Tories champion Nasa hacker in parliament

Tories champion Nasa hacker in parliament

Summary: In a House of Commons debate, the two main opposition parties have called for justice for Gary McKinnon and a review of the UK-US extradition treaty

SHARE:
TOPICS: Security
35

The Conservative Party has championed the case of Gary McKinnon, the self-confessed Nasa hacker, in an opposition day debate in parliament.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives called for the extradition treaty between the UK and the US to be reviewed to avoid injustice to those accused, citing the case of McKinnon (pictured) as an example.

Conservative shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said that in cases such as McKinnon's, which could be tried in two jurisdictions, the UK "appears to be subcontracting justice to other countries" by opting not to prosecute at home.

McKinnon, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, faces extradition to the US for what prosecutors there have described as "the biggest military hack of all time".

The London resident is accused by American prosecutors of causing $700,000 (£400,000) in damage to US military systems, a charge that he denies. McKinnon has admitted breaking into Nasa and other US agency systems, but he claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

In the debate, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs argued that the UK-US extradition treaty is unbalanced, as it is non-reciprocal. The US does not have to provide prima facie evidence of wrongdoing to request an extradition, whereas UK authorities must provide probable cause to the US.

Backbencher Kate Hoey was among the Labour MPs who supported a review of the UK-US arrangement, saying it is "not working in terms of natural justice".

"When will we change [the treaty] so we won't get a ridiculous situation the public just won't accept, as with Gary McKinnon?" said Hoey.

However, home secretary Alan Johnson told parliament that the current government will not respond to the calls for change. "A case has not been made to review the extradition act," he said. "The 2003 act has simplified extradition procedures while being instrumental in bringing criminals to justice."

Johnson added that he could not aid McKinnon's efforts to avoid extradition. "The home secretary is legally obliged to order extradition except where there is a possibility that the person could be sentenced to death, where there are inadequate arrangements, or if the person to be extradited has previously been extradited from another country," said Johnson.

Autism experts and McKinnon's legal team contend that the Briton will be at risk of serious psychological difficulties and suicide if he is taken to the US and away from his family.

McKinnon's MP David Burrowes, who is also the shadow minister for justice, said in the debate that "those that have special needs often do not get the justice they deserve."

"We are concerned with justice for the innocent, as well as for the guilty," said Burrowes. "There needs to be justice for all, which there hasn't been in the case of Gary McKinnon."

McKinnon has been going through a legal process in the UK for seven years. Currently, two high-court judges are reviewing whether former home secretary Jacqui Smith was right to turn down McKinnon's second appeal for clemency, and are considering arguments from McKinnon's defence team that the director of public prosecutions was wrong not to prosecute McKinnon in the UK.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

35 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Tory Nasa hacker vote lost

    Labour made this a whipped vote and consequently carried the day.

    Parliament, under such public scrutiny just now, is still a bloody disgrace. Parliamentary shinnanigans before the genuine interests of the country and the people.

    The treaty, as is, should be voided. No question.

    Really won't matter who we vote for. It'll still be a Punch and Judy show. Paliament has a long way to go, if willing, to regain the trust and respect of the country. Yesterday's 'Questions to the Prime Minister' speaks volumes about what is wrong, and integrity, or the lack thereof, is high on the list.
    The Former Moley
  • I think he should be sent to the US

    To face his accusers, this is not about US vs UK, its about right and wrong. He knew what he was doing, he hacked into military and NASA computers looking for something. He had full knowlegde of what he was doing and HE chose to do it. Do I feel bad about what this has done to his family, yes, do I feel bad he has a medical condition, yes, do I feel bad that if he goes to jail he will be very far from his family, yes. He should of thought about all of this before he commited the crime. He did this to himself and his family, not the US.

    The US is seeking justice. In the beginning the US showed him mercy by the plea deal it gave, by turning it down and fighting extradition he gave the US prosecutors no choice but to go after him.

