McKinnon: my two cents worth

I can’t make up my mind about Gary McKinnon. On the one hand he’s portrayed by the US authorities as a serious threat to national security, on the other he sells himself as a curious but benign hacker seeking information about UFOs.

Now we hear that he broke into more than 73,000 US government computers, including those of the US Army, Navy and Nasa, and deleted critical data.

The indictment claims that McKinnon caused a network in the Washington D.C. area to shutdown, resulting in the total loss of Internet access and e-mail service to approximately 2000 users for three days. The estimated loss to the various military organizations, NASA and the private businesses is approximately $900,000.

The fact that the American systems were apparently so easy for a hacker to penetrate and damage doesn’t seem to have been raised as an issue but that’s not so important as the fact that there is no reason why the authorities should believe his stories about searching for evidence of anti-gravity propulsion systems and extraterrestrial technology (among other things he claims to have seen pictures of alien spacecraft on a Nasa system as cited here). So far as they are concerned, an unauthorised individual hacked and damaged a military system. In the mind of the average paranoid Yank, he may just as well have set about burning the Stars and Stripes on the steps of the Supreme Court.

I was reading an interview that McKinnon gave to Jon Ronson of The Guardian back in 2005. I think that Ronson sums up very nicely when he states: he is indeed a complete idiot.

Let the courts decide. We’ve got more interesting and important things to be concerned about. 

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The US case against McKinnon is very weak. He was hacking over many years and wasn`t caught, so he didn`t do any damage and as I understand it and by his own admission, he only got caught because he became careless...not because US authorities acted on some sort of damage to their systems. Mckinnion`s evidence is so shocking to the US defence dpt/NASA, that he will likely be taken to Guantanomo and treated as a terrorist. The US dose not want a public trial with things like the US space fleet becoming common knowleged, or that all space pictures are scaned and airbrushed cean before publication. I wonder if the UK trespass laws should be applied to websites...if you can walk in, the owners can only ask you to leave.
Thanks for the comment Carl. I see that you are quite the conspiracy theorist: I think that the Computer Misuse Act would apply in the hypothetical website trespass case that you cite. With regards to the McKinnon situation, I find it difficult to believe that the Americans would go to such lengths to extradite him if their case wasn't a strong one. The fact that somebody can get away with something for years before getting caught isn't really significant.