Your Views: Gary McKinnon


It's been many years since Gary McKinnon hacked into US government computers, yet his case is still ongoing.

This week in the House of Commons, the Conservative Party raised the issue of his looming extradition to the US to face trial, but the government decided not to get involved.

We asked our readers via our newsletter and Twitter feed what they think of the case - should he be jailed in the US?

Jail him

Paul had little pity. He said: "I've got the worst possible opinion of hackers. They're nothing more that vandals and thieves and should be treated as such."

David shared his opinion, calling for McKinnon to be locked away. "Anyone who hacks computers needs locking away for a very long time - send him to the US now and stop wasting our money on overpaid lawyers defending him," he said.

Pointing the finger

Derek thought the blame should lie elsewhere. "I think it is those responsible for leaving the systems open to attack that should be in court," he said.

While some may say that's blaming the victim, Andie agreed, saying: "If they cannot protect that information and the system can be hacked then those in the organisation have failed and by default are as guilty of the crime."

Stu piped up to say the US should be sacking those in charge of the systems. "I am a network engineer and if I had left the potential for a nobody to dial up and 'hack' in to my employer's network, my feet would not touch the floor and my only pause before the door would be to pick up my P45," he said.

Asperger's syndrome

McKinnon's Asperger's syndrome has been cited as one reason he shouldn't be sent to the US.

Julian said the disease is a valid explanation. He said: "I have experience of students with varying degrees of Asperger's Syndrome and it is not unreasonable to argue that Gary didn't realise what he was doing was wrong and perhaps the case should be dismissed on medical grounds."

Alex disagreed, saying: "Half of the people in IT seem to have this syndrome and they manage to refrain from hacking into Pentagon computers."

John believes that without the Asperger's connection, the "publicity seeking brigade" wouldn't be involved. "Predictable partners in crime such as pop star wives, publicity obsessed pretty boy politicians, and others who surely have better things to do," he said. He added: "For what it's worth, anybody out there prepared to help my Asperger's affected nephew secure a decent job? Thought not."

Give the man a job

McKinnon might be in more luck than John's nephew. By far the overwhelming opinion was that McKinnon shouldn't be locked up he should be employed.

"The Pentagon should offer McKinnon a very large salary and use him to improve their security methods. If someone can hack into top level Pentagon files from the comfort of their own bedroom, that person clearly knows more about security than the Pentagon does," suggested Douglas.

Gary added: "A classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper, just like Frank Abagnale Jr!"

But why let him go to the US? "We lose talented people from this country wholesale to the US and we really don't want to lose them to a US prison, do we?" Mike asked.

Martin thinks the Pentagon should have kept quiet, fixed their systems, and then asked McKinnon to have another go. He said: "After all they are, in effect, getting a free test of their security systems, which appear to have failed."

We'll let the final word go to Michael, who has actually met McKinnon: "I feel he is most probably being made an example of for ulterior motives... He seems to have very little deep expertise, but was an opportunist who found some glaring insecurities in US government systems by pure chance," he said.

"To cover up these embarrassing deficiencies, McKinnon has been hyped as a dangerous criminal and technical expert, and is essentially being railroaded. I do not condone what he did, but it has been blown out of all proportion for political reasons."