Quest to extradite harmless hacker, Gary McKinnon

 Gary McKinnon believes in little green men – but it doesn’t make him a terrorist

Way to go, Mr President. I think we can all agree that it has been a cracking first week. Apart from the swearing-in glitch – which was entirely the fault of that judge – I have supported just about everything that Barack Obama has done.

I liked the speech, and the promise that America is ready to lead again. It is good news that he is getting rid of Guantanamo and water-boarding and extraordinary rendition, all the dread apparatus of the Bush regime.

But before we all get too misty-eyed about the new era, and before Barack devotes himself entirely to the meltdown of the banks, there is one more thing in his diplomatic in-tray. There is one last piece of neocon lunacy that needs to be addressed, and Mr Obama could sort it out at the stroke of a pen.

In a legal nightmare that has lasted seven years, and cost untold millions to taxpayers both here and in America, the US Justice Department is persisting in its demented quest to extradite 43-year-old Londoner, Gary McKinnon.

To listen to the ravings of the US military, you would think that Mr McKinnon is a threat to national security on a par with Osama bin Laden. According to the Americans, this mild-mannered computer programmer has done more damage to their war-fighting capabilities than all the orange-pyjama-clad suspects of Guantanamo combined.

And how? He is a hacker. He hacked into the Pentagon, he hacked into the army, the navy, and the air force, and the Americans say he temporarily paralysed US Naval Weapons station Earle, by deleting some files.

In their continuing rage at this electronic lèse-majesté, the Americans want us to send him over there to face trial, and the possibility of a 70-year jail sentence. It is a comment on American bullying and British spinelessness that this farce is continuing, because Gary McKinnon is not and never has been any kind of threat to American security. He had only one reason for fossicking around in the databanks of Pentagon computers, and it had nothing to do with the war on terror or indeed the military capabilities of any country on earth.

Mr McKinnon believes in UFOs, and he is one of the large number of people who think that there is a gigantic conspiracy to conceal their existence from the rest of us, and that this conspiracy is organised by the US government.

I am not so brave as to claim that UFOs do not exist. The Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, has said he believes in life forms on other planets, and no decent empiricist could rule out the possibility.

It may be that the former footballer and BBC presenter David Icke is right, and that the world is run by giant lizards in disguise. Perhaps Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are themselves supersized saurians who have been sent on a 10-year mission to wreck the UK economy, in preparation for the great lizard takeover. Maybe the whole plot will climax in Davos this week, when all 2,500 leading economic and political lizards will meet in the Swiss alps – having done untold damage to global finances – and hail the arrival of the lizard mother ship as it perches on the mountain top.

All this is certainly theoretically possible, just as it is possible that there really was an accident involving an alien spacecraft at Roswell, and that there really is an extra large teapot in orbit around Mars. It is just that I happen to think it vanishingly unlikely, and we have a word for people who persist in believing in alien abduction. They are cranks, and they do not deserve to be persecuted. They do not deserve to be arrested, and have their lives ruined by the agonising delays of the law, unable to work, a drain on the resources of the state and of their families.

Gary McKinnon wasn’t even a proper hacker. He did something called “blank password scanning”, and because these military computers were so dumb as to lack proper passwords, he was able to roam around their intestines in search of evidence of little green men. He was so innocent and un-furtive in his investigations that he left his own email address, and messages such as “Your security is crap”. And yes, since you ask, he does think that he found evidence that the US military is infiltrated by beings from the planet Tharg. He even knows the names and ranks of various non-terrestrial officers, though unfortunately they have been deleted from his hard drive.

It is brutal, mad and wrong even to consider sending this man to America for trial. He has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, for heaven’s sake. How can the British government be so protoplasmic, so pathetic, so heedless of the well-being of its own people, as to sign the warrant for his extradition? What kind of priorities do we have these days? We treat a harmless UFO-believer as an international terrorist, and are willing to send him to prison in America, and as for real terrorists – people who bombed and maimed innocent civilians in this country – we seem willing to give their families £12,000 each, on the grounds that they are all “victims” of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The British government is obviously too feeble to help Mr McKinnon, and even though the courts last week granted him another review, it is plain that the matter will simply drag preposterously and expensively on.