    I am sure many UK citizens will disagree with me and thats fine, but I can say with a 100% certainty that if a US citizen hacked the UK's military, the US would hand him over to be tried.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • Extradite him now.....

    If the situation were reversed and this was a US Citizen with the US Authorities refusing to extradite him, then the British media would have an absolute field day and justifiably so.

    He has already admitted he knew he should not have been doing it, time to accept the consequences.

    Extradition for trial in the US is the only right option, presumably there would be an option to serve any subsequent prison sentence in a UK jail should he be found guilty.
    ahughes-e1c72
  • Not so!

    The American Constitution prevents this. America has NOT adopted any legislation to ratify the relevant treaty with UK. Consequently, America has to go through rigorous due process as opposed to the untested assertions made against Gary McKinnon, particularly the scale and cost of damage done.

    A one sided Treaty should be voided and America should present it's case for extradition through the UK courts where the evidence can be challenged for probity.
    The Former Moley
  • You would have a valid argument if...

    "The American Constitution prevents this." It doesn't for a foreign national on foreign soil.

    "Consequently, America has to go through rigorous due process as opposed to the untested assertions made against Gary McKinnon, particularly the scale and cost of damage done." Due Process is in our Constitution. I agree that the treaty might not be fair but such as life, if thats the case your parliment needs to change it or invalidate it. Right now American prosecutors are following the law, it isn't even that he says he is innocent and that they got the wrong guy. McKinnon admitted that he did it, I saw a interview with him saying that he did it, he is trying to get off on a technicality. He knows in America what he did is a felony, compared to the UK's Misdemeanor charge. Of course he wants to be tried in the UK, who wouldn't.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • I agree

    "presumably there would be an option to serve any subsequent prison sentence in a UK jail should he be found guilty." I agree, since he is a UK citizen, he should serve his time there.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • Yes but

    Gary McKinnon has not only not admitted to the scale of the damage done and the cost thereof, he has specifically denied it. Wild accusations of the damage done and costs have been has published here, hence our lack of trust in a fair outcome for a rather foolish individual, who it turns out might be handicapped.

    The weakness of NASA security was highlighted as a result of his interest in 'Extra Terrestrials', using rather basic (unsophisticated) hacking methods.
    The Former Moley
  • Of course he denied it...

    "Yes but Gary McKinnon has not only not admitted to the scale of the damage done and the cost thereof, he has specifically denied it." I would deny it to, as it stands "Under the US indictment, Mr McKinnon is charged with hacking into Army computers in nearly 20 military and six Nasa facilities, installing software, deleting thousands of files and copying account information." I understand what you are saying but right now its the US Governments word against His Word, he who has already admitted that he hacked into the US Governemnts systems, how do we know, maybe he did it accidently and he really believes he didnt, maybe the US Government is blowing smoke, if only we had some way to know the truth, like a guy sitting on a bench, hearing both sides of the argument and handing out a fair ruling. The Judge should reside in the area that the crime took place in he would after all have jurisdiction, like Virginia. Right now the US Goverment might be blowing smoke, on the other hand they might not be, I don't know I havent seen the evidence but I can tell you in court the US Government will have to back up their accusations.

    "The weakness of NASA security was highlighted as a result of his interest in 'Extra Terrestrials', using rather basic (unsophisticated) hacking methods." This is true, NASA and the Army should be very embarrassed over how easy it was for him however if you leave your house unlocked does that mean I can come in and eat your food? After all you left it with weakened security?
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • Did you know..

    "he did admit leaving a diatribe on one computer: US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels."

