Last-ditch attempts by British citizen Gary McKinnon to prevent his extradition to the United States (US) for “the biggest military computer hack of all time” have recently been rejected by the home secretary. This will make McKinnon the first person in the world to be extradited to the US for computer misuse.
McKinnon, however, insists that his actions were simply a misguided attempt to uncover evidence of “UFO technology” that he believed was being concealed by the US government, rather than a maliciously motivated attempt to cause deliberate damage.
Furthermore, McKinnon has been diagnosed by autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, cousin of the comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen, as suffering from the mental disorder of Asperger’s syndrome. This condition can result in problems with social interaction, and is often characterised by obsessive interests.
Consequently, the extradition decision is widely seen as further misuse of the fast-track extradition treaty with the United States that was signed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
From a social psychology perspective, this case is interesting as it hinges on competing constructions of identity, with McKinnon being on one hand positioned as a ‘terrorist hacker’ carrying out ‘evil’ actions, and on the other as a ‘vulnerable person’ carrying out ‘eccentric’ ones. This illustrates the work carried out by Sacks (1972) in his consideration of the discursive construction of membership categories and their associated bound activities through social interaction.
In a further twist, the British Ministry of Defence has recently released hundreds of previously classified reports of UFO sightings, and announced that it will no longer respond to further notifications from the public.
‘Computer hacker Gary McKinnon to be extradited to US’ from the Guardian
‘The betrayal of Gary McKinnon’ from the Guardian
Gary McKinnon support website
Louis, W. R. (2009). Terrorism, Identity, and Conflict Management
Sacks, H. (1972). On the analyzability of stories by children. In J. J. Gumperz (Ed.), Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication (pp. 325-345).