The Power of We

Sorry, Blog Action Day. I know you were actually yesterday, but today’s news that Gary McKinnon will not be extradited to the USA makes this year’s theme – The Power of We – that much more poignant today; the same day that 96 insulting verdicts of ‘accidental death’ look more likely to be overturned and fresh inquests held for the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, allowing those responsible to be held to account at long last. So I hope you’ll excuse the delay. (That and I’m feeling poorly, therefore operating at an even slower pace than usual. Please bear with me and I promise not to cough or splutter over you.)

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, today ruled that the state of Gary’s mental health would put him at great risk of suicide if sent to a foreign prison, thus it would be incompatible with his human rights for the extradition to proceed. Case closed. She also announced plans to introduce new rules to give UK judges the power to decide whether extradition suspects should be tried in the UK or abroad.

Gary stood accused of hacking, from his home, into dozens of US military computers between 2001 and 2002, causing $700,000 worth of damage. He was first arrested in 2002 before an order for his extradition was made in July 2006. He faced 60 years in a US jail if convicted.

He also has Asperger’s syndrome and always maintained that he was simply looking for evidence of UFOs.

Having established that he is not be fit to stand trial in the US, it is now for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to decide whether Gary should face trial in the UK.

Why on earth has it taken so long?

The Free Gary campaign has been unstinting throughout, led by the tireless and inspirational Janis Sharp. As you’ll already know, David has backed the campaign, most memorably by recording the Graham Nash song ‘Change the World’ with Bob Geldof and Chrissie Hynde – a direct plea to President Obama for mercy.

The debate still rages over whether the 2003 US-UK extradition treaty is unfair and one-sided. For the UK to seek to extradite a US citizen, evidence of guilt would have to be produced before a US court. However, this is not so when the situation is reversed. Each senior member of the current coalition government, Conservative and Liberal Democrat alike, voted against the treaty’s “lopsided nature” in 2006 while they were in opposition.

The US maintains that such criticism is unfair. No person can be deported from the UK to the US to stand trial unless the charge is a crime in both countries, and an extradition request can be refused if prosecutors in the UK believe the charges would be best tried in a UK court. Furthermore, whereas the UK has refused seven extradition requests from the US, the US has been much more obliging and has not refused a single request.

However, no US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for an alleged crime that took place on US soil.

The US-UK extradition arrangement, it is also argued, brings benefits to both countries. Hands up who in the UK isn’t glad to finally see the back of Abu Hamza after eight years of expensive legal wrangling and God-knows how much taxpayers’ money squandered. Be honest.

Gary McKinnon’s fate has been up in the air for a decade, his life spent in limbo, under arrest for longer than any other British citizen, causing untold anguish to so many. Punishment enough, some might say, not least when you consider that his crime would receive merely a six-month ‘community service’ sentence in Britain. Others might add, tongue firmly in cheek, that that’s ten years for the Pentagon and NASA, possibly between them if need be, to come up with much stronger passwords.

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who served under the previous Labour government in 2009 and 2010, has ignited the debate by declaring that “the Home Secretary has made a decision today that’s in her own party’s best interest; it is not in the best interests of the country.”

Just two weeks ago her Conservative government approved the extradition of Talha Ahsan, also from London and a sufferer of Asperger’s syndrome. He is accused of running jihadist websites to raise money for terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The Crown Prosecution Service has said it has insufficient evidence to prosecute him in Britain.

Talha Ahsan was deported to the USA on terrorism charges along with co-accused Babar Ahmad, whose family today accused the British legal system of double standards and its government of “what appears to be blatant old-fashioned racism under which all British citizens are equal but some are more equal than others.” I think they have a point.

Disgracefully, Babar Ahmad’s arrest under anti-terror legislation in December 2003 resulted in more than 70 injuries, including bleeding from his ears, for which he was awarded £60,000 in compensation by the Metropolitan Police who later admitted that he had been severely assaulted. He was released without charge after six days in custody.

(Among the five terror suspects deported was radical cleric Abu Hamza.)