It is time for Barack Obama to show the new leadership the world has been crying out for. It is time for the Commander-in-Chief to tell the US military to stop being so utterly wet, dry their eyes, and invest in some passwords that are slightly more difficult to crack.

In the words of the spiritual with which he began his inauguration ceremony, it is time for the new President to let our people go. To persist with this extradition is so cruel and so irrational that the only plausible explanation is that beneath their suits the US Justice Department and the UK Home Office are occupied by a conspiracy of great green gibbering geckos from outer space.


41 thoughts on “Quest to extradite harmless hacker, Gary McKinnon”

  1. Well said. The unequal extradition arrangements to/from the US/UK are a scandal. Gary McKinnon’s US equivalent would never be extradited (even if the UK authorities were vindictive enough to ask for it, as I hope they would not be). I am as big a fan of America as America’s new president seems to be of my illustrious namesake, but extradition arrangements should be fair and balanced between our countries.

  2. Spot on, Boris. Having followed this story closely I was beginning to think that maybe all politicians were as blinkered and eager to please as our dear home secretary, Jacqui Smith. It’s good to know there are still some people of seniority who haven’t forgotten that we look after our own, rather than handing people over to bullies like the US military.

    Gary clearly committed a crime. However, in light of the fact that the US has not put forward a shred of evidence to support their claims of damages, he should be tried in the UK under the appropriate charge of misusing a computer system.

  3. Well said Boris. After all the US military should actually be grateful to Gary McKinnon for showing up how bad their security really is! Perhaps Gary McKinnon should even be given a high-ranking job by the US military or the UK military as a professional ‘hacker’ to infiltrate the real terrorists’ sites.

    I sincerely hope that Gary McKinnon’s case is dropped completely and he is allowed to live the rest of his life in peace.

    If he is made a scapegoat by the US military – now that would be a terrifying crime – would the US military then be called terrorists themselves?

  4. Bravo Boris – superbly written.

    The other night I saw a typically awful Fox News report which said his hacking (as you said it wasn’t even hacking!) cost the US military $1 billion. These gov’t departments had appalling security for a medium sized business let alone the military and were made to look like fools by a guy with moderate computer knowledge. I assume the 99% of the cost was spent fixing the glaring problems that Gary had highlighted.

    I started following this story when it first broke a couple of years ago or so – I sincerely hope this poor guy is left alone and the charges are dropped or significantly lessened.

  5. Well said Boris. Gary McKinnon exposed the US military’s failings. The situation should be quietly taken notice of and the failings dealt with. McKinnon should not be punished for their poor security systems. Next time it could be someone who means harm not some poor chap leaving clear messages that their system is crap.

  6. An absolutely brilliant, intelligent, perfectly expressed article, because if Gary McKinnon is a crank, being fascinated by the concept of aliens, so am I.

    I am so so happy that Boris Johnson does not dismiss the possibility of aliens existing. Lately, there have been more sightings than and i was going to do a blog. on how the US army has given its planes instructions to shoot any suspected alien aircraft down… FOOLS! Haven’t they seen

  7. A super-intelligent, brilliant article by Boris Johnson, and I agree with every word. For a start, Obama has made some inspired decisions in his first week as President. Secondly, it would be downright cruel to extradite Gary McKinnon, they ought to just tighten up their computer security. If McKinnon is a crank, join the club, I am equally fascinated in the possibility of aliens and equally keen to know any information available.

    David Cameron has said that when he becomes PM he is going to make public all information regarding aliens… MY HERO! Why shouldn’t we know about it? There have been a lot of alleged sightings recently and the US army has ordered its planes to shoot down any suspected alien aircraft. FOOLS! HAVEN’T THEY SEEN “THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL”? Aggression is the worst possible answer to contact, if indeed it is that, from another world.

