As e-criminals go, Gary McKinnon is a minor figure. Accused of pulling off "biggest military computer hack of all time", the real crime of this shy and misguided Scotsman was to make the US military look silly using nothing more high-tech than a PC and some easily-available software.
Now UK courts have confirmed that he is to be extradited to face the legal music in the US, a fate that awaits anyone who makes the Strangeloves of the US military look as if they don’t know how to secure their most important and supposedly top-secret systems.
If McKinnon lived in country hostile to the stuffed jackets of the US armed forces management - China, North Korea, Iran, France – it is highly unlikely he would be facing a one-way plane ride at all.
Some of the acts McKinnon is accused of look foolhardy, but this guy is not the man to put on the gallows and make a public example of. There are plenty of other e-criminals much worse than McKinnon, but they are hard to catch, some of them are US citizens protected by the constitution and good lawyers, and few of them would do something as old-fashioned as hack or attempt to hack US military systems. That stuff is for the amateurs, not the money-makers, unless it is a rival government that is paying them.
The UK has no written constitution, no Bill of Rights, and no long history of upholding the rights of individuals for liberty. Yet, it is unlikely that in the UK McKinnon’s acts would land him in jail for the time period being talked of, up to 70 years. UK courts would also take into account the prejudicial reporting, and question the possibility of a fair trial.
Justice can be a hard thing, especially when it is applied unevenly.