Critics and cynics cry foul, insisting that this was a populist decision rather than a principled one. Perhaps. Also, yes, Gary does happen to be white; has had celebrities speaking up for him as well as the support of the general British public and the shamelessly Tory and (sadly sometimes) influential Daily Mail. The McKinnons’ MP, David Burrowes, had even vowed to resign if his constituent was deported. What tremendous backing to have. Although, sadly, I do share the view of Babar Ahmad’s family – that being Muslim changes the picture somewhat, and it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth – this day is a positive one and reaffirms once more that people who do not give up and keep shouting even when their voices are strained sometimes are heard in the end. May that give them the encouragement they need to carry on shouting and to encourage others to support them, both in solidarity and out of shame.

What now for Julian Assange and his human rights? Or those of Richard O’Dwyer? The student is appealing against an extradition order on copyright charges (his website directed visitors to sites where they could watch US TV shows) and faces up to 10 years in an American jail just so that, yet again, an example can be made. Only nine per cent of Britons believe he should be tried in the US compared with 26 per cent who feel he should face trial in the UK, while 46 per cent insist he should not be prosecuted at all.

So, The Power of We. #FreeGary is done, he has finally been freed of his torment; who wants to help #FreeTalha, #FreeBabar and #FreeRichard next? As David sang, we can change the world, and, well, we can always celebrate World Food Day, which is today, some other time.

51 comments

  1. Taki

    … I just read that Gary McKinnon will not have to leave UK. It’s a shame that it took so long to make the right decision, but late is much better than not.

    Regards

    Taki

  2. Simon Gair

    Wow! A great result and a great deal of congratulations needs to go to Gary’s family. But then we get to the loyal few who supported and never gave up hope. Amongst these? Our very own David. Forget the music for a second and the band and the joy that he has brought to us all. Remember that David Gilmour dug deep, never stopped believing. The turning away? Not David and not Floyd fans. Rejoice!!!

  3. Tim Hubbard

    Excellent news! – At last something that this awful coalition government has done right (for once!).

    And it very much boils down to David Gilmour’s support to help to put this very serious wrong situation, right.

    I’m very pleased for Gary, and that his long suffering and worried mother might get a little peace now.

    It’s nice to know that there are people like David and Co. prepared to stand up for less fortunate people in this world. If we had more people like him running the country using basic common sense, perhaps we would not be in such a deep hole as we are in now?!!

  4. syncopa

    I truly cannot believe this shyte… Double standards of their own country aside, this man (?) has admitted he is guilty. I have never heard before of someone more deserving the full penalty of law! Now, I do agree that the U.S. has made a business of imprisonment, but doesn’t everyone agree this man (?) should pay for his grievances?

    I would like to ask at this point, what does everyone think about his penalty? You all worried he may commit suicide during his imprisonment. I argue he wouldn’t have had time… he probably would have been raped and murdered long before he could take his own life. But that IS PRISON LIFE.

    I do hope you charge him with something hefty…

    • Michael Kelly

      Prison for 60 years in a foreign country simply does not fit crime committed, whether or not Gary has Asperger’s syndrome. It’s high time judges were given the right to look at the circumstances of a crime rather than have to punish every single crime to the letter of the law. If you put a smart judge in charge of a case he will come to a smart conclusion.

      The question going forward with Gary should not whether to punish him, the question we should ask is what can we do to prevent him from making such a monumental mistake again. That would be productive time and money spent, not mandatory prison.

    • Taki

      … I’m not sure if Gary McKinnon didn’t do a favour to the US. Imagine it were not him who entered the obviously wide open doors to those machines, but someone who with meaner ideas in his mind. Actually the US should be thankful…

      Regarding his penalty: he is a UK citizen who did something forbidden. He should get a fair trial in his country and a punishment as the UK law foresees.

      Regards,

      Taki

    • Foxy

      If there was anything approaching a sound and logical argument for his extradition here I’d address it in a reasonable manner. There isn’t though, and all one can really say is that you’re an utterly ignorant moron and that you shouldn’t write sprawling diatribes about matters you cannot comprehend.

    • Damian Cunningham

      Sounds like you’ve experienced prison life.

      Anyhow it’s just tough shit. The USA should not have been so lapse with its security. Quite laughable really.