    I am over the moon, metaphorically speaking, that Boris does not totally dismiss the idea of the existence of aliens. I am star struck that he takes such a broad minded view of a subject that most people ridicule.

    Possibly, the inhabitants of other planets might, in a million to one shot, be viewing our planet. Which would mean that they are much more advanced and intelligent than the inhabitants of this planet. Imagine the wealth of wisdom and scientific advances they could impart, imagine the compassion and spiritual teaching they could share.

    Obviously they would be miles more intelligent than us, so we better root around for the brainiest people to speak to them. Would BJ be up for this?

  8. ps. in my enthusiasm and excitement that Boris was writing about my favourite subject, I smacked the keyboard, so had to repeat myself by starting all over again.

    If aliens contacted us, it could be SO BEAUTIFUL!

  9. Geez! If aliens ARE watching us, how do we explain we were such idiots as to pick Gordon Brown as our leader? I supppose we could push him to the forefront and see if the aliens bought his rap about the economic problems being “global” and nothing to do with him!

    JUST A THOUGHT. In the film THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL, the aliens, in the glamorous form of Keanu Reeves, come to earth because things are getting so bad with the global warming, and the wars and everything, Keanu is sent to wipe out civilisation, so the planet can be saved for future, less destructive generations.

    Do you think the aliens are so appalled at the mess Gordon Brown is making of the economy, so amused at the gaffes of Milliband and Balls, so embarrassed by Harriet Harman’s ridiculously patronising legal moves to “help” women and the underprivileged, so disgusted at the cynicism of the spin of Mandelson and Campbell, they have come down to sort us out?

    MI GOD! We better make it plain ASAP that we objected to their government all along and the aliens are welcome to them for their scientific experiments, hopefully involving long metal probes. we should also make it plain that none of these people is a typical human being.

  10. This is a farce. If a man can crack a password to a government institution on a whim then were doomed. He should not be charged, But patted on the back for teaching the pentagon a lesson.

  11. I’m afraid I can’t agree, Mr. Mayor. We may agree that Gary McKinnon is a crank. But cranks are not harmless, as you may well know having succeeded one in office. Had Mr. McKinnon been found rummaging through the CO’s office at RAF Molesworth we (the US) would have clapped him in irons without a peep. His digital trespass was no less intrusive and damaging and ought to be prosecuted as such.

  12. Boris, Boris, Boris, you’d think after all this time online you’d know what Asperger’s Syndrome is. Bill Gates is also said to have it, but it doesn’t lead him to hack into the Pentagon, it just leads him to cheat the author of a piece of software and claim it as his own in the thirty years afterwards. It’s not an insanity defence.

    That said, the attempt to extradite this relatively harmless, antisocial, old-fashioned crackpot is a waste of taxpayer money and a miscarriage of justice in the extreme. One of the REAL crimes is the claim of the “losses” suffered for downtime caused by hackers; that scam has been going on a very long time, and it has put some decent boys and girls, men and women, in custody when they belong in a community service project or remedial socialization lessons or something.

  13. I have read some of the books written by David Icke. He believes Ken Clark, Edward Heath and other prominent political figures, also members of the royal family, including the late Queen Mother and Prince Philip, morph into lizards when we are not watching. He believes that they are part of a network of reptilian bloodlines, a weird cult, who controls the world and it is all linked in with the Illumnati. He is very strange, possibly ill, and his ideas absolutely cannot be taken seriously, but obviously Boris was joking.

    However, as Boris also points out, the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, has said he believed there is life on other planets and I do take this seriously, as a likelihood.

  14. Boris writes a good article. Angela [Ed: inappropriate]. Ahh those were the days 😉

    The Queen Mother wasn’t a lizard but Tony Bliar obviously is. Edward Heath was just a sad prat. Was he frightened of women? Tuh, not another one!

  15. You’ve swayed me on this Gary bloke Boris, however I’m not sure about going along with President Obama’s plan to empty the rather dubious inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay into Portugal.

