What are we doing about Gary McKinnon? Looking over our shoulders, thats what.

11Oct09

Who these days has the inclination to use their influence to change what ought to be changed?

Barack Obama’s historic parade into power resounded with optimism and promises of change. The three political party conferences over the last month left the echoes of stirring keynote speeches orating notions of solidarity and fortitude ringing in our ears.

When are we going to see any of this? When will an individual such as Gary McKinnon benefit from this?

Gary McKinnon’s unfortunate stumble into the realm of terrorism seven years ago was a product of a talent for coding or as the US press would have it believed, ‘hacking’. Using comparatively basic software, McKinnon managed to break into the heart of the US Pentagon’s computer network using standard passwords and his own knack with computing. Dangerous territory for any foreigner to trespass onto, whatever the excuse.

McKinnon has been branded a terrorist despite never intending to hurt anybody nor actually doing any harm or indeed having any apparent motive despite satisfying a compulsion to worry away at the thread that was leading him into serious trouble.

It seems to me that the only damage as a consequence to McKinnon’s ill-fated project was done to both the prides of American security chiefs and to McKinnon’s livelihood and that of his family. The Pentagon have stepped up their network passwords, firewalls have been fortified, and McKinnon remains (inexplicably) Public Enemy Number One for the interim.

McKinnon has Asperger Syndrome. Whether you believe this mitigating circumstance to be immaterial or not, this is his Defence’s choice hook. I am not going to venture in to the ins and outs of the syndrome as I am sure enough of us know how it affects somebody we know and how greatly it can vary in seriousness, however, even without this playing a factor in the case, 70 years in an American penitentiary seems to be a hysterical punishment given the crime.

McKinnon’s fate, after several failed appeals including to the American Supreme Court, appears before him and the news reading public like a bottomless pit. 70 years and a terrorist charge stamped to your forehead while being frogmarched into an American prison with paedophiles, murderers and rapists is equivalent to a death sentence. Add Asperger Syndrome into the increasingly unbelievable cocktail and it spells the end for McKinnon.

One particularly Fox-News fueled demographic of the US is already crying our for him to be fried, motored by the biased and injust reporting style of some far-right, Nationalistic broadcasts. Such broadcasts have rendered McKinnon’s ‘trial’ unfair as American law does not account for Contempt of Court with the same stringent legislation as in the UK.

I am not suggesting that McKinnon should be let off. I am not a law-maker, nor am I a politician. But if you compare McKinnon’s crimes with those alleged of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, AKA the Lockerbie Bomber who was released last month, then a balance must be struck by the West.

The British legal system works on the basis of protecting the vulnerable and seeing that justice is done according to the merit of each case. We do not operate on an eye-for-an-eye or a capital punishment system. Our cross-Atlantic cousins are demonstrably less merciful. Talking of which, Hilary Clinton is in the UK today, I wonder if McKinnon’s case will be raised over a cup of PG Tips in the refreshments room at one of her appointments? Or are we all too polite to raise our voices in front of the self-titled Super Power preferring to be meek and subservient lest we piss off the biggest kid in the playground?

Which brings me to my next point. Why hasn’t more been said by our Government? I took it upon myself to write to my MP, Alan Duncan and to all my MEPs. I have thusfar received two replies. Please remember, I wrote to them because of their influential position in British, nay world politics, and not because of their job specification.

Dear Rose
Thank you for the email. But it is not the responsibility of the EU civil-servants in Brussels – which is where I work for you. There is no Eurocrat there to whom I can go, thump their desk and demand justice.
I think you need to get in touch with your local MP : the extradition arrangements between the UK and the USA are entirely the responsibility of the House of Commons. Did your MP make a fuss when the treaty was signed, I wonder ?
Sorry not to be able to help.
With all good wishes
Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP

Hmm… And?

Dear Ms Brooke,

Many thanks for your letter to Emma McClarkin, raising your concerns about the Gary McKinnon case.

Please be assured that we are looking into the matter and will contact you as soon as possible with a more detailed response.

Best wishes,

Neelam Cartmell
Assistant to Emma McClarkin MEP

Again, can I be blamed for thinking that those with power haven’t a clue when to use it? We vote politicians into power for their integrity. There is nothing to be said of looking over one’s shoulder all the time.

Watch this space.

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