Crucial Evidence Goes Missing in Hacker Case ; as the Law Lords Accept US Demands to Have London Hacker Gary McKinnon Extradited We Reveal How Proof of America's Desire to Brand Him a Terrorist Has Mysteriously Vanished
Dovkants, Keith, The Evening Standard (London, England)
IMPORTANT evidence in the case of Gary McKinnon, the north London geek who hacked into the Pentagon's computers, has disappeared from his lawyers' office, the Evening Standard reveals today. Notes of meetings at the American Embassy, in which a diplomat suggested prosecutors in the United States wanted McKinnon to "fry", also vanished when a solicitor's laptop was stolen.
The mysterious disappearances were disclosed by McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, speaking for the first time after the House of Lords rejected his appeal against extradition to stand trial for what one American prosecutor described as "the biggest military computer hack of all time". The
Americans claim he penetrated 97 military computers at the Pentagon and Nasa between February 2001 and March 2002.
They want to charge him with stealing passwords and rendering security systems inoperable. Prosecutors have warned they may treat him as a terrorist and, his mother says, only intervention by the European Court of Human Rights can save him from a possible jail sentence of up to 70 years. "I feel Gary is fighting for his life," she said. "I am terrified about the threat to 'fry' him. I think the Americans will stop at nothing to make sure he never embarrasses them again." This impression was reinforced by the disappearance of documents related to McKinnon's case. Janis, a 59-year-old musician and film-maker, said: "They wanted Gary to go to a meeting at the American Embassy in London. I said to him: 'For goodness sake don't go inside that building! That is American soil and if they get you in there, they can do as they like.' So his solicitor went and had meetings with prosecutors who had flown over especially." At one of these meetings, Janis said, the lawyers were told that if McKinnon went to the United States voluntarily he would be treated leniently and could expect a sentence of between 18 months and three years, most of which he could serve in the UK. Then, she said, threats were made.
"They said that if Gary didn't go they would treat him as an enemy combatant. They said the prosecutors in one state wanted him 'to fry' be executed and in any case he would be looking at 60 to 70 years in jail." The US prosecutor could offer no meaningful guarantee of leniency and McKinnon's legal team formed a view that the menaces were an abuse and an attempt to force him to abandon his rights. Janis said: "The two lawyers at the meeting took very careful notes.
When it became clear those notes would be evidence in the future, the papers vanished." McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, a founder partner in Kaim Todner, a law practice with a head office in the City and branches elsewhere in London and the south, said she attended three meetings at the American Embassy with the legal attache present. .
DURING these meetings, she said, it was indeed suggested that if McKinnon did not go voluntarily he could be treated as a terrorist and prosecutors would be looking for a maximum sentence of up to 70 years.
"The legal attache told me that the prosecutors in one state wanted Gary 'to fry'. That was the phrase he used. I made a note of it, and everything else that had been said." Ms Todner was accompanied by a solicitor colleague who made notes of the conversation on his laptop.
Shortly after this, she said, the notes of the meetings disappeared from McKinnon's file, held in her City office.
Nothing else was taken and there was no obvious sign of a break- in. Then her colleague's laptop, which also contained the notes, was stolen from his car.
"It's very easy to get carried away with conspiracy theories in a case like this," Ms Todner said. "But after our experience with this disappearing evidence, I have to say who knows?" Evidence that shows the Americans want to deal with McKinnon, 42, as if he were a terrorist is significant because it invokes the prospect of Guantanamo Bay and arraignment before a military tribunal, with the possibility of pre-trial abuse for which America has been condemned by Human Rights campaigners. …