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Lene
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19 Jan 2010, 10:50 am

Has anyone read about the UK hacker Gary McKinnon? He hacked into the Pentagon looking for UFO evidence and is now facing life in a US jail...

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/142 ... ion-battle

His defence against deportation is that he has aspergers which explains the 'obsessive' hunt for aliens and the shock of change would be too much for him and puts him at suicide risk.

Personally, I'm not sure if 'aspergers' is a good excuse for his actions, but I'm curious what other people here think...



alex
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19 Jan 2010, 11:29 am

i don't think it's a good idea to use asperger's as a defense. I think that's ridiculous.



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19 Jan 2010, 2:22 pm

Gary McKinnon needs to be punished, but it should be done under UK law. The crime was commited in the UK by a british man, so I say that a UK court should deal with it under the UK computer misuse law.


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19 Jan 2010, 6:15 pm

Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited in the UK and extraditing someone in circumstances that allow or facilitate cruel or unusual punishment is also a legal "no-no" in the UK. The effect of removing someone with an ASD from their familiar environs has the potential to effect them in a manner that is both cruel and unusual, and so must be relevent to any legal question of extradition.

McKinnon should be dealt with by the UK. He is a UK citizen, he has never left the UK, there is no evidence that he has ever conspired with people outside the UK for the purpose of committing a crime outside the UK, and at the time of the alleged acts there was no provision in UK law to extradite someone from the UK in the circumstances that the US is seeking to extradite McKinnon. The legal mechanism being employed to extradite McKinnon is retrospective.

Retrospective legislation is generally avoided by the UK (and other jurisdictions where natural justice, ability to know the law and constitency are considered important legal principles) because it tends to go against natural justice and is contrary to other legal principles (such as the onus for knowing the law being on those subject to it). In essence the law has been "backdated" to take effect before it existed. That is problematic as where such retrospective legislation is accepted any act that was legal at the time of the act could be made illegal and the illegality backdated so that your legal acts today could be the subject of criminal actions against you tommorow. That is obviously both absurd and very dangerous to natural justice.



Aietra
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20 Jan 2010, 1:07 am

Aw no! :( The last thing I heard about him was back in July, when he was making that last appeal - I never heard he lost it! :( That's a real shame! AS or not, I don't think he deserves what they reckon he'll get.

Poor bloke... :cry:



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 6:42 am

I think one of the appeal judges just ruled that the Home Secretary's decision not to take the medical evidence into account should be subject to a judicial review, which won't happen until April or May at the earliest. The opposition party in the UK is widely expected to win the election, due around the same time, and they've already stated they won't support Gary McKinnon's extradition to the US.

I've read a lot of comments on this website, and also on other autism community forums, and a lot of people have said that AS should not be used as a defence. I'm aware that I'm about to disagree with this site's developer, and the general opinion in the community, so I'll just say that this is my own personal opinion, and everyone else is of course perfectly entitled to theirs.

The criminal justice system does not deal with people with ASCs at all fairly. I am aware in my own locality of an incident where police were very heavy-handed with an autistic man who they believed was "resisting arrest", when the reality was that he couldn't bear to be touched or man-handled, and so lashed out against the officers.

There is great potential for discrimination against us at every step of the criminal justice process - during arrest, during interrogation, the jury's perception of our demeanour during court appearances, and so on. The fact that someone has autism, in my view, is relevant and important information in dealing with a criminal case.

On the specific issue of diminished responsibility, I understand that some people are very queasy about the effect on public attitudes if ASCs are used as a defence in this way. But we can't let concerns over the responses of an already ignorant public over-ride the defence of the rights of autistic people.

Several features of autism do mean that an individual may be said to have decreased responsibility in law for his own actions. A typical example would be such as the one I've given above. In Gary McKinnon's specific case, it's perfectly accurate and reasonable to put forward the case that he hadn't considered the full consequences of what he was doing, due to the fact that he was acting on his personal obsession, and that extradition to a foreign land would be incredibly difficult for him to cope with.

I don't think he's using this as a reason to deny all guilt. He's admitted guilt, and he's happy to be tried, and to accept a sentence. But I believe he's entitled to have his condition taken into consideration in terms of how proceedings are dealt with, and what kind of sentence is passed down. The overwhelming majority view on this side of the Atlantic is that the US courts will simply ignore that and make an example of him with a disproportionate sentence. The US record, for example on the execution of mentally ill people, makes a lot of us in the UK shudder in disbelief.

