against the combined efforts of the Russians, North Koreans, China, Al Qaeda or any other intelligence service? Gary McKinnon has shown the US just how weak their defences are. The US should be thanking him and asking his advice not lashing out at an easy target.

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