Does Scottish UFO hunter Gary McKinnon deserve 60 years in a US prison? | Anorak

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Does Scottish UFO hunter Gary McKinnon deserve 60 years in a US prison?

GARY McKinnon’s timing was disastrous. For a 13-month period between 2001 and 2002, the then 35-year-old Scotsman hacked into nearly 100 Pentagon and NASA databases. He claims he was searching for extra-terrestrial energies and cover-ups of UFO activity.

Not long after McKinnon got busted the 2003 Extradition Act was enacted. This was an agreement drawn up between the UK and the US in the wake of September 11. Though originally designed to fight terrorism it has been used as a tool to combat a range of other crimes. The US demanded McKinnon’s extradition and so his expected sentencing to six months of community service in the UK turned into a potential 60-year prison term in the US.

McKinnon and his mother, Janis Sharp, have spent the past decade trying to fight the extradition order, urging for McKinnon to be tried at home instead. Backed up by the Daily Mail, Sharp has urged for reform of the 2003 Extradition Act. Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks phenomenon has heightened US sensitivities to hacking and security breaches, a situation which hardly plays in McKinnon’s favour.

McKinnon has said that he was smoking a lot of marijuana at the time of his hacking ventures and he has since been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Doctors are warning he may commit suicide if forced to board a plane to the US. But at least he has garnered a lot of sympathy. The Daily Mail‘s Affront to British Justice campaign has been backed by a number of MPs — including the now UK prime minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg — as well as celebrities, medical experts and civil liberties groups.

This week, the campaign took a leap forward as the House of Commons called on the government to reform the 2003 Extradition Act, as well as the European Arrest Warrant regime, which is currently being invoked to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden. At the Commons hearing, Conservative MP Dominic Raab said: “Gary McKinnon should not be treated like some gangland mobster or al-Qaeda mastermind.”

A central gripe of the reform proponents is that the 2003 Extradition Act places unequal demands on the British and UK judiciary systems. The US can demand the extradition of British citizens based only on “reasonable suspicion”, whereas US judges can reject a British application if no “probable cause” is shown. In other words, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US, a prosecutor must produce proof of the crime, but not the other way around.  Since 2004, 29 UK nationals or dual nationals have been extradited to the US, and only five US nationals have been handed over to Britain.

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Posted: 9th, December 2011 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment (1)