Tag Archives: garymckinnon

a tale of two hackers – part 2

Last week I had a bit of a go at the founder of Wikileaks, and I feel a bit of clarification may be needed. I’m not against whistle blowing, although I did once come a cropper doing just that myself, but last week I was drawing a parallel between those who seem to want to elevate Mr Assange to sainthood and the case of Gary McKinnon.

My issue with Julian Assange is that knowledge is power and needs to be used with care. I frequently am rude here about politicians, but there is a responsibility issue at hand and politicians have a difficult job, more so the further up the ivory tower they get. My beef with them is often about how ill prepared they are to wield the knowledge and power that they have.

There are times when the people (whoever they may be) have a right to know things and there are times when they don’t. That decision has to be made by someone. Now we are all human and fallible, but when we are entrusted with those decisions we have to do our best to do the right thing.

The problem I have with Wikileaks is that I don’t see any sign of accountability, let alone responsibility. Mr Assange and his supporters are happy enough to attack The System, but look what happens when things get rough; it’s that same System that they look to to protect them.

It takes courage to wield knowledge and power. I don’t see a lot of that in Mr Assange, and nor do I see it in the way that the US government is behaving towards Gary McKinnon. Maybe there is an irony there.


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a tale of two hackers – the campaign to #freegary goes on

One the one hand we have an individual who is being lauded by the lovies and hailed as a hero by certain elements of the community. A man who has pleaded guilty to charges of hacking and has placed the lives of many at risk by publishing information that he and his supporters claim that we, the public, have a right to know about, regardless of the fact that there are nasty people around who can use what he is making public to their own twisted advantage.

And then we have a gentle soul who managed to break through the layers of security and hack into places he also had no right to be in, but did nothing malicious once there, simply had a poke around for interests purely of his own. The only publicity that has come from his actions has been brought to our attention by those whose security he breached.

One is seemlingly pretty safe and is being protected by laws in the UK and the other is, once again, seemingly on the brink of being handed over to the US where he is unlikely to get anything like a fair hearing.

I find it obscene that it is the second of these chaps that is facing being handed over, despite him being one of us, a UK national, whereas the first one, not a UK national, is the one that we are protecting.

I know that the charges they each face are different, but why are we not protecting Gary McKinnon? Julian Assange, in my opinion, is a very dangerous man who has little regard for the safety and security of others, and has done what he has done in the full knowledge of its implications for others, whereas Gary is a harmless person with a recognised medical condition who did not set out to damage anyone, and nor did he.

Julian Assange has placed the lives of many at risk; Gary McKinnon showed that there was a flaw in security that needed to be addressed. I think that the former deserves all he might get and the latter deserves a medal.

Now I read that Nick Clegg is backing away from his apparent commitment to Gary. Regardless of his gaffe earlier in the week about fogetting he was in charge, if the Lib-Dems are serious about government then let’s see some strong commitment. If the junior partners in this coalition can’t show some backbone then David Cameron should demonstrate how to lead and simply tell President Obama to give up on Gary McKinnon, end of story.

There are things in life worth standing up for and this is one of them. I shall continue to campaign for his freedom and I hope that you will join the fight.

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am I a libdem?

Are you a Lib-Dem then? My train of thought on something about what we had been discussing must have prompted the question, but it took me by surprise. Most people think of me as very conservative; establishment man in dark suit, drives a Jaguar ergo must be a Tory. But others see me through my various campaigns; for freeing Gary McKinnon, to get Pete Seeger a Nobel peace prize, my liking for protest songs and support for breast cancer research and they see me way over at the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Like most of us I began to think independently as I got into my teens. My cultural exposure had been primarily to both upper and working classes, but as I began to fly the nest I began to mix in a little middle class. Born in Newbury and living in the shires I grew up in staunch Tory country, but the towns I lived near during childhood; Reading, Croydon and Guildford amongst others, had their fair share of industry even if they were not the industrial heartlands.

All of these influences swirled around me, stirred up by my avid reading of all the daily papers in the school library through which I began to absorb events around the world, especially in South Africa and America, this being in the mid sixties. One doesn’t fully understand at that age and can be easily swept into things. Once I was spotted wearing a Free Nelson Mandela badge at school in contravention of dress code. My penalty was to have to put the case for his continued imprisonment in a debate. My research for that debate gave me a healthy desire to be careful about judging books by their covers, and that has stood me in good stead over the years since.

I was too young to vote at that time of course, and would actually miss the age of majority as they lowered when I was between 18 and 21, but which way was I leaning then? The Liberal party had some appeal, possibly the underdog factor, but Joe Grimond made two big impressions on me. He stood on my foot for the first of these. This was in Guildford in about 1964, and I was quite miffed when my Mother insisted that I clean my shoes as usual that evening. I wanted to leave the mark he made there to show my friends next day at school. The second impression was as a direct result of the first. Here was this important man, one of the three main political leaders of what was still, then, a great nation. He was leaving an engagement and trod on my foot as the small crowd pressed in to see him. Obviously in a hurry he could have strode on, but he turned, identified me as the victim and apologised. Just a straightforward act of politeness, one human to another. That basic decency impressed me hugely and it is another lesson that I have tried to carry on over the years: You are never too important to say sorry.

That was more than 40 years ago, and I have been through the changes since as far as my politics go. At one time I worked for an employer that operated a closed shop, so I had to be a union member. If I was in I would be an active voice, and that got me onto the local branch committee. Later I was a member of a management union, but left because of the conflicts of interest with my job. Trade union activities enhanced my exposure to local politics, and I recall hearing a young Neil Kinnock speak when he was still a Welsh firebrand and, at the time, an impressive orator. Perhaps the biggest period of political activity for me was the 1979 general election. I lived in Chelmsford at the time and our sitting MP was Norman St John Stevas, a man I detested. The main opposition was former local Liberal councillor Stuart Mole with the Labour candidate having no chance. Our union committee debated long into the night; did we throw our weight behind promoting the no hope Labour option, or did we come out for the local man on the basis that we could maybe unseat a Tory grandee?

We didn’t resolve the issue and I can still remember the atmosphere in the union room the day after the election. Despite all the gloom and predictions of doom under a Tory government, five months later I got moved to a new job in another office and less than 2 years later I was promoted and sent to London and my career was really launched. The 80s were very good years for me even if you factor in the failure of my first marriage. The man who had had to stop driving and had to get out and have a smoke at the news that Ted Heath had lost the leadership of the Conservative party did well under Heath’s replacement when she was PM.

Once I got far enough up the management ladder to have some apparent influence I got to meet politicians on a regular basis. Most of them, certainly over the last 15 years, have left me very unimpressed. They talk some strange language, constantly looking over their shoulder to see if their minder is happy that they are still on message, and they fail to show any sort of business acumen; most of them I would not have employed in anything other than a basic clerical job if at all. There have been one or two exceptions, but I only have to refer you to the expenses scandals as an example of how I see standards having slipped since Joe Grimond showed how things should be done.

Over the years I have never been a member of a political party. I have been approached a number of times by two of them to join, but have resisted. Yes there could have been some short term personal gains, but that isn’t why you should get into politics and I didn’t want them. I prefer to be my own man, so the only political thought that I have had now and again has been to stand as an independent councillor. That hasn’t happened though, so I remain just a voter.

So am I a Lib-Dem? Yes I’m a bit liberal at times and I certainly believe in democracy, but that doesn’t make me a Lib-Dem and my political leaning, like my vote, is my business. In any case, you’ll see me as you want to you see me and make up your own mind if it matters that much to you. It doesn’t to me.

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