Aspergers diagnosis could keep 'NASA hacker' out of US prison

Aspergers diagnosis could keep 'NASA hacker' out of US prison

Summary: "NASA hacker" Gary McKinnon's recent diagnosis of Asperger syndrome – a kind of autism with a high incidence among computer programmers – may yet keep him out of American prisons. Several members of Parliament have signed onto a motion calling for McKinnon not to be extradited to the U.S. because of his condition.

TOPICS: Security, CXO, Hardware

"NASA hacker" Gary McKinnon's recent diagnosis of Asperger syndrome – a kind of autism with a high incidence among computer programmers – may yet keep him out of American prisons.

Several members of Parliament have signed onto a motion calling for McKinnon not to be extradited to the U.S. because of his condition, ZDNet UK reports.

Introduced by McKinnon's MP, shadow justice minister David Burrowes, the motion calls on the Home Secretary to refuse extradition until the U.S. agrees to allow McKinnon to serve any sentence in Britain.

This House… urges the home secretary not to permit the extradition to the United States of Mr Gary McKinnon of Palmers Green, London, an Asperger's syndrome sufferer charged with computer misuse in the United States, until such time as she receives express assurances from the US Administration that in the event of his being found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment that administration agrees to the immediate repatriation of Mr McKinnon post trial to serve any such sentence in the United Kingdom
The charges against McKinnon stem from his activities starting shortly after 9/11, in which, the U.S. charges, he hacked into 96 Defense Dept. computers, effectively shut down the naval weapons center responsible for the Atlantic Fleet, and broke into some 73,000 government computers. From my 2005 post on the case:
McKinnon accessed 53 US army computers, 26 US navy computers, 16 NASA computers, one US defence department computer and one US air force computer. He is also accused of deleting files which shut down the entire US army’s military district of Washington’s network of more than 2,000 computers for 24 hours "significantly disrupting governmental function".

Topics: Security, CXO, Hardware

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  • Justice system problems

    The civilized world considers the US justice system
    to be extremely harsh. The US has a higher
    percentage of people in prison than ANY other
    nation. We have Guantonimo, we have
    waterboarding, we have unlimited detainment
    without charging, we have overcrowded prisons, we
    have manditory prison sentences.
    • Re: Justice system problems

      I suppose we should instead model ourselves after the British legal system, where the only people who are punished by the courts are law-abiding citizens who have the audacity to defend themselves. Britain has a violent crime rate that is many times higher than the U.S. now and climing, while we've seen consistent drops in violent crime for the past three decades. Maybe that has something to do with our 'harsh' justice system. And as for the unlimited detainment, that only applies to terrorists, who are classified as non-military combatants and are actually specifically exempted from Geneva Convention guidelines by the language of the Geneva Convention itself. Ordinary criminals are covered in the U.S. by this thing we call a bill of rights.
      • Violent Crime

        The US might have a harsher penal system than the UK but it does not stop people from committing the offenses. Whilst the US might have a falling violent crime rate you are more likely to end up dead by the hand of others. Here is part of a report by the BBC.

        "London leads the way, ranked in the bottom five in a survey of 20 European and nine North American cities with just 2.1 cases of murder, infanticide or manslaughter per 100,000.
        Murder rates in UK capitals are among the lowest in the world, according to a report from the British Government.
        Belfast was the most dangerous UK city in the survey with a rate of 4.4, compared with Edinburgh at 2.4.
        But this was far short of Washington DC with a huge 69.3 murders per 100,000 people - more than 30 times higher than London's rate"
        Second place went to Philadelphia with a rate of 27.4 while the European city with the worst record was Moscow with 18.1."

        In fact New York alone had a murder figure over the last 5 year higher than the whole of the UK for the same period of time, 5,328 for NY against 4,293 UK.

        Maybe it's a gun thing? You are more likely to be threatened with a good kicking to hand over your mobile phone in the UK rather than a bullet between the eyes?
        Crafty Badger
        • I'm sure that is what your government told you

          Britain's approach to crime has failed so badly, that the goverment has felt it necessary to re-engineer its statistical methodology to mislead its own citizens.

          One report found that:

          Violent crime was 82% higher that the British Crime Survey suggested (from 2.4 million to 4.4 million offences)

          Domestic violence was 140% higher (from 357,000 to 857,000)

          Common assaults were 98% higher (from 1.5 million to nearly 3 million)

          Robbery was 7% higher (from 311,000 to 333,000)
          A Home Office spokesman said the British Crime Survey

  • Less access to guns probably only helps with domestic violence

    Career criminals will always carry.

    I for one would like to know anyone can have a gun. If you know everyone around you has a gun.. you would be less likely to present yours. Plus career criminals would also be less likely to hit civilian targets.
  • Now.. this just screams that U.K is full of tree huggers

    heheh couldnt resist.
  • RE: Aspergers diagnosis could keep 'NASA hacker' out of US prison

    I say let the facts speak for themselves...if you go snooping around in secure locations in another country and you admit it well you better not have left any thing thats funny though anyone with Aspergers that could break into highly classified areas easily...must have had a really unsecured hole or someone that could guide him in that direction...Aspergers is funny because in a real crisis or a period of real stress or if they are really frightened lying is the only thing they can do...I do know this though, unless he is the best hacker in the world someone will have data on him that shows different...sounds to me like he had an 'in' and not randomly like he says...If he truly has Aspergers and is in US governmental military computers you can bet someone has every move he made line, please give me a break the US isn't that stupid believe me...he without a doubt has an in. I am going to have to say if he hacked into our country unless he is better than the best hacker in the world, someone knows he did it because you would be suprised at who's watching who. If I were him though since he's Aspergers and everything...he better hope that the person that did watch him doesn't have Aspergers. To bad about the really is a rotten disease...I know all about it...I would have to say from one Aspergers victim to another you better be real good...
    wow randomly finding a hole getting into NASA...I guess it is not really hacking... just real, real wait on second thought I'd say an in...
    • RE: Aspergers diagnosis could keep 'NASA hacker' out of US prison

      @dpmcq according to reports, the systems that McKinnon entered were wide open - internet facing routers with default passwords, that sort of thing. This case is largely about the US military's embarrasment, with several high profile members of the GOP calling for the death penalty.

      @John L Ries one of the issues in this case is the asymetric extradition treaties which the US persuaded many countries to sign in the wake of 9/11, significantly after this hacking: Basically, if the UK wants to extradite a US citizen, we have to show prima facie evidence that there is a case to answer; for vice versa, the US just has to say what the charge is.
  • It shouldn't

    My understanding and experience is that Aspergers sufferers are in reasonable control of their own actions (even if they do view the world somewhat differently than do most of us) and can thus be reasonably held responsible for what they do. Unless there is a good reason to believe that McKinnon would not get a fair trial in the US or that his punishment would be excessive were he to be found guilty, the extradition should go forward just as the UK government would have a right to expect it to if the alleged offense had been committed by a US resident against their servers. I'll note that the Law Lords have already found that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the charges.

    Odd that a Conservative Party spokesman would argue otherwise. We generally expect liberals or socialists to make those sorts of claims, and then only if they're not thinking clearly.
    John L. Ries
  • Let the actions speak for them selves

    He could have done horrible things with the power he had, but he didn't. What he wanted was peace on earth. That's why he shut the system down, and that's why he is inherently a good person, (if somewhat naive). And no one should be punished for that.