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Computer Hacker Gary McKinnon will be told within the next four weeks whether he must face extradition or can be tried in the UK.

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon made a repeat request for a UK trial instead of extradition, alongside both advisors and supporters in London.  

McKinnon admits to hacking into U.S. government computer systems in 2001 and 2002, in attempts of finding information regarding UFOs, which he believed U.S. authorities had suppressed.  

The U.S. classified McKinnon’s actions as cyber-terrorism. As a result, if extradited, he may be forced to serve 70 years in a maximum security jail.  McKinnon’s legal team has written to the Crown Prosecution Service, asking for a trial in the UK rather than extradition. They will receive an answer within the next four weeks.

A significant new element has been added to the case, in the fact that McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with a form of autism, Asperger's Syndrome. The syndrome often results in problems regarding communication with others, along with the development of obsessive interests.

The granting of McKinnon’s extradition occurred before his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, and his legal team was originally scheduled to present an oral case on January 20, asking for consent to apply for a judicial review covering his extradition. However, McKinnon’s lawyers will now head to the court on Friday, in order to request a wait on their oral hearing until that outcome is revealed.  

At a news conference specifically called regarding the case, autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen explained that McKinnon's crime supported signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, such as an obsession with finding out the truth. Professor Baron-Cohen also said that McKinnon’s actions "should be treated as the activity of somebody with a disability rather than a criminal activity".

According to Professor Baron-Cohen, "It can bring a sort of tunnel vision so that in their pursuit of the truth they are blind to the potential social consequences for them or for other people.”  

The professor further explained that prison life would be unbearable for an Asperger’s sufferer and even has the potential to worsen the condition.

According to Lucy Clarke, the hacker's girlfriend of four years, McKinnon has been depressed and if forced to undergo extradition, "He would be suicidal."

Throughout the time when his lawyers and supporters were stating their arguments, McKinnon sporadically provided additional explanations on details he considered important, but mainly gazed into space.  

"I'm doing that typical bloke thing and pretending it's not happening," McKinnon explained. "I'm on Beta blockers and very stressed. I'm cold and calm on the outside, but inside the fires of hell are burning.”

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I'm sorry buddy
By sprockkets on 1/18/2009 4:52:10 PM , Rating: 4
I have Asperger's Syndrome. You know what it does for people like us? It makes us excellent at troubleshooting computers because we have such excellent and pain-staking attention to detail, and we think in logical concrete terms. People with AS are one step below OCD. Instead of feeling that you have to do something repetitively, I chose to do so out of fun, but I can control my habits if I want to.

Yeah, sure, we do focus on some things very heavily and weirdly, and yes, perhaps he couldn't get that paranoia of UFO material out of his system. But again, it is still manageable, and most are able to grow out of most of the weird behavior.

I love the way computers and electronics work very much. And for those who do not know they have it, they are looked at as being very awkward, but still smart, most of the time, have a higher IQ than normal.

Most people who have AS are good singers or controlling their voice (I can make the Charlie Brown teacher noise perfectly), good at poetry and other jobs that require detail and precision, and jobs that require attention to dull tasks.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By Samus on 1/18/2009 9:36:14 PM , Rating: 4
I have AS and constantly think about suicide. The only reason I don't is because of how selfish it is. It wouldn't be fair to punish everyone who knows me into thinking they had something to do with it or they could have prevented it. Nobody understands us. The people who do understand us, medical professionals, don't really count, because they either counsel you to ignore what other people think of you (contradicting of how a typical asperger-brain functions, because we are unable to ignore things that are on our mind constantly because they are on our mind constantly) or...because their help is useless.

I think its completely ridiculous they're throwing someone who commited a non-violent crime in such a comical manner in the slam for 70 years. Come on, UFO's?...seriously, what kind of 'sensitive information' did he intrude upon in his adventure through a bunch of poorly secured top secret files regarding the subject. Rapists and murderers don't even spend that long in jail.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By Quiescent on 1/18/2009 9:50:50 PM , Rating: 2
See, this is why I want to go into the field of Psychology. Because I understand this kind of thing from even self-experience and observing. I don't want to be the stereotypical person who try to suggest ways of just ignoring the problem or covering up the symptoms and not fixing the core problem.

