You wouldn't expect one of the FBI agents involved in the case of Gary McKinnon to have much sympathy with the alleged Nasa hacker. Ed Gibson, who now works for Microsoft as its security adviser to the UK, in a previous life worked as an FBI legal attache in the UK, and was involved in McKinnon's controversial plea bargaining process.
McKinnon is accused of "the biggest military hack of all time" for accessing US military computers, and faces almost certain extradition. McKinnon, who claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs, has never denied accessing the military computers, but denies deliberately deleting files and causing damage. He was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum.
The temperature at an RSA Conference Europe press event plummeted when I raised the subject of McKinnon's probable extradition with Gibson. I asked the ex-FBI agent whether he thought Gary McKinnon's Asperger's diagnosis should have any bearing on whether or not McKinnon should be extradited. Gibson replied:
"I think Jacqui Smith made the determination -- the Asperger's diagnosis shouldn't have any bearing [on whether McKinnon is extradited]," said Gibson. "Is he still here?"
When I said that yes, McKinnon was still here, Gibson said: "Why?" I said that his defence lawyers were seeking a judicial review of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to extradite the self-confessed hacker, given his Asperger's diagnosis.
The already chilly atmosphere in the press room dropped still further when I quizzed Gibson as to his role in the plea bargaining. Gibson is believed to have told Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, that the New Jersey authorities were determined to see McKinnon "fry" for his alleged crimes, should he be extradited. New Jersey has the death penalty.
When I asked Gibson whether he had threatened that McKinnon could "fry", Gibson muttered: "That was never said. The court records are really clear."
I was curious as to whether that was correct, so I gave Karen Todner a ring. She told me she had sworn an affadavit that Gibson had said McKinnon could "fry", while Gibson had sworn an affadavit that he hadn't said that.
"[Gibson] later sent me an email insisting he hadn't said that," said Todner.
Hmmm, sounds to me that it still isn't "really clear" exactly what was said at all.