bunn (bunn) wrote,

Books change the world

Recently I read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother - a sort of young adult, rather less scary, 1984 for the millennium, with the emphasis on digital freedoms. It's set in the near future in a USA made yet more paranoid by a major terrorist attack in San Francisco. Full of interesting, big and important ideas about liberty and adulthood and privacy (plus, the only fiction I think I've ever read that explains public/private key encryption!).

It's a young adult title, but don't let that put you off, I think it's something that lots and lots of people should read.

Anyway, I found afterwards that my world view had changed a bit. I'd come across Gary Mckinnon's story previously: he's a UFO enthusiast with Asberger's syndrome. As UFO enthusiasts will, he thought the US government knew more than it was saying about little green men. As autistic people sometimes will, he was clever and persistent and wouldn't let it lie and went squirrelling his way virtually into the Pentagon to have a look.

He's now facing extradition to the USA under terrorism laws, where he could get up to 70 years in jail, and where fear of terrorism is likely to see him face some fairly rough treatment.

I wasn't sure what I thought about this. OK, he's not a terrorist, but he did hack the Pentagon, and you can see why people would get het up about that. And OK, the USA is not the most liberal country in the world, but there are probably worse places to be extradited to - though the fact that they can extradite our nutters, and we can't extradite theirs is very much an uncomfortable feeling. And I did feel that a certain amount of the celebrities rallying in defence was down to Gary McKinnon being a nice middle class white boy.

I came across his Mum on Twitter today,and discovered that my view had changed.  He's not a terrorist. He's a bloke who is a nerd, and, let's face it, a bit of a nut, with more technical skill than common sense, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be considered as an individual and deserving of defence by his own government.  And if the nice white boys get treated this way, god help the inquisitive hacker of Pakistani descent who has neither colour nor disability to defend him. 

If an American nerd hacked, say, M16, we wouldn't be able to extradite him. He'd be tried under the law where the crime was committed. But the USA can demand British citizens that have committed a crime in Britain be handed over. It's not fair or right, and it seems like this is being demanded because people at the Pentagon have been embarrassed rather than because there is a need.

This news story explains the background : http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/c...icle5505489.ece

Website is here. http://www.londontv.net/latestnews.html

No. 10 petition is here: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/mckinnon09/ - I've signed it.
Tags: books, politics

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