Clearly this is completely overboard, and erm... Even before I read anything about the diagnosis, I knew that this guy must have had something different about him. UFOs? Why 70 years in prison for UFOs? I know it's government property, but hopefully now they will understand differently and make the connection.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By Quiescent on 1/18/2009 9:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
I must add to my first paragraph and say that instead of suggesting to ignore what is on your mind, do something differently about it, think what you can do that will not harm anyone else or yourself. Like for me, I use my music to put away those kinds of thoughts, if I ever encounter any. But that's just something I would say to anyone, as I do not understand your condition, for I have never seen anyone with it. But it is interesting.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By on 1/19/09, Rating: -1
RE: I'm sorry buddy
By FaceMaster on 1/19/09, Rating: 0
RE: I'm sorry buddy
By acase on 1/19/2009 2:11:36 PM , Rating: 1
I'm starting to think PLAYSTATION THREE has Aspergers from his painstaking attention to say the dumbest shit in every article he can.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By lco45 on 1/19/2009 3:39:06 AM , Rating: 2
That's interesting, I didn't know about this syndrome before. It sounds like an interesting blend of advantages and disadvantages (like most things I suppose).

My cousin is autistic. He can't have a conversation but can answer yes or no to questions that require complete speaking competence to understand, such as "did you take that jacket when you went camping last weekend?".
He can also listen to a classic piano CD, for the first time, then when the CD finishes walk over to the piano and play the entire CD flawlessly and with feeling.

Slightly back on topic, sentencing someone for 70 years for this crime would be pure bitchiness, like Barbara Bush wanting to imprison someone who threw a shoe at her husband.
I've thrown plenty of shoes over the years, occasionally even in anger (a petulant child), and I also hacked my university network.

I was never convicted over the shoe throwing incidents, and my comp sci professors showed grudging admiration for my exploits as they handed down sentence for my sojourn into the world of hacking: 2 weeks suspension.


RE: I'm sorry buddy
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/20/2009 11:13:49 AM , Rating: 2
Errrr... Know your first ladies. I do not recall any shoe throwing at George H. Bush. So, Barbara Bush might want a imprison someone for the shoe incident; for attacking her son. If you know any loving mothers, you would know this to be a common punishment (level of punishment that is), or even low (surprised not asking for death). George W. Bush wife is Laura (yes, both Barbara and Laura end in the letter “A” and maybe that messed you up??), she would have to ask for a 70 year sentence for the correct president’s wife to ask for that type of punishment to be had down for an attack on her husband. Which of course I would not blame Laura for asking for this punishment… after all; George W. Bush is the love of her life.

You’re a knuckle head if you think hacking into your university network is anything comparably to the same level of security threat as hacking into a foreign Governments computer network.

For those saying, “Hey he just wanted to see if he could find anything on UFO’s, what’s the real harm?” It does not matter what he was after, he broke in. It would be like someone braking into a store (after business hours) and saying well I just wanted a drink out of the water fountain, I was not going to take anything of value. It does not matter what they wanted, the person still broke into the business.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By FaceMaster on 1/19/2009 7:20:14 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah I have Aspergers and I too am superior to most other people.

RE: I'm sorry buddy
By foolsgambit11 on 1/19/2009 7:59:53 PM , Rating: 2
It makes me think of David Mamet's essay "Jews in Showbusiness". The premise is basically that Hollywood was founded by a bunch of Ashkenazi Jews with Asperger's. (Asperger's has its highest statistical prevalence among this ethnic group, he claims). Whether that's all true or not, it's an interesting idea, and another conceit in which those with Asperger's can indulge themselves.

