Do the crime, do the time…in the U.S.

The U.K.'s House of Lords has upheld Gary McKinnon's extradition order to the U.S. for trial for allegedly breaking into and crashing a few of an approximate 90 unclassified Pentagon systems in 2001 and 2002. However, McKinnon was to get a couple more weeks to have his case heard by a European court.

McKinnon, meantime, during this process that should, at some point, end in a trial for his actions after having exhausted all his legal rights, has become a bit of celebrity. He has spoken at conferences, held court for interviews and, based on his reported fears that he'll be labeled a terrorist and end up in Gitmo, gathered support from various folks wanting his trial to be held in the U.K.

U.S. prosecutors have evidence to support the alleged crimes, of course, and had offered a generous plea bargain to McKinnon, which he refused. McKinnon himself has admitted that he did hack into the computers – yes, with the help of well-reported weak system security – to search for information about UFOs and government conspiracies. So, what's the hold-up?

If you want to believe that McKinnon simply hacked these systems because he fancied himself a moralistic, truth-telling investigator of U.S. government cover-ups, cool. If you think he's a curious but silly ex-IT administrator who didn't know what he was getting into, fine. If, in your mind, he's a limelight chaser looking to bask in his 15 minutes, OK. If you believe he's a cybercriminal, pure and simple, well, right on.

Or if you suppose he's become a modern-day martyr who the U.S. is trying to make an example of because of its embarrassing lack of security on critical systems, good show.

Whatever the label you wish to give McKinnon is your preference as it is mine. The final truth, however, is that McKinnon allegedly entered U.S. government systems he shouldn't have, left some traces of his being there, and caused thousands of dollars in damage. For this, he should be held accountable in the U.S. where the crime occurred. Period.

If criminals entered a grocery store through its unbolted door, caused thousands of bucks worth of damage, and then spray-painted a wall chastising owners for being dumb enough to leave the joint unlocked, they should be arrested and tried where the crime took place. Anything less is a travesty of justice.

Now off my soapbox, I'd like to ask that you help congratulate the SC Magazine editorial team for winning a couple of well-deserved awards from the American Society for Business Publication Editors: a Gold Award for Annual Buyer's Guide, “Reboot” (December 2007) and a Bronze for Original Research, “Salary Survey 2007” (April 2007).

Illena Armstrong is editor-in-chief of SC Magazine.

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