Gary McKinnon, also known as Solo is now 39 years of age. He is a Briton, from Wood Green, north London. He is a calm and steady man, and today he stood before the courts as such. Family and friends were at his side. They wanted to actively show their support. After, the proceedings all exited and were met by the press. The media asked if the group would pose for photographs or make a statement. These requests were denied. For McKinnon and his entourage, the day was done; it had been quite a trying one. The trial was a fight against extradition.
It seems an embarrassed America wants to punish this man for his crime against the States; they believe that only they can do this well. US government officials are not willing to trust their dearest friend and ally, the United Kingdom. They do not think that the Brits can deliver the dictum or carry out the penalty. American bureaucrats do not believe that the United Kingdom will castigate this criminal as well as they themselves can. Therefore, American attorneys are posed to present their case. They want the head of Gary McKinnon on a skewer, an American skewer.
According to the United States government, from February 2001 until March 2002, McKinnon hacked into 97 military and National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] computers. This action caused an estimated $700,000 in damages. McKinnon is thought to have exploited poorly secured Windows systems. He is suspected of attacking networks run by NASA, the Pentagon, and twelve other military installations. His efforts affected systems in fourteen states.
McKinnon said of this endeavor, “It was easy, easier than expected.” Many believe that for Gary McKinnon it was an adventure. He loved the hunt; as a young man he was looking for ways to pick locks. He knew that defense computers were supposedly “locked” tight and this intrigued him. McKinnon wanted to see if he could open these impenetrable systems.
Mr. McKinnon had long been interested in defense computers. He wanted to determine if the technology these departments use truly defends against invasion. He explored and discovered these software systems were flawed. He would live to regret this finding, for it changed his life in a way he had not imagined. Perhaps, it was not the discovery that altered his life; instead, it was the way in which he revealed it.
Gary McKinnon boldly scripted a note stating, “US foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism these days . . . I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.” He left this message on an Army computer. This communiquÃ© was a threat, a threat to the image of the United States government and at the Department of Defense. Officials were livid; an appearance of strength was lost. Revealing the vulnerability of US computer systems is a crime against illusion. Though not an act of treason or terrorism, this action is punishable by law.
Gary McKinnon had not been considered a powerful man in the past. Yet, he exhibited power beyond what others expected. A manager and former supervisor to Gary McKinnon spoke of this saying, “He was personable, relatively happy around the office.” While working at the London-based telecom equipment seller, Corporate Business Technology Limited, Mr. McKinnon was thought to be a friendly chap, though an unremarkable fellow. The supervisor offered, “You wouldn’t have realized that he could do what he did.”
McKinnon, worked for CBT for approximately ten months, leaving late in 1999. He left on good terms. “As I remember it, he decided to leave because he was bored working here,” says the manager. “But at the time that he left, he didn’t have any place to go to.” The American government claims, he went off to entertain himself. Gary McKinnon probed the Pentagon; he assessed the ease with which he could penetrate Department of Defense computers.
By 2001, the unemployed systems administrator was hacking into United States government computers. In February 2002, he is said to have shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area. The systems were down for a full day. Prior to this effort, he scanned networks for vulnerabilities, extracted administrative accounts and passwords, snooped on network traffic, and installed hacking software. McKinnon, Solo is also accused of deleting system logs.
In March 2002, United Kingdom police arrested Mr. McKinnon. However, it was not until November 2002 that an indictment was filed by US Federal Grand Jury. Eight computer crimes were listed in the official dossier. The lapse of time is significant, and was mentioned by the defense in today’s extradition hearing.
Karen Todner, McKinnon’s solicitor, spoke on her client’s behalf. She argued that as a Briton her client ought to be tried in the UK. Later, in a prepared statement Ms. Todner furthered her case, “Gary McKinnon continues to vigorously contest extradition which was only belatedly requested by the US government. The British public need to ask themselves why British citizens are being extradited to the USA when the US government has not ratified the extradition treaty between the two countries.”
Great question, why is it that American officials profess, “Do as I say, not as I do?” US authorities do not sanction expatriation contracts; yet, they expect to seek one. This seems quite a contradiction. American authorities want the United Kingdom to honor what they do not.
Currently, McKinnon is out on bail; however, if convicted in United States, McKinnon faces charges punishable by fines. He could serve as much as 80 years in prison. A guilty ruling in the United States would mean a life lost. I know not whether a British ruling might be less severe; however, imprisonment in a land so far from family and friends would certainly place an unimaginable strain or the supposed “felon.”
Thus we have today’s hearing. It was held at London’s Bow Street Magistrates’ Court. United States prosecutors detailed and restructured the allegations against Mr. McKinnon. American attorneys now say Solo seized control of over 53 US Army computers, 26 US Navy computers, 16 NASA systems, one US Department of Defense computer, and one US Air Force computers.
Mark Summers, the lawyer representing the US government said, “The defendant’s conduct was intentional. His objective was to disrupt the operation of the US government; thus endangering public safety.” Summers stressed the seriousness of the supposed attacks, however, he and the American authorities passionately proclaimed, “No classified information was obtained through the year long assaults.” Authorities also emphasize McKinnon acted alone.
These positions are important to note. They are meant to reassure an already anxious American public. Some ask, Gary McKinnon: Scapegoat or public enemy?
Crimes against the United States are punishable by law, American law. Penetrating Pentagon computer systems is certainly a crime; however, American citizens, be reassured, this man acted alone. He is not a terrorist. Nonetheless, we will treat him as such.
How dare he think to threaten America security systems! Does he really believe that demonstrating the vulnerability of the strongest nation in the world is acceptable? He must know that we will punish him, harshly! All people throughout the globe must know that the United States will take strike out against any intimidation. Let it be known, “No man or woman show that America security can be compromised. If they do, they will suffer, publicly, privately, and in prison!” According to the United States government, Gary McKinnon must be penalized severely, American style.