Great Story

Discussion in 'CycleChat Cafe' started by yenrod, 21 Jun 2008.

  1. yenrod

    yenrod Guest

    One morning, Gary McKinnon was drifting into sleep, after another night of smoking dope and computer gaming, when an apparition addressed him from the end of his bed. At first, he wondered whether it was not part of a drug-induced dream. In fact, it was a real, flesh-and-blood policeman. 'Hello Gary,' said the detective from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. 'You're under arrest.'

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    Dope-smoking geek: Gary McKinnon

    In the pantheon of the American military's Most Wanted list, McKinnon must rank some way below Osama bin Laden. Yet while the Al Qaeda leader remains elusive, a vengeful Pentagon is inching ever closer to the capture and high-security imprisonment of an unemployed British hairdresser with a potentially disastrous interest in UFOs.

    By his own account, McKinnon, 42, was nothing more than a 'bumbling nerd'. You would, perhaps, better describe him as a reckless idiot. Even his supporters would agree he's been a fool.

    Still, using a keyboard in his North London bedroom, he managed to infiltrate, examine and, allegedly, sometimes crash parts of the American military computer network - before and shortly after the September 11 Twin Towers attacks in New York.

    His efforts have been described as the 'biggest military computer hack of all time'. Since then, the deeply embarrassed and enraged U.S. authorities have determined that their British pothead nemesis should pay a heavy price.

    There has even been the suggestion - from one rather excitable New Jersey attorney - that in an ideal world they would like to see him 'fry'.

    Earlier this week, the gaunt and well-spoken McKinnon appeared before the House of Lords to make what is likely to be a last, desperate appeal against extradition to the U.S. If he loses, he faces up to 60 years in jail there.

    Despite diplomatic assurances, he also fears he faces a spell in an orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo Bay. From the sounds some American prosecutors are making, he has every reason to be afraid.

    McKinnon's story is both fascinating and disturbing. It raises a number of unsettling questions for us all, not least about the porous nature of the U.S military's cyberspace security.

    The others concern our one-sided relationship with a post 9/11 American judicial system that has produced Guantanamo Bay and Iraq's Abu Ghraib, as well as secret rendition flights to facilitate the torture of 'war on terror' suspects.

    Should we really be handing over our nationals, without conclusive evidence against them? And how do we square it with this week's freeing on bail of the Islamic radical Abu Qatada - said by some to be bin Laden's ambassador to Europe - whose extradition to Jordan was thrown out by a British court at an earlier stage than the McKinnon case has so far reached?

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    Bin Laden's right-hand man in the West. But Abu Qatada has evaded deportation

    'What I did was illegal and wrong, and I accept I should be punished,' McKinnon told me last night.

    'But I am not a member of Al Qaeda. And I am not a terrorist. The American reaction has been out of all proportion. They want to destroy me.'

    McKinnon was born in Scotland, but moved south with his artistic mother aged six after his parents split up.

    He went to school in Highgate, North London and was both sensitive and clever, if not highly academic.

    Then, aged 14, he was given his first computer. His intense interest in computing survived beyond his leaving school at 17 and training to be a hairdresser. Later, friends encouraged him to get a formal computing qualification so that he could work as an analyst in the field he loved best.

    He studied at college, but flunked maths. Yet he was able to move from hair salons to employment in professional IT. That was when the schoolboy hobby began to spin out of control.

    Ever since his teen years, McKinnon had been interested in 'hacking'. That is, gaining unauthorised access to other people's computer networks. Some hackers do this out of idle curiosity or for the thrill of committing the cyberspace equivalent of breaking and entering.

    Some have more nefarious ambitions: the theft of ideas, money or state, industrial and personal secrets. Others simply want to damage or disrupt the network they are hacking. Whatever the motives, it is an area of growing concern for anti-terrorist agencies. McKinnon has said his interest in aliens and the possible existence of UFOs (which came from his stepfather) led him to hack into the American military and space network.

    Why? He believed that NASA and the Pentagon had secret, physical evidence of extra-terrestrial life - space ships, no less - as well as the amazing energy sources powering them. Sources that may solve the current energy crisis. 'It wasn't just an interest in little green men and flying saucers,' he said.

    'I believe that there are spacecraft, or there have been craft, flying around that the public doesn't know about. I knew that governments suppressed antigravity, UFO-related technologies, free energy or what they call zero-point energy.'

    Intergalatic twaddle, you might think. But whatever his motives, McKinnon began, quite easily, it seems, to break into top secret American security networks in locations from Pearl Harbour to the Atlantic seaboard. He did so under the user name 'Solo'.

    To access these facilities, he used a commercially available programme which he bought online.
    David Jacob likes this.
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