Friday, 23 January 2009

Is it just me or... it completely inappropriate to imprison someone for being clever enough to hack into the US government's computers?

Super-hacker Gary McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. No shit sherlock. Even a cursory glance leads you to believe that this guys is special - in every sense of the word. He has just won the right to have a judicial review of the decision to extradite him to the US to serve a jail term of up to 70 years. The alternative is that he serves a shorter sentence - 3 or 4 years - in the UK. Which still makes no sense to me.

What possible benefit is there to society in taking a gifted individual without malicious intent and chucking them behind bars?

Of course a frightening proportion of our prison population have learning difficulties, an autistic spectrum disorder or a serious mental health problem, so Gary will be in good company. But we mustn't let that nag away at our collective conscience, or we might be forced to recognise uncomfortable truths about there being consequences to our own actions as well.

Why is nobody pointing out that we should just tell the US to stick it and hire the guy to sit in whatever surroundings he prefers and spend as much time as he wants trying to hack his way into things we think are secure? Why isn't our government pulling a national-security card of its own to make sure we don't let slip an opportunity to capture some of Gary's potential to the benefit of society?

Criminalising someone for being gifted, curious, motivated and a bit weird is not a decision which makes sense to me. Apparently the issue is that there was half a million quid's worth of 'damage' - which must look like a handful of coppers compared to the cost of the legal process to pursue Gary's extradition so far.

As far as I'm aware, nobody has been physically harmed as a result of Gary's suboptimal decision making. Which is more than can be said about the folk who run our country... and if costing a government money is a criminal offence then there's a whole financial industry, not to mention some rather relaxed regulators, who might want to tee up their lawyers now.

It's complete and utter nonsense and it's about time we reinstated the original basis of our legal system, which was not the decision of 12 different experts who have no relationship with you, but on a jury of your peers - folk who could put your actions in the context of your life, your strengths, your weaknesses and your personality, and had lived with the same struggles you faced.

I'll shut up now.


McBöbø said...

Can me sensitive, but think I'm sensing some anger?

BTW, I've analysed this family blog and it turns out to a ESTP Promoter Executor, Myers Briggs personality type - a doer. I'm guessing that's your influence, Stray.

nmj said...

Agree with all you say, Stray. I had just read a little about this case, but it stinks. Yes, why the hell not use his talents to highlight holes in security, that makes much more sense than prison! And what effect is prison going to have on his health? It's all bullshit. You are right to feel angry.

Glory von Hathor said...

Mmm. With you up until the last paragraph. Is there a third way?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear he's been granted a judicial review. It has been obvious right from the start of this case that here is a man with an obsession regarding gaining information that would put no-one at risk except to call in to question the so called security of a goverments computer system. When you follow the trail that Gary took through the heart of this computer system it is obvious even to someone like me that he laid down so many trails back to himself that his concentration was on finding the photo's etc that would underpin his belief of UFO's not in attacking the USA government. The damage he caused has always seemed to me to be of the 'oh shit why did you climb through that window, we had it propped open to let air flow not for access.' and needed response along the lines 'Your footprints on the frame are not very pretty you will need to to get rid of those and show us how you do that and how you found the latch so easy to spring' kind.
That I would probably say this would entail Gary being told he had to give up time and energy without pay to do this and any other project identified by a mediator/judge would seem way for a community to recognise the 'good' that could be found for the whole community rather than the individual and the possible positive they can give being lost to both themselves and the wider community having him incarcerated.
Whether he has been given a diagnosis of some 'disability' or not should not even come in to it if a judicial system actually begins to recognise the system is about individuals joined together to listen and consider facts about another individual and taking the time and attention to recognise themselves in the situation and finding human and positive way to build community not continue to fracture it by the ease with which incarceration is answer to every 'crime'... especially the one of being human and human who doesn't tick the right boxes through dint of 'inability / ability' not through malice aforethought.
As someone who recently heard the immortal words "it's your oddness that causes concern here" from someone with a title with some power - well they think so:0) I have much sympathy with Gary. Teach me to cross hatch all the boxes of a questionaire with various coloured felt pens rather than just tick one box on each question. The colours pertained to the answer I had to give plus short hand for F**K O** which the 'brilliant' title couldn't even begin to understand and wasn't open to conversation.
Someone just needed to have a real conversation with Gary and imagine beyond any box on paper or made up of concrete and locked door. That this might be best done by an advocate rather than a group of peers might be the case for acceptance that the flaws of a governments computer system can be reflected in a jury and that a mediator separate from both jury and community/government is needed to sfae gaurd them all.
But then what do I know I'm odd:0)

Stray said...

Ah yes, GVH, I was only half serious about the final paragraph. It is true, though, that the basis of our legal system was originally in common ground, rather than discrete specialism as it is today.

NMJ - thanks :) I am not very experienced at 'doing' angry so it's good to practice :)

McBobo - thanks sir. I think I'm an ENTJ myself, but always wanted to be an ENTP, so at least I'm letting go of my judgemental side a little. Or perhaps that's the other influences on the blog!

DW - lovely to see you. Yes and yes and yes again. It's beyond comprehension isn't it?