Janis Sharp, the mother of UFO hacker Gary McKinnon, is writing a book about her 10 year plight to keep her son from being extradited to the United States to spend the rest of his life in prison for hacking into government computers. An attorney for the US called it the biggest military hack of all time.
The opposition to the attempts by the United States to extradite McKinnon began with a whisper that turned into a roar, largely led by Sharp.
McKinnon was first arrested and questioned in March of 2002. After watching a panel of witnesses brought to the National Press Club in Washington D.C. in 2001 who all claimed to have knowledge of a cover-up regarding what the government knows about UFOs, McKinnon was convinced the US government knew more than it was sharing. He took it upon himself to hack into government computers to find hidden evidence.
He says he found a photograph that showed a large cigar-shaped UFO over the “northern hemisphere.” He also saw a ship’s log that listed non-terrestrial officers. This was evidence to McKinnon that the US had its own space fleet. Unfortunately, McKinnon was not able to download any of this alleged evidence.
When he was arrested in March 2002 McKinnon was offered the chance to serve a three or four year sentence, but he felt his UFO evidence was strong enough to negotiate a better deal. The US did not feel the same, and instead in November of 2004 the US federal grand jury charged him with seven counts of computer-related crimes that carried a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count.
At this point, a seemingly never ending string of appeals began. For the next four years appeals to keep McKinnon from being extradited failed. It was looking pretty grim for McKinnon, but several things turned the tides. First, in 2008 McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. Some studies have indicated that people suffering from Asperger’s have higher rates of suicide, and Sharp contended that she feared McKinnon would kill himself if he had to serve time in a US prison.
At first McKinnon’s condition did not help his case. The Home Secretary rejected a request to stop his extradition based off of his diagnosis of Asperger’s. The European Court of Human Rights also refused an application for a stay of the extradition.
2009 was when things began to look up for McKinnon. His lawyer was granted permission to review the decision of the Home Secretary. During this time the news picked up on the story with frequent interviews of Sharp. Celebrities also began to support McKinnon’s cause. The topic of the extradition agreement between the US and Britain also became a hot topic, with many feeling it was too heavily biased towards the US.
In the fervor, then Tory leader David Cameron, jumped in to support a review of extradition laws and said McKinnon is “a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to face trial.”
When Cameron became Prime Minister the conversation was brought to a new level. It now became a topic in conversation between Cameron and President Obama. Sharp called for Cameron to make good on his promises to support McKinnon. The Wikileaks also played a role, as they had shown that the previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had requested that the US allow McKinnon to be tried in the UK. The US refused.
Finally, with mounting public pressure, Cameron and Obama agreed to review the extradition laws, and Obama said he would leave it to the British government to come up with a “just conclusion” in regards to McKinnon. In October 2012 the Home Secretary decided that McKinnon would not be extradited, and in December the Crown Prosecution Service announced that McKinnon would not be charged with any crimes. McKinnon and Sharp had finally won.
This overview does not do Sharp’s role in this incredible saga justice. The publishers for her new book write, “The US judiciary had all the might of the world’s greatest power. But it had not reckoned on Gary’s mother.” The book, Saving Gary McKinnon: A Mother’s Story, will be released next week on September 17, 2013. You can pre-order a copy at the publisher’s website.