  5. lorraine

    Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who served under the previous Labour government in 2009 and 2010, has ignited the debate by declaring that “the Home Secretary has made a decision today that’s in her own party’s best interest; it is not in the best interests of the country.”

    I agree with Alan Johnston’s first point, Call-me-Dave and Cleggy have been squirming over this one since they crawled into government. Think it’s a bit f*cking rich coming from Johnson though, bearing in mind the hatchet job he done on Gary McKinnon to suit his own political agenda at the time… him and every other Labour Home Secretary since David Blunkett for that matter.

    Really not sure how using a dodgy treaty (retrospectively and maliciously) for something it was never intended for in the first place would ever be in ‘the best interests of the country’ but what do I know?

    What I do know is that I’m really pleased for Gary and his family that the threat of extradition has been lifted.

  6. Paul Sexton

    Well Done FEd, David and Polly etc. for highlighting this cause! …a great outcome in the end.

  7. Michèle

    …and, well, we can always celebrate World Food Day, which is today, some other time.

    Rather, why not celebrate World Anti-Food Waste Day? And why not do that every day?

    This evening, we could see and hear British activist Tristram Stuart on French TV. Interesting (and alarming). He spoke at length about the scandal of global food waste (one third of world’s food is wasted – “All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.”).

    I also found this talk very interesting (and funny, sometimes).

    The Power Of We? We can all do something to help solve this problem, no?

    “We, the people, do have the power to stop [the] tragic waste of resources if we regard it as socially unacceptable to waste food. – Tristram Stuart.

    • FEd

      The Power Of We? We can all do something to help solve this problem, no?

      Yes, we certainly can. It’s a disgrace how selfishly wasteful we are.

    • tim_c

      We can normally rely on financial incentives to direct behaviour … wasting food is wasting money after all. So what does this tell us … that we value time more than money (because it takes planning and effort to use food efficiently) and that food is too cheap? … Not an easy message to sell to the poor of course.

  8. frank par

    Good news today about Gary. Too bad about a dog that couldn’t be saved this past summer, bummer really.

    Then there is a girl in Vancouver who recently committed suicide after her cyber post. Now cyber bullying is the issue on hand here. The internet may be informative, yet it brings out the worst in people. Are we so wired that even people on bicycles are causing accidents while texting too? Insane!!!!!!

    • FEd

      Then there is a girl in Vancouver who recently committed suicide after her cyber post. Now cyber bullying is the issue on hand here. The internet may be informative, yet it brings out the worst in people.

      I thought hackers identifying the poor girl’s tormentor an interesting twist on The Power Of We…

  9. JulieD

    I truly cannot believe this shyte… Double standards of their own country aside, this man (?) has admitted he is guilty. I have never heard before of someone more deserving the full penalty of law! Now, I do agree that the U.S. has made a business of imprisonment, but doesn’t everyone agree this man (?) should pay for his grievances?

    For the record, Gary has not been penalised yet. Yes, he admitted he was wrong, but why the hell should he be dragged all the way over to the US for allegedly looking for evidence of UFOs? This was not an act of terrorism, this was seeing holes in computer systems and getting easy access to files. The United States should learn from that. They should learn, and you would have thought that computer security was a top priority with the ‘powers that be’ in the US, that they must have completely secure computer systems.

    Gary did all this from a bedroom in London. He did not even set foot on US soil. He was not planning to bomb anyone. He was looking for evidence of UFOs. I know a LOT of UFO fans. We must look at Gary as a bit of a genius too for being able to have the brains to hack into something like US computer systems. People with Asperger’s have the ability to focus and as Gary was focused on UFOs he was trying to satisfy his deep curiousity.

    I started supporting the cause because I too thought that he could be tried in the UK. So it is now in the hands of the British courts. It doesn’t mean that he got away with his crime, it means that he will be judged in the UK and dealt with accordingly. Why should he go to the US, he is not a terrorist. He should be given a job in security systems if anything at all.

    And yes, because of Gary’s Asperger’s, his condition would have caused a meltdown and possible suicide if he was sent to a US prison. I have been researching Asperger’s and Autism for a long time now and also have seen how children with autism react to pressure. It is heartbreaking.

    I am so happy for Gary and full of admiration and praise for his mother, Janis Sharp, for all her hard work and dedication to the cause.

