The determination to see Gary McKinnon rot in jail has been driven by American domestic politics.
The case against him was launched in the febrile aftermath of the 9/11 attacks during the presidency of George W. Bush. Now his chances of escaping extradition have been hit by a new White House focus on cyber security breaches under Barack Obama.
The President recently appointed a White House cyber tsar to plug holes in security after continuing attempts to hack into government computers. Security, judicial and intelligence officials in Washington have told the Mail that they have no intention of dropping their demands for Gary to face trial in the U.S. Pentagon figures still regard his admitted crimes as very serious, as well as embarrassing, and dismiss his claims that he is a harmless UFO researcher.
When Gary was charged, U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty accused him of carrying out the ‘biggest military computer hack of all time’. U.S. officials were particularly incensed that he carried out some of his attacks in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities.
He is accused of illegally accessing 98 computers belonging to the U.S. army, navy, air force, NASA, Department of Defence and a number of private companies. He allegedly stole passwords, deleted files and monitored traffic and did £500,000 of damage to computers in 14 states.
In April 2001, he hacked into the computers of a naval weapons station in New Jersey, which provides munitions and supplies for the Atlantic fleet. He stole 950 passwords and then 12 days after 9/11, allegedly used the passwords to delete files needed to power up the computers, shutting them down at a time the nation was on high alert.
A former CIA officer with close links to the National Security Council told the Mail: ‘The attitude is that you don’t do something like that and get away with it. People still want to see an example made of him.’ … A Washington official familiar with the case said: ‘It would be naive to think that the change in the White House will make a difference.
‘This never really was a Bush or a neocon thing or an Obama thing either. The U.S. system is big on bringing lawbreakers to justice. It is partly cultural and partly institutional and that would work against him even if cyber security were not right up there as an issue at the moment.
In my view they don’t want to put him in jail as much as they want to spend years talking about putting him in jail. More here than meets the eye.