By IcePickFreak on 1/18/2009 4:38:57 PM , Rating: 3
I propose we file a class action lawsuit against curiosity for killing the cat, it's obvious the cat was suffering from a mental illness.

How do we keep finding illnesses these days to pin the blame on for peoples actions? Coincidently there always seems to be a pill manufacturer happy to step up to the plate with a fix that doctors are more than happy to write scripts for.

Don't smoke pot kids, but take this manufactured chemical with synthetic ingredients that's been in testing on lab rats for at least 6 months.. unlike that evil natural weed that people have been smoke for centuries.

Yeah I went off on a tangent, but I just don't understand the logic of governments anymore. Surely it's not all about making money.

RE: AutisticschzioOCDphreniaADD
By sprockkets on 1/19/2009 1:42:11 AM , Rating: 4
Clearly your love of the halflings leaf has dulled your senses.

RE: AutisticschzioOCDphreniaADD
By bkslopper on 1/19/2009 7:36:04 AM , Rating: 2
First clever response and it gets downgraded. Go fig.

Blah blah blah
By HighWing on 1/18/2009 6:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
bottom line is he was obviously not disabled enough to break the law. And he did so knowing that he was breaking the law. Sure maybe his condition might have "blinded" him from some aspects of how deep he was going after he started, but that still does not change the fact that he knew what he was doing when he first set out to break the law. And it was at that time that he made a choice to break the law.

I have family with the same condition, I know these people are smart and they may not communicate properly. But they sure as hell know and understand what they are doing all the time. even if they can't tell you.

My guess is he didn't realize just how serious of a crime this was, and now he's scared that he might actually have to pay for his crimes!!! Sorry but ignorance of the law does not give in for absence of punishment.

RE: Blah blah blah
By bkslopper on 1/19/2009 7:40:50 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree. Using some random mental illness as a get-out-of-jail-free card is BS.

RE: Blah blah blah
By wvh on 1/19/2009 11:01:42 PM , Rating: 2
I guess this sort of reaction, seen all over this site, explains why more than 1 out of 100 adult Americans are behind bars.

What the hell do you gain to lock this guy away for (possibly) life? What sort of purpose do you think it serves to throw smart non-violent (and in my opinion non-criminal) people in jail?

I learned security by hacking into systems as a teenager. Now I work for companies, securing their networks. You would rather throw bright young teenagers in jail (on the condition they did not damage or make money out of their curiosity) than secure their happiness, the future of your economy and likely the security of your own country.

This sounds to me as an almost Muslim theocratic level of idiocy – to throw the brightest minds of your country in jail for offending diverse petty laws; taking some sort of absolute moral high ground, where the definition of "moral" is pitiful authoritarian and kind of pervertedly narrow-minded. I might exaggerate slightly, but you sir... you are obsessed with punishment, hell and brimstone.

He should not be extradited because he will not receive a reasonable sentence if he is. Just as we don't extradite to countries like Iran, we should not blindly extradite to the US as people might be categorised as Terrorist (either legally or in the public's mind) and receive sentences that defy the term justice. It's just the way things are at this point of time.

RE: Blah blah blah
By HighWing on 1/21/2009 2:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
What sort of purpose do you think it serves to throw smart non-violent (and in my opinion non-criminal) people in jail?

It serves the purpose of punishment for the crime he committed. So by your point, you are saying because he is non-violent and smart he should not serve jail time for committing a crime that lets say a non-violent, not so smart person would serve?

Nothing you said still changes the point that he committed a huge crime against not just another person/company, but another country. I am not saying he is a terrorist, but the point is he committed a crime that many terrorist are trying to do every day. Just because he is not a terrorist, does not make his crime any less serious.

While I agree with you that many hackers learn their trade through illegal actions, that still does not make it right or legal. And all know the risk involved, and only the ones that don't get caught ever get good jobs. Honestly did you ever stop to think about how different your life could have been if you had been caught hacking? I seriously doubt you would have the same job you have now if you had been caught hacking as a teen.