    I can’t believe so mahy of our EU leaders are so carried away by Obamamania as to not all turn around and tell him to get stuffed on this one.

    The Dutch seem to be the only sane government left in the EU.

  16. Surely we all have to help each other? So why tell Obama to get stuffed when closing Guatanamo Bay is such a positive step?

    “The Dutch seem to be the only sane government left in the EU.”


    I wonder if aliens are here already. they could either be here, observing us in another dimension, or as in TH3 DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, they could be posing as humans.

  17. The treatment is Gary McKinnon is far far too harsh. You don’t suppose he has found out things that the US do not wish to be disclosed, so that is why they are planning to lock him up and throw away the key….?

  18. Boris, you are such a good writer, I shall endeavour to pick up one of your books one day soon. I’m not sure whether I believe in aliens – I suppose anything is possible! As for the actual issue of Gary McKinnon – I had no idea that hacking was so easy. Good on him for pointing out the failings of the security of the US government / internet. I do not think he should be extradited – I shudder at the thought of how he could be treated over there, I hope Guantanamo isn’t an option.

  19. There is a light at the end of the tunnel Boris. This tired and inept government always changes its mind and your masterpiece of writing will hasten this along. Ashley.

  20. I think all hackers should be treated the same as someone who kicks down a locked door to a private home/business. They should go to jail. All countries should prosecute hackers the same way they would if they were breaking into a physical, locked building.

  21. Mr Mayor,
    Instead you should be asking why the UK continues to subcontract out it’s law enforcement requirements to the United States. Oh yes, you lay some blame squarely at the footsteps of the spineless (British) judicial system, which is due and proper, but as have even reputable journalists you failed to do any kind of look-see at the McKinnon case. You and the other ‘copy what they say because it has to be true’ elites not once have noted that the US judicial system is transparent. You can go online nowadays to find out what kind of sentence you will receive if found guilty of perpetrating whatever kind of crime. I do not think your system is so transparent – other than it is so inconsistely applied to your own constituents. Oh yes, Sir, what you have done is to foment fiction upon your constituents. Find out the facts before you comb your hair in the morning (oh, sorry, you don’t comb your hair), or before you put on your bicycle helmet and ride to work (oh, sorry, you don’t believe helmet laws apply to you, only to your constituents), or before you fire the Police Commissioner (oh, sorry, you don’t have the power to do that, but just did it anyway). You would do well to look in your own back yard Mr Mayor because it is easy to trash someone else’s when yours is such a mess.

  22. I suppose, as an American, the completely lopsided extradition agreements between our two countries ought to make me happier. All it really does is tend to underscore the global tension we have created ourselves.

    It never did any child, adult, king or republic any harm to just be told “No” from time to time.

    Nelson may have had one arm but he had a spine as well.

  23. Dear Boris,

    I’ve had to reorganise my affairs recently, so I’m still in a muddle myself. I’ve held on to my Newsround videos though, they’ve helped me with my fraud plan to claim my stake in democracy. Originally I wanted to run the scheme for ‘death benefit’ payments made to people who vote after their deaths to up the turnout, but sadly this seems morbid and trite. My new wheeze is to bar rich people from the upper stratosphere, so that instead we might send major crime suspects up there for cross-examination, and not waste billions on the televising of dynamic adversarial legal practices. Possibly unoriginal, and definitely protectionist- but only in the interests of law and order.

    Having approached the topic of space, perhaps the UFOs are reflections from alien beams directed at England, or part of a government misdirection campaign to avoid war crimes trials. Perhaps they are £44 billion sized computer disks, flung unilaterally to international finance by Fraudon. I have to tell you that according to my left wing friends, there are no alien ships that float in the sky at all- however there is the alien plan to employ golden lessons from afar to turn us all into blonde television presenters, in order to generate electricity. This can only be prevented by specially treated television cameras, after the successful resolution of any outstanding terror crimes. They also claim that our police will be unable to resolve the Channel Tunnel investigation in time for the election, so they have been turned into blondes and ordered to avoid television. No it’s true, they maintain. Its better than lizards though, unless you were a randy lizard I suppose. Only Boris can save us, with his special powers!