    A quote from him, so he admitted he was in favor over what happened on 9/11, and he will continue to distrupt the US Governments network.
    I am sorry he knew exactly what he was doing, I dont think he realized the US could or would come after him. That quote is more then the act of a foolish man.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • no damage no passwords no extradition

    I know him; I know what he did; I know what he didn't do.
    First he didn't steal passwords there were none...there was no security... no pass words.. no firewalls on thousands of computers on the networks.
    Finacial damage is a legal requirement before an indictment can be made and the threshold is $5000. Magically he is supposed to have caused exactly $5000 damage on each of the systems (my, my what a coincidence)
    He also left many many notes telling the systems administrators that their security was crap but of course those aren't mentioned only the one about "no coincidence there was a standown on 911"
    He was with me when the towers collapsed. He was just as shocked and horrified and appalled as the rest of the world. But he wondered why no helicopters were rescuing the survivors, he wondered why the third building, (you know, the one that contained the details of congressional investigations into the whitehouse) collapsed on its own without the help of an aeroplane, and he wondered why, when FAA protocol calls for fighter planes to investigate any civillian plane that strays from its
    flightpath for 5 mins that these planes were allowed to be off course for upto 90 minutes! he believed, as does 700 architects 300 military people and 200 politicians and half the planet that 911 was an inside job.
    you, my friend, should start opening your eyes and you might glimpse the real criminals
    colin outte
  • Yeah Right!

    Yeah Right!
    ahughes-e1c72
  • Conspirarcy theory? really?

    "First he didn't steal passwords there were none...there was no security... no pass words.. no firewalls on thousands of computers on the networks. Finacial damage is a legal requirement before an indictment can be made and the threshold is $5000. Magically he is supposed to have caused exactly $5000 damage on each of the systems (my, my what a coincidence)" If you are right then the court will throw out the case against him. If he truly got on completely open systems and no hacking took place at all (not even running scripts to find the computers with the weakest security on the networks) then their is no case. He should come to the US and clear his name then, prove to the world he was right. His actions are one of a guilty man though.

    This is how we look at it. 1st he admitted doing it, he admitted to unauthorized computer use, second lets take a look at how he got caught. he miscalculated the timezone and remotely accessed the PC while the user was at it. My question is this why would he have to calculate the timezone at all? if he didnt believe he was doing something wrong why would he care if he got caught?
    3rd even after 8 years, 911 is still a very touchy subject for most Americans, i myself lost two people I knew. I will admit that I was outraged when I saw that message, now that its the following morning and I had time to think it through it doesnt bother me as much however the message he left could easily be intrepreted that he was in favor of 9/11 and that he will continue to carry on the fight. I will not even discuss the Conspirarcy theory around 9/11. For everything their is a Conspirarcy theory on.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • US and Russia don't extradite their own citizens

    US and Russia don't extradite their citizens. I think we should take the same approach , he should be trialed here.

    Also the UK has a policy (i think we are signed up to it as international law) not to deport or extradite someone to a country with the death penalty.

    I remember there was a 16 year old kid in the UK about 10 years that did the same thing, the news was hardly covered, no extradition etc.

    The fact is there are real terrorist and murderers out there that cant be extradited, why aren't we worrying about that??
    andrew.crook@...
  • It true

    they were windows boxes with no administrative passwords.

    I actually think it may have been the old remote desktop problem allowing remote desktop accounts that dont have passwords (which is now fixed).

    As for the damages i wonder if that's the cost of fixing these shameful security lapses

    Apparently he even spoke to a staff member by typing in notpad via a remote desktop session. Why wasn't that reported ???
    andrew.crook@...
  • Are you kidding?

    "US and Russia don't extradite their citizens." The US does extradite their citizens, here is a story right here, (first thing to come up in google) http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/05-27-04.html. Did you actually think the US does not extradite their own or did you just say that to make your argument have more validity?


    "I think we should take the same approach , he should be trialed here." Of course the UK thinks that, what is the top crime he can be charge with there? Computer misuse, which is a misdemenour offense with punishment of community service, In the US its a felony. Tell me whats to stop his lawyers if he was tried in the UK to say that UK has no jurisdiction since after all the computers he broke into are in the US. Case dismissed. He should be tried where he commited the crime.

    "I remember there was a 16 year old kid in the UK about 10 years that did the same thing, the news was hardly covered, no extradition etc." Probably because the 16 year old kid didnt say that he was in favor of 9/11 and he would continue to disrupt the US military networks at the highest levels.