    • frank par

      Thank you Julie, you took the words out of my mouth. Imagine if Gary can do this, innocent or not, from his bedroom, what else can happen from others as we speak and or spoke!!!!

  10. Drew

    I was watching David’s Gdansk DVD this evening and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he was saying before his introduction to the song ‘Smile’. As far as I got was… “Right, this is a song called Smile, so you can put your best Smile __________________ .”

    9.5 points for anyone that can complete that sentence for me.

    Sorry Gary, and FEd, and a happy belated to birthday to you and anyone else.

    Thank you much-ly.

    • Michèle

      “Right, this is a song called Smile, so you can put your best smiles on while you’re listening.”

      Source: English subtitles of the DVD. 😉

    • KenF

      Hi Drew,

      I think David says:

      “Right, this is a song called Smile, so you can put your best Smiles on while you listen.”

      Cheers. 🙂

  11. ash

    I’m pleased for Gary too, I bet him and his Mum feel so relieved. They’ll probably collapse now all the adrenalin can stop. I hope they have a good rest. 🙂

    The power of “We”. I’m trying to remember some of the great campaigns that “we, the people” have waged and won.

    There’s been the anti fur campaigns, I think most women wouldn’t be seen dead in real fur now.

    There was the anti whaling campaign which although hasn’t stopped it completely has been somewhat of a success.

    There were many campaigns by disabled people to have recognition of the access problems they faced in society, now a lot of that has been redressed.

    There were some national strikes which brought the government of the day down (I thought that was rather a pity because the Thatcher years are what followed).

    Today, I’m pleased to see a campaign I’ve been following for 18 months/couple of years is finally coming to fruition, that is the one going through the House of Lords at present for Libel Reform. Our Libel laws have allowed people to be silenced by big business who didn’t want adverse publicity. Healthy debate and scientific debate has been stifled by our libel laws. We as bloggers could have been prosecuted, and Fed forced to close the site (maybe) if we said anything that someone else thought to be libellous.

    Look at who was being silenced, see the football one Fed. 🙂

    See this news from a few days ago. Scientists had been silenced, for example by multi national drug companies, when they criticised/gave a scientifically accurate appraisal of the drug’s faults. “Medical” techniques like chiropractice proven to be harmful and scientist reporting on it was prosecute to silence him.

    How can this be a society of free speech if our scientists or reporters are not allowed to tell the truth for fear of being bankrupted by a libel persecution.

    I’m afraid I probably haven’t paraphrased very well, what I’ve been reading for over a long time, I thought it was particularly interesting in the way it could affect bloggers and the things we say. 🙂

    Maybe got more to say if I remember more. 🙂

    ash

    • Pavlov

      We haven’t been successful in fighting the war against the poaching of rhinos for their horns. 🙁

  12. Rose

    I read your link to Richard O’Dwyer, I hadn’t heard about this case before.

    As a silver surfer, if that isn’t an out dated term by now, there are things I definitely don’t know about the internet. I don’t watch TV or movies on my computer because I don’t know if it breaches rules (anybodies) and I’ll have my computer seized and get a fine for downloading stuff illegally.

    I could do with having this sort of stuff clarified but you don’t know where to look for the answers and you’re frightened to say in a search engine, “How do I watch movies without paying?” or “Will I be prosecuted for watching movies for free?”. You could attract the authorities for saying such things then get paranoid over the thought that they might watch your every move online!

    The law needs to clarify for us, if it’s online, is that public domain therefore free for all? Buying download music seems to be clear enough, if you don’t pay you can’t access it. How are ordinary people supposed to know what is OK to look at, particularly us older ones that still can’t work a mobile phone! :))

    Rose.

  13. Damian Cunningham

    Really great news.

    OK, the man is a wrong for going into other people’s private networks. I mean, if he can get into the US Defence network, then God help your bank accounts from other more dishonest folk. I think he should be employed by the US Defence and while doing so he could be paying off the 700,000 it cost ’em to fix the damage that could be his kind of probation. And yes, he would love that and all could be happy.

    Speaking of UFOs, you have to see the skies up here, there’s always something flying over as I’m always in the back garden having a smoke about every 20 minutes.