    However, exposing the alien plot won’t win the election, as Fraudon would get half the credit. You may need to be reminded further of the issues. Labour’s strategy was to associate the Conservatives with minor bad news that they did not have any responsibility for- the National, Tower Bridge- the Conservatives were then unable to exploit the issues simply by responding to them. Major’s Conservatives were destroyed at a time of peace and prosperity, purely by the media. A sort of pornography of failure. If only Fraudon could be persuaded to pose with one of Sinclair’s telescopic folding bikes, as a symbol of British resurgence. However all is not yet lost, as it seems unlikely that the University of Newcastle will succeed in their attempts to clone Michael Faraday before the end of the decade. This can then be transformed into a classic tabloid bad news story by loyal and skilled journalism. Deny it Fraudon!

    Excellent photo of Boris staring distrustfully at his own hand. Reach out for power, Boris, before Fraudon gives all our money away!

    Yrs enthusiastically,


  24. Thank you Boris for excellent article. Gary McKinnon is a genius, hence, should never be barred. His curiousity is part of his dynamic brain. This should be well explained by the British Governemnt to their counter parts in the United States!

  25. “So why tell Obama to get stuffed when closing Guatanamo Bay is such a positive step?” (angela)

    Turn it into a prisoner of war camp, under Geneva Convention rules, that’s what I think.

    These were non-Afghans caught on the battlefields of Afghanistan fighting NATO, the war isn’t over in Afghanistan, in fact, the new Commander in Chief wants to throw more troops in.

    They should be POW’s not dumped in Portugal and given EU passports.

    If President Obama wants to free them he should free them on US soil.

  26. Oui, Boris, Bravo! A message from France Profond: it’s a pity there is no one in your gov’t with the balls to tell the Yankie military to get f****d on this one!

  27. Off topic again, Boris.

    So bankers are responsible for the credit crunch now, are they ? (I heard you on the radio)

    Well actually I think it was an issue of poor government regulation. I, and many bloggers, had been warning of a crash. Was no-one in the corridors of Westminster concerned about the fact that the average house was costing 10x average yearly income ??? More to the point WHY ?

  28. Boris, a small correction.
    Extraordinary renditions were also done under the Clinton presidency. The most notable was the World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef who was rendered in 1995 by Pakistan to the USA.

  29. Good for you Boris, standing up for Gary McKinnon. The whole case, and the way he’s being treated and what he’s being threatened with has been upsetting me since I heard about it.

    It really is over the top and cruel.

  30. In yesterday’s Express, David Attenborough, once a confirmed atheist, has changed his stance. He now believes that we are not advanced enough to understand most of the secrets of the universe. There could be a larger entity that exists beyond our understanding. I am convinced that this is true and it is so arrogant to dismiss the likelihood of God, aliens, ANYTHING. We cannot blindly believe, but it is incredibly stupid to dismiss the possibility.

  31. I am amazed that David Attenborough holds those views as a semi-atheist. Being so close to nature I had been sure that he’d be keenly aware of the miracle of life and associate with an outside entity

  32. The farce is that if Gary had *not* done this and a determined and clued up terrorist had instead, the end result could potentially be far more serious.

  33. Why aren’t the incompetent American Defence ‘ex[erts’ being prosecuted for criminal negligence ?

    Let us hope that the British Defence organisation is more intelligent than to put sensitive material on known vulnerable channels of communication for all to see

    The Americans should be told to prosecute ther incompetent Defence persinnel and then we might award McKinnon for revealing the deficiencies .


  34. A very good article, but lacking in hope that anything is going to be done. From the point of view of Mr Mckinnon anything must be better than spending the rest of his life in an american prison for highlighting their own chronic security inadequacies. So he should be spirited away somewhere by our secret services and given a new life, safe from the bullies across the water, who can’t even see that the real issue is that they employ stupid people..

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