    "The fact is there are real terrorist and murderers out there that cant be extradited, why aren't we worrying about that??" The US see's him as a cyberterrorist, and we do worry about that.
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • kidding?

    US no been sarcastic and Russia true

    "He should be tried where he commited the crime. "

    Which actually technically is on British soil from what you just said

    "didnt say that he was in favor of 9/11 "

    Gary McKinnon was in favour of 9/11?... thats total BS

    I agree what he done is wrong and he should be punished just not in the US.

    >The US see's him as a cyberterrorist, and we do worry about that.

    How is he a cyberterrorist? his intent wasn't to be disruptive, he didnt intend to be noticed in the first place.

    You do know that countries such as China and Russia steal your information on a daily bases as does the UK and US from other countries ... and each other..............its a joke!!!!
    andrew.crook@...
  • yes kidding...

    ""He should be tried where he commited the crime. "
    "Which actually technically is on British soil from what you just said" No Technically the computers he got into were on American Soil.

    ""didnt say that he was in favor of 9/11 "
    Gary McKinnon was in favour of 9/11?... thats total BS" Really? ok maybe since I don't speak the Queens English, maybe I am misunderstanding, he left a note on a military computer system saying "US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels." It appears to me that what he is saying that 9/11 was not a mistake and that he is solo and he will continue to disrupt at the highest levels, am I misunderstanding? Those are not the words of someone looking to see if ET is real.

    "I agree what he done is wrong and he should be punished just not in the US." He should be tried here, since we have jurisdiction, tell me if he was tried there what prevents his lawyer from saying that the computers he got into are on American soil and that Uk courts have no jurisdiction there? Lets just stay for a minute that his lawyers didnt say that, what is he looking at in the UK, community service? Gee I wonder why he wants to be tried in the UK.

    ">The US see's him as a cyberterrorist, and we do worry about that.
    How is he a cyberterrorist? (read my comment about 9/11) his intent wasn't to be disruptive, he didnt intend to be noticed in the first place." If his intent was not to be disruptive and not noticed then tell me why did he leave notes on the computers he got into and why did he take remote control of a PC while someone was sitting at it? He wrote files (notes) to military computer systems, we should take his word that he didnt do any damage? Really? He has already admitted to leaving notes on the systems, could he of also overwrote some files even accidently?

    The last plea deal offered was only 6 months in a low security white collar jail. That was America showing compassion. Justice Department officials charge that he compromised and deleted records at a key naval-operations center in New Jersey and repeatedly crashed systems belonging to NASA and the Pentagon. McKinnon claims he was snooping for evidence of a UFO cover-up by the U.S. government. Do you think that while he was snooping he might of accidently crash the computers??
    NoThomas-49dfa
  • re kidding

    andrew.crook@...
  • Gary McKinnon has Always Denied the Alleged Damage

    Gary McKinnon adnitted computer misuse but has always denied the alleged damage and very recent disclosure in court by the Crown Prosecution Service shows that the U.S have no evidence whatsoever of the alleged damage.
    Submsissions by the U.S are marked by the CPS lawyer as "No Evidence" and Hearsay.
    So you are wrong. Gary McKinnon has never admitted to damage and in March 2002 when the crime was committed, without damage it was not an extraditable nor a Federal offence.

    This is why the U.S cynically waited until June 2005 until the U.K started using the one sided treaty and the U.S was now no longer required to provide any evidence in order to extradite any U.K citizen.
    If we want to extradite an American, we have to provide evidence.

    This treaty was to be used for terrorists, so where are the terrorists? Can't the U.S find any?
    The U.S is currently trying to extradite Ian Norris for price fixing. Norris is a 66 year old man with cancer and despite the House of Lords clearing Norris of price fixing as it was not a crime in the U.K at that time, the U.S are still trying to extradite him for a related offence of the crime that never was.

    The U.S are trying to extradite British Airways Execs.

    So Where are the Terrorists.
    Healthangle
  • Interesting points

    ""No Technically the computers he got into were on American Soil.
    NoThomas-49dfa