Updated A former FBI legal officer who handled controversial plea bargaining negotiations with Gary McKinnon has attacked the tactics adopted by the hacker’s defence team.
Ed Gibson, who moved from his role as the FBI’s assistant legal to work as Microsoft’s chief security advisor in the UK back in 2005, said that if the self-confessed hacker had accepted voluntary extradition when he offered it back in 2003 then he would have “been out of jail four years ago” instead of facing extradition now.
Gibson described frequently-quoted defence fears that McKinnon might face up to 60 years in jail if extradited to the US for breaking into military systems as “nonsense”. In off-the-cuff remarks to an audience during a conference session at RSA Europe in London on Tuesday, Gibson half-jokingly suggested that might sue McKinnon’s lawyer Karen Todner for human rights breaches, presumably because he feels that her defence tactics had unnecessarily prolonged McKinnon’s suffering.
Around 30 people were in the audience for a presentation on The Balance of Browser Security and Settings during which Gibson made his remarks, which came as a surprise from a normally scrupulously diplomatic senior executive who has declined to speak about his role in the case in the past.
Gibson asked for a show of hands on those who thought McKinnon ought to be spared extradition. An audience member who raised his hand responded to Gibson’s invitation to explain himself by saying that McKinnon ought to be tried in the UK because he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome.
Gibson engaged the fellow in debate, pointing out that UK authorities had declined to try McKinnon in the UK. He controversially reckons that long-running defence team efforts to avoid a US extradition are little better than an attempt to “escape justice”.
Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mum, gave us a robust reaction to Gibson's comments. "Ed Gibson is the same man that said to Gary's legal team that they'd prosecute Gary to max and state wanted to see him fry."
She explained the possible 60 years sentence claim. "Plea bargain cld not be guaranteed. Max sentence is 10 yrs per count times seven, but 60 years is max. Can Ed Gibson instruct Judges in sentencing? No!"
"Gary was vulnerable & admitted computer misuse without having a lawyer, big mistake," she added.
The Home Office last week agreed to place a hold on extradition proceedings against McKinnon in order to review new medical data. Having exhausted legal appeals that went all the way up to the House of Lords last year and featured judicial reviews of the handling of the case by the Home Office and UK prosecutors this year, McKinnon's best hope of avoiding extradition currently rests on this review. ®