The lawyers for computer hacker Gary McKinnon (pictured) intend to challenge the British government’s decision not to block his extradition to the United States. Glasgow-born McKinnon who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been charged with illegally accessing computers, including at the Pentagon. He says he was seeking UFO evidence. Marco Werman talks with Gary McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp. Download MP3
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MARCO WERMAN: I’m Marco Werman. This is the World. British hacker Gary McKinnon faces extradition to the United States. McKinnon admits he hacked into Pentagon and NASA computers in the months after September 11th, 2001. He’s blamed for $800,000 dollars worth of damage. He could face 60 years in jail. Now it seems like an open and shut case, but McKinnon insists he was looking for secret evidence of UFOs, and he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Yesterday, the British government announced that it cannot block Gary McKinnon’s extradition. His mother, Janis Sharp, says the decision is unfair.
JANIS SHARP: Gary knew what he was doing. We didn’t think about it, but he obviously must have known what he was doing was wrong, but he felt he was on a moral crusade to find the truth. And to be honest, would they rather someone else had found that there was no passwords and firewalls? Would they rather an actual terrorist had walked in? I mean, I think it’s a scandal that I couldn’t believe that the Pentagon would have no passwords and no firewalls. To me, that’s a scandal, and it was a very stupid thing to do. But anyone who’s up to no good doesn’t leave notes, and doesn’t leave their email address there. They just don’t.
WERMAN: How is your son coping, Ms. Sharp?
SHARP: Badly. He’s very, very gentle and he had a breakdown. He’s had several breakdowns. He’s under the care of a Professor Jeremy Kirk and also Simon Byron Cohen [PH], and thank God he’s got them is all I can say.
WERMAN: Are these gentlemen psychologists?
SHARP: A psychiatrist and a psychologist and they’re really good in their field. They are the absolute best, and it’s so helpful for Gary to have them there, because Gary believes that he’s caused all these problems and he’s ruined our life, and he felt … I don’t want to get emotional. He felt that everyone would be better off without him, which is … Sorry. Absolutely not the case because Gary could never have realized that what he did would come to this. He had no way of knowing that. I mean, we’ve been in terror for almost eight years. We have every second of every day you feel terrified, and you wouldn’t have an animal in that heightened state of terror permanently for almost eight years. You just wouldn’t and I say he is never denied responsibility. I wish he had. I wish he had never admitted it, because I think that that’s why it’s ended up in this way for him. I wish he had been more worldly wise and cleverer and got a lawyer and then did all those things. I’ve brought Gary up to … He’s a good guy. That’s the reality. Sorry, I’m emotional because I’ve just had all this and it’s been a very difficult few days.
WERMAN: Yeah, I understand. It does strike me as kind of odd that if Gary has Asperger’s Syndrome, and the government was interrogating him knowing this that anything he said without a lawyer in the room would have been tossed out.
SHARP: Well, the government didn’t know at the time. At the time, Gary was known as eccentric and there were problems, but Asperger’s Syndrome was only recognized by the World Health Authority in 1995, and it wasn’t a common thing until the late ’90s. And what happened was Gary was given an interview, and in this interview it was televised. He was telling the truth even to his own detriment. And medical people wrote into the Solicitors and the T.V. said he’s got Asperger’s. He has no facial expression. Asperger’s people don’t have facial expressions. They don’t recognize facial expressions and they have a monotone voice. I know it sounds odd, but they have a very flat monotone voice, and they tell the truth to their own detriment. And people wrote in and said he’s got Asperger’s. When I was told this and they wanted to test him I said no because Gary is intelligent. He hasn’t got it and Simon Byron Cohen, Professor, he explained to me that that is Asperger’s because I said Gary came on very fast when he was young. He could talk when he was ten months old. He could read when he was three and he said, “No, that’s Asperger’s.” He says, “It’s high functioning autism.” He says, “But people assume because they’re intelligent that they have an understanding, but there are certain areas that they don’t.”
WERMAN: What is next for your son? Presumably this extradition is going to go forth.
SHARP: No, Gary’s Solicitor is applying to judicially review the Home Secretary’s decision, and normally you get three months for that to put in the judicial review, but for some reason the government has decided that our lawyers have only got seven days to do it. And why should Gary only be given seven days when everyone else gets three months? The real reason is that our government I’m sure wants it done and Gary gone, and that’s the reality.
WERMAN: Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnon’s mother. Thank you very much for speaking with us and the best of luck.
SHARP: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you.
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