If we fight every issue on the basis of what's right for better public perception, we're kind of playing by the same old rules.... their rules. If people were better educated, i.e. they were aware that overwhelmingly, autistic people are the victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators, and that autistic people are overwhelmingly positive contributors to society, not "cases in need", then people might be more understanding of the use of ASCs as a mitigating factor when it was truly appropriate, without it affecting their general perception of autistic people.

And fair play to the guy, he did the Pentagon a favour. If it was that easy to break into their systems, it's probably a good job a harmless hacker pointed that out to them, and not a terrorist network. He's just an easy target. I think outrage at that is an appropriate and logical response.



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22 Jan 2010, 12:35 pm

The question in law is, was Gary aware that what he was doing was a crime?

By his own statments and defense, he was well aware. "I will continue to disrupt things at the highest level."

His UFO and Aspergers defense came after the fact, and at least over here Aspergers is not considered a mental illness or a disability.

Our prisons are full of people who are sane by legal standards but did things that they were locked up for.

We are not concerned with "why" someone left a string of bodies in shallow graves across many states over twenty years, yes, it could have been bad potty training, but they did bury it, took the killing out of town, and showed they were aware that their special interest in murdering strangers was not socially acceptable.

Gary needs a story that we are all giant bats who work for the aliens to put thoughts in his head to qualify for a mental defense.

Gary is unknown in the UFO community. Claiming obsession he should at least be a MUFON member.

Gary did not just walk in through an open door, he was using the username and password of a DoD worker. He was caught when the same worker noticed he was logged on, when he was not.

That is a crime, commited in America,

It was a crime at the time it was commited, and warnings of the law are posted on all screens before access, 10 years in jail for unauthorized access, then he logged on impersonating a DoD worker. That too was a crime.

Now we have a right to know just how he came by that username and password.

It was not a lucky guess, Gary was not working alone, and this coverup and trial by press seems to point to high level involvment. Gary is guilty, the question is, is the British Government also guilty?



Lene
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22 Jan 2010, 2:13 pm

I think the extradition and length of sentence is unfair to any person. I'm sure plenty of NTs as well as AS people would hack into systems if they could for a laugh or out of curiosity. Many may not even realise that what they are doing is illegal (or convince themselves that sure, nobody will ever catch them or press charges....) None would expect that harsh a sentence.

I don't think the fact that McKinnon's has AS should be taken into account though; an interest does not give you special privileges and to say that we have diminished responibility is insulting and damaging to other people with AS. It also gives the idea that we will do absolutely anything to follow our interest, including harming others or endangering lives.

This idea of people with AS having no compassion and endangering others is too widely spread already; I recently attended a lecture by a well-known and published author on AS who spent 10 minutes talking about 'autistic psychopaths' and how some people with AS are cannibals and harm others. I was absolutely horrified listening to him, and afterwards my colleagues were joking about kids with aspergers being 'serial-killer geniuses' (the savant stereotype was also resurrected).

edit; Inventor, I did not know that about how McKinnon hacked in. That's very interesting, and definitely strengthens my belief that he should be convicted. In light of this, ignorance is no excuse!



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 4:11 pm

It's not that ASCs automatically confer diminished responsibility. I can't personally be said to be constantly in a state of diminished responsibility. But on some rare occasions, I most certainly am. And I'm not ashamed to say so, or to demand fair treatment if that is the case.

In certain circumstances, decreased responsibility is an important consideration ... for instance, in the case of the autistic man being rough handled by the police officer, who reacted badly to him as a result. I personally don't feel at all insulted as an autistic person about that guy using his condition as a possible defence, any more than I feel insulted by having a learning support assistant to help me when I go to college, or by having a concessionary bus pass that allows me free travel.

I carry an Autism Alert card, because, on very rare occasions, my behaviour outdoors (normally prompted by meltdowns, sensory hypersensitivity or co-morbid mental health issues) causes me to behave in an eccentric manner which has attracted the attention of police officers, who could potentially misinterpret the situation, and make matters far worse. I need the criminal justice system to understand my situation, and I imagine there are many others like me.