    PS I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before Fed, but just tap in Illuminati backwards and it brings up the US Defence website.

    Kind regards
    Damian

  14. ash

    Fed! Here is something soothing for your cold. 🙂

    50ml Whiskey
    Honey
    2 or 3 cloves
    A piece of cinnamon stick
    Lemon juice
    Boiling water
    Snuggly blanket

    Pour the whiskey into a mug, add a teaspoon of honey, add the cloves and cinnamon stick, top up with (just off the boil) water. Add lemon juice to taste plus a wedge to decorate. Snuggle up in the blanket. Drink it whilst snuggled up in the blanket.

    You’ll feel better in next to no time. You can repeat the dose in 30 minutes if it doesn’t work the first time. If you still don’t feel better the next day, repeat the treatment (make sure you stock up with ingredients at the first sign of symptoms).

    Thank you for not coughing or sneezing on us, get well soon. 🙂

    ash X

    • FEd

      Thanks, Ash. These colds don’t half linger these days, have you noticed? The sooner we’re all encouraged to wear surgical masks and gloves in all public places, and the law states that inconsiderate parents of grizzly children with runny noses who don’t know that they should cover their mouths when they cough are to be flogged in public, the better. 😉

    • Pavlov

      Feel better FEd … been ‘nursing’ one off and on for the past month – miserable bloody things these colds … the hot toddy Ash has given sounds wonderful!

  15. Damian Cunningham

    Thinking more on Gary’s case.

    It is the World Wide Web, and he did not steal anything, so it is really up to the site owners to keep an eye on security. I cannot get over the USA has such poor security for its defence sites. Quite shoddy.

    Right, I’m off to look for evidence of UFOs. Now where’s the best site to look…?

  16. mikeT

    Well done everyone! FEd, don’t know about the DPP decision or the alternative of being raped and murdered? Is it just me that thinks the powers that be should be politely asking Gary McKinnon for help?

    Have a good week all.

  17. Bruce

    I’m relieved that Gary is free. I wonder how many US military IT heads were in it for leaving the door open to the networks? At any rate, I’m relieved Gary is free and it was too long in coming.

    I don’t think this would have been the outcome if we had a Republican administration and I thank God everyday that Pres. Obama is in the White House.

  18. Pavlov

    Sorry to have missed chat today. 🙁 Sandy ended up being far worse than anticipated in New Jersey – power outages, flooding, and general mayhem and madness. Have been more fortunate than many – no electricity, Internet or heat but do have gas for cooking and running water. We feel very lucky. Looking to spend the remainder of the day cooking the contents of the freezer so it doesn’t spoil and perhaps the neighbors need a meal. 🙂

  19. Andrew

    Well, what a night. Yes, we survived Hurricane Sandy and we were very lucky compared to some. It’s very sad to see all the devastation this storm has caused. I hope others are well.

    Thanks.
    Andrew

  20. suzysmith

    Happy Full Moon (one night late-but still full) and, of course, Happy Halloween.

  21. NewYorkDan

    I just got word from a friend on Staten Island that she is still without power for the tenth day, following Superstorm Sandy. My friend and her family, including a young child, need clothes and food and blankets. This is a bad time to have no electricity, as temperatures are below freezing at night for the past few days. Winter is swiftly approaching. This was not just a storm, it was epic. A huge swath of the eastern seaboard really got it bad, including my beloved downtown Manhattan. Lots of people lost everything except the shirt on their backs. It is hard to imagine the devastation. And another big storm is coming. The people of New York, New England and the Mid-Atlantic could really use some assistance.

    Friends, I have never posted a request for help on this or any other blog. This is important. Please consider a donation to the Red Cross, which in some places is the only agency providing relief right now. They are taking monetary donations as well as donations of food, clean water, toys, blankets, pet food… I’ve given a link for further information from the Red Cross, with which I have no affiliation other than via my own donations. Your help could save lives. Thank you.