Pulls out the mental card
By japlha on 1/18/2009 4:42:33 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that a persons mental state needs to be taken into consideration in any trial. However, this guy knew exactly what he was doing while he was doing it. How could he not know it was illegal? His condition no doubt motivated him beyond the fear of being caught.
70 years though? I think the US is just trying to set a precedent and a warning to all would-be hackers.

RE: Pulls out the mental card
By Cr0nJ0b on 1/19/2009 12:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's a fairly interesting case. At first I was thinking..."this guy is just using a twinkie defense to get off"...but reading the posts I'm closer to the middle now.

I would want to see what information he gained from his exploits and what he did with it. If he sold it or passed along confidential information to others, then he's a bad man that deserves what he gets. If he was just digging for his own curiousity...he's a mildly bad man that has some anti-social tendancies that need to be thwarted. He should be forced into treatment and taken off the net (though I'm sure some might argue that this would be cruel).

I'm hopeful that if he is extradited, that he will at least get a fair hearing in the US. Now that president Cheney is out of office, there is a better chance of that IMO. The case needs to be looked at by a rational judiciary with no political goals and without the media hype so common to the US system.

By cogito on 1/18/2009 9:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
So in order for something to deemed "cyberterrorism" must it not also be "terrorism"? Exactly what part of hacking a US network is terrorism?

RE: Terrorism?
By stmok on 1/19/2009 1:19:08 AM , Rating: 2
Let Robot Chicken be your guide... :-)

By freeagle on 1/18/2009 5:07:25 PM , Rating: 3
First of all, I'd really like to know what he found out. Not that I'm UFO believer, just very curious :)

Second - cyber-terrorism and 70 years sentence?? If he didn't do any harm to the computers or services they provide, I hardly find it a terroristic act. They should be at least a bit thankful for finding the hole in case someone with really bad intentions found it first. Making him serve 70 years is just ridiculous.

I have a question
By catalysts17az on 1/19/2009 8:45:19 PM , Rating: 2
since he hacked a government computer looking for UFO information, i wonder if he found out who killed JFK? if any of you have access to this guy ask him "Who killed JFK?" lol. its unfortunate that he has this disease, but he must be punished for what he did. If not then you just invite more fools and i bet they too have something wrong with them too. also they crimes were committed several years ago, he should have been taken care of a long time ago.

that's my .02 cents

By wvh on 1/19/2009 10:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think he would receive a fair trial in the US – or perhaps more accurately, I don't think the potential severed sentence would be suitable for the committed crime. For all we know, he could be put in a high-security jail filled with other "terrorists" and have the key thrown away.

As I work in security – and I had to learn it somehow – I feel quite strongly about hackers being thrown in jail if the "crime" was little more than unauthorised access. Bright teenagers, bored scientists and people with Aspergers syndrome don't belong in jail – as long as their motivation was pure curiosity and not malice or monetary.

Destroying this guy's life some more serves no purpose to anyone. I suggest to track down some spammers, prosecute them and throw real criminals in jail instead.

Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By Beenthere on 1/18/09, Rating: -1
RE: Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By CloudFire on 1/18/2009 4:41:11 PM , Rating: 1
don't you understand that he has autism? that disorder makes a person have OCD tendencies and they are socially inept. Autism patients live their lives very strictly according to a set pattern of daily activities, anything beyond that scope and they will completely freak out and lose all control. first off, autism people have very poor social skills, if any at all, putting him in a prison would likely be a fate worse than death. if anything, this should definitely be tried as a case of mental illness rather than a full-blown criminal case, either in the UK or the US.

By InternetGeek on 1/18/2009 5:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but GeekDefense has been proven to not work quite well outside the realm of technology.

RE: Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By CloudFire on 1/18/2009 7:17:22 PM , Rating: 2
umm...yea, i agree with you too. and that's not sarcasm. i'm merely stating the fact that a mental illness case should be considered. i don't argue that what he did is wrong. whether or not he is mentally ill or not, hacking is a very serious/complex task and he has to be aware that he was doing it to some level. all i wanted to do was point out that the illness should be taken into consideration, not slap him on the wrist and let him go.

