I met Gary McKinnon a few years ago and interviewed him over a beer. Over time I have come to the conclusion that despite the serious hacking crimes he committed, he needs help and a period of coummunity service, rather than a 60 year prison sentence.
McKinnon certainly broke the law and caused damage when he hacked into US military systems. He may not have deleted files, or damaged software, but security specialists had no choice but to rebuild each machine he compromised. That is expensive, time consuming, and disruptive.
But I believe that McKinnon is telling the truth when he says that he was motivated to hack into US military computers by a desire to prove that the US government is covering-up evidence of UFOs.
He talked passionately about his late night hacking episodes, discovering pictures of UFO’s on military servers and evidence of a US space-corps. Sadly, for UFO conspiracy theorists, no evidence of his discoveries survives.
Why are the US authorities so keen to extradite such a misguided soul ? One rumour going around security and law enforcement agencies might offer an explanation.
According to this latest theory, Russian intelligence had been running a covert programme to lure young people with Aspergers syndrome into hacking US government systems.
You could imagine how a few rumours of UFO cover-ups and a little hacking advice at UFO discussion groups could have enticed impressionable people like McKinnon into attacking US military servers.
Is there any truth in the story ? I don’t know, but I am told the idea is being seriously discussed in the security community.
The timing of the rumour is also interesting. This week McKinnon won a reprieve from extradition, at least for now, when the new Home Secretary, Theresa May, adjourned a judicial review in to the case.
What do you think ? Is there any credibility to the rumour ?