    • Pavlov

      Hi there Dan. Hope you weathered Sandy without much ado. In our part of New Jersey we were most fortunate and in the great scheme of things, a minor inconvenience of a 5-day power outage paled in comparison to the devastation around me. Parts of New Jersey were completely destroyed and many didn’t even make it with the shirts on their backs. The response (or lack thereof) to Staten Island’s immediate needs left me sad, speechless and angry. Granted there are some logistical issues in getting there but resources were being drained by planning for the New York Marathon which, thanks to “the Power of We”, was cancelled. This is going to be a long one and has been humbling, for me anyway. Sadly, life above 42nd Street goes on as if nothing happened and I suppose, in a sense it should. It was heartbreaking seeing a split screen on television over the weekend – on the one side, people waiting 3-deep, 3/4 of a mile long with Jerry cans in hand for a gallon or two of gas, while at the Apple store on 57th & Fifth, thousands waiting for the iPad-mini. 🙁

      ♥ to all…

      • FEd

        They truly are heartbreaking images. I can’t begin to imagine the sheer horror and disbelief in losing so much, everything you ever possessed, in some cases. It’s a tragedy. The whole experience has been very humbling indeed, and that’s felt from across the ocean where some snowfall makes the UK grind to an embarrassing halt every couple of years and brings the moaners out in force (well, to their doors, at least). Talk about counting your blessings…

        I’m glad you’re OK.

    • NewYorkDan

      Thanks for the comments, Pavlov and F’Ed. In the part of upstate NY where I currently live, we experienced Sandy as a windstorm. A few people lost power for a day, but that was nothing at all compared to what happened 165 miles to our south. And apart from my friend on Staten island, everyone else is unharmed from the storm. We are very lucky.

    • NewYorkDan

      My friend on Staten Island emailed me yesterday to say her power is back, her children are fine, she has taken in some people who are less fortunate than she is. She has taken in a Holocaust survivor who is very old and frail now, and has also taken in members of her own family from the Jersey Shore whose homes are no longer habitable. She told me that the Red Cross is paying special attention to those who are reaching out to others, so that she now has everything that she and her family need and her new housemates are also okay. The Red Cross is still the primary relief organization, though several of my friends tell me that the Unitarians are also providing lots of assistance. I’ve pledged 10% of my income for the next year to the Unitarian Universalist Association, an organization of which I am an active member, to be used for relief efforts. One hundred percent of this money goes directly to providing relief. My brother, a psychiatrist who also happens to have good carpentry skills, has taken one month off from his practice to go to Staten Island and help rebuild people’s houses. At first he was helping his friends there, but now he’s helping total strangers. There is always something you can do to help.

      This one touches me in a very personal way because it hit the places where I grew up, and is affecting friends like the woman I’ve been writing about. But really, tragedy is lessened every time we give help in whatever form we can do so. Please, please consider donating to the Red Cross (I believe they are taking money donations internationally, and are also collecting blankets and winter coats here in America). This is a long process for thousands of people, and they need our help. Thank you, FEd, for providing this forum for me to make this request. And thanks to everyone who does what they can to help.

    • Taki

      … to my surprise the app was available for Android yesterday and after a 1.2 GB download I tried it out. What can I say? It resembles the DVD perfectly and is usable when off-line.

      What I missed was the option to decide where the data was stored…

      Best regards

      Taki

  22. Michèle

    ‘The Partisan’ by Leonard Cohen. Maybe not about WW1, but what a beautiful song to listen to today…

    “There were three of us this morning
    I’m the only one this evening
    But I must go on…”

  23. syncopa

    MY BAD Fed,

    Is it a co inky dink that Adam Sandler followed Rog with a Cohen HIT?

    SYNCHRONICITY?

  24. Carolyn

    But really, tragedy is lessened every time we give help in whatever form we can do so.

    Thanks for that, it’s to my mind completely. I live below government guidelines for poverty in the US. However, I have some monthly income and being retired, I have time. I do little things, like buying toys for our “mission” to give out on Christmas and donating to our local food bank. I volunteered for the Red Cross and I support the ASPCA (adore animals).

    I remember a quote and cannot remember who said it but it goes… “I cannot do everything, but I can do something.” I love that.

    Happy New Year to all.

    • FEd

      I remember a quote and cannot remember who said it but it goes… “I cannot do everything, but I can do something.” I love that.

      So do I. We could all do well to remember that, I think.