You might argue that's got nothing to do with Gary McKinnon, and that's up to you, of course. But it's all part of the same story. The criminal justice system is flawed when it comes to dealing with people on the spectrum. Uneducated officers make bad calls, use bad arrest strategies, and inappropriate interrogation techniques. Uninformed jurors make the same snap-judgments everyone else does about us every day... nothing changes once they sit in the box. The lack of eye contact, the stimming, the body language - all these things have an impact. The judge makes a subjective decision about sentencing often based on his observation of the person's demeanour, and the prison won't care about the condition and won't make any adjustments. As far as I'm concerned, a dx is crucial information in the proper and fair dispensation of justice. But I guess I'm in the minority.



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 4:23 pm

As for uneducated and irresponsible opinions in society, the best thing we can do is educate people that we are overwhelmingly positive law-abiding contributors to the human race. But we can achieve that without trying to pander to the perceptions of already ignorant people. It just isn't going to help them or us in the long run. We need the truth, not whatever's convenient in the moment to satisfy NTs how cute and cuddly we all are. If people have got a problem with us, that's their problem. If we've got a problem with each other, and if the inconvenient amongst us are merely cut loose to fend for themselves, then we haven't got much hope in acquiring the rights we desperately need. We think by sacrificing him or others like him we'll further our own cause. All we're really doing is covering our own a**es, the same way we're accusing him of doing. But anyhow... that's just my opinion.

Those not in the UK might be interested to note that whilst some press coverage has been misguided or inaccurate, the ENTIRE Bristish media supports Gary McKinnon in his fight not to be extradited. There's hardly a dissenting voice in the media. If everyone thinks we're all a bunch of psychopaths, why is general public opinion so adamantly behind him? If everyone thinks we're evil personified, wouldn't public opinion here be calling out for human sacrifice, like so many in our own community are doing? I just don't get it. I don't think people are seeing all the angles here.



Last edited by robinhood on 22 Jan 2010, 4:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Lene
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22 Jan 2010, 4:41 pm

You have a point Robinhood; I do understand that we should not shy away from the fact that there are individuals with autism out there who are dangerous, but the majority of these individuals are not that way due to their autism but rather other co-morbid factors or issues.

I understand someone with sensory issues freaking out when grabbed by officers; that's a spur-of-the-moment thing and not premeditated. McKinnon's acts took a lot of careful planning. Even if his obsession were all-consuming, he did not go on the site purely to research UFOs; he also left messages and deleted important files which led to the system shut down.



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 4:47 pm

That's ok, and he's admitted guilt, and he should be tried and punished. But it seems to me totally illogical not to take a dx into account when an individual is going through the criminal justice system. We fought for years for the Disability Discrimination Act - for the right to demand that reasonable adjustments should be made to give us fair access to services. Does that honestly stop at the door of a police station? I would have thought it was never more important than then. Justice is the basic fundamental right of all citizens, whatever someone is accused of. Autistic people have different needs... and if that means in the justice system that we need to be treated in a different way that takes account of our differences in communication and behaviour, then we REALLY need to fight for that. Sorry, you can probably tell I'm in rant mode.... apologies to anyone offended.



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 5:09 pm

Phew... just went for a cigarette to calm down, but then another thought occurred to me.

The vast majority of UK public opinion was (and is) against US foreign policy, ESPECIALLY during the Bush administration era. Even if Gary McKinnon was doing more than UFO hunting, he was probably only acting on the same notion that caused 2 million UK citizens to come out and march against the Iraq war in London a few years ago. I was there, by the way, and it was an amazing day.

Next week Tony Blair will sit before a committee to answer why he took the UK into the Iraq war, thus making himself responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The best he'll get is a slap on the wrist. But you want to support that an autistic guy should serve 50 years in jail for hacking a computer system run by the single biggest mass-murdering machine of the late twentieth century, just to make us look good to the non-autistic community? Er.... priorites, people?



miszt
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22 Jan 2010, 5:13 pm

Absurd, are they trying to suggest that the US is not spying on the UK, or that the UK is not spying on the US? and that every other country in the world is not spying on everyone else! Frankly the Pentagon should thank him and pay him for showing their security flaws.

I dont agree with extradition for anything except common law like Murder etc, Its HIGHLY hypocritical of any government to comply with this kind of order imo



WhittenKitten
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22 Jan 2010, 5:21 pm

Gary needs to be extradited and punished, I hope he gets the maximum sentence.



robinhood
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22 Jan 2010, 5:30 pm

WhittenKitten wrote:
Gary needs to be extradited and punished, I hope he gets the maximum sentence.


Ok, but then execute Bush and Blair. And Putin, and most of the other world leaders. Otherwise it's just complete hypocrisy. The maximum sentence for murder is death in the US... isn't it?