By InternetGeek on 1/18/2009 11:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
I think that using his problem as an excuse to the cause of his actions should not be considered as a reason to forgive his crime. At the most some leniency (a few years off at the most) should be thrown in. But the crime was still committed, and he is in total use of his mental faculties. In fact, his mental faculties (and flaws) actually make him BETTER to do that certain kind of tasks. He can't say he didn't know it was a crime because even he doesn't register other beings as being alive, he can surely read laws and understand them.

If people can learn to focus their energy on something productive, surely he can with some help. He is a grown up who didn't act upon his flaw, not a kid. Mental institutions are for people who are crazy. He is not.

By BrockSamson on 1/18/2009 5:27:17 PM , Rating: 2
"But officer, I had to kill him because my sickness made me!"

Yeah, some people are sick and have trouble but you know what, that doesn't mean they can do whatever they want.

RE: Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By freeagle on 1/18/2009 5:40:01 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, it doesn't. But for sick people, we have other institutions, not prison.

By foolsgambit11 on 1/19/2009 8:07:01 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly - look up John Hinkley, Jr. "Jodie Foster made me do it!"

There's definitely a point where people know what they are doing, know that it is wrong or illegal, but have such a skewed set of priorities that they can't function properly in society. Those people need institutionalization and treatment.

By CloudFire on 1/18/2009 7:51:39 PM , Rating: 2
3 things.

1.your quoted example of how you deemed mentally sick people to be is totally irrelevant to this discussion. it makes me sick that you are comparing a failed hacker to a murderer. obviously, you have no sense on how to relate topics.

2.i already stated that i agree that he should be punished. but i only differ on how the case should be handled, and that is all i'm pointing out.

3.i personally wouldn't want to put a failed hacker with autism into our already crowded maximum security prison system for 70 years, instead of some murderer or rapist that should be there instead, but hey, that's just me.

By shange on 1/19/2009 12:19:14 AM , Rating: 3
He has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is an autism *spectrum* disorder, not autism. This may seem like a minor quibble, but to say that he has autism and all the traits that someone with true autism entails is an exaggeration of massive proportions. Many people with Asperger's may seem at first blush no different than you or I.

While I have obviously not met McKinnon, I would bet that he is not the dysfunctional individual trapped in a rigid life of obsessive tendencies, oblivious to the outside world that you paint him to be. I would say that it would be absolutely inhumane to sentence the former to prison. For McKinnon, I'm much less convinced.

By KnightCG on 1/19/2009 3:15:03 PM , Rating: 2
Autism patients live their lives very strictly according to a set pattern of daily activities, anything beyond that scope and they will completely freak out and lose all control

Sounds like 5-10 medium security would fit the bill.

By hughlle on 1/18/2009 5:02:25 PM , Rating: 3

RE: Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By bluemagic on 1/18/2009 6:51:28 PM , Rating: 5
No I dont expect our government to give him over .... it serves no purpose for him to be trialed and imprisoned in america, it would be disgusting if that did happen.

He messed up and should of course be punished somehow and banned from the net for like 10 years perhaps but the UK goverment should take responsibility for its citizens, that is the duty of government not to hand over its people to anyone who asks.

And anyway .... hacking a few military computers for info not even money or causing damage .... who cares .... sort out your security and staff if those computers are so important ... idiots.

RE: Hopefully McKinnon will get what he deserves
By Beno on 1/18/2009 8:49:35 PM , Rating: 2
"..sort out your security and staff if those computers are so important ... idiots. "
or hire him :p

By bluemagic on 1/19/2009 8:58:41 AM , Rating: 2
Yea although from what i have read he only used simple phishing techniques or simple tcpip searches for unsecure remote admin machines on the network.

Although yea i would agree that it would make more sense to hire him to teach people not to open .exe files from people they dont know and scorn the admins that left the holes in the system in the first place ...

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