The nub of this interesting debate for me, has however been the central question of whether May was right to damage US/UK relations in pursuit of some morally right cause.
The world needs people who are willing to do what's right rather than what is expedient. I don't, however, believe this is one of those times. Protecting the innocent is admirable and, yes, perhaps morally right (not an argument that usually interests me much). Shielding the guilty, however, is a mistake.
The articles I've read have said that McKinnon will almost certainly NOT be charged under UK law because of lack of evidence. Since the alleged crime essentially took place on US soil, it makes perfect sense that's where the evidence would be. I honestly don't know if your courts have subpoena powers sufficient to the case.
Actually, I don’t view this as May either shielding the guilty or protecting the innocent. Like I say, I don’t think this is what this has been about. After all, as we have both agreed, we do not know if he is guilty or innocent at this stage. No, the moral judgement she had to make was simply whether he would be treated “fairly” (a word I admit is slippery) in the US; or, more correctly, whether it was morally right to send him to a place where by mid-October, as sizeable proportion of the UK had decided he would be treated unfairly.
As to whether her motives were politically motivated as well, see below.
I’m a bit out of my depth in discussing the mechanics of the transfer of evidence and the power to co-opt witnesses as between different jurisdictions. Commonsense would suggest however that, now the prospect of an extradition has faded, the US might be willing to be much more co-operative in providing evidence to our prosecuting authorities. For this reason, might not the previous lack of evidence now be ameliorated?
The following is an extract from a recent Daily Mail article (not the most unbiased of papers!):
“The maximum sentence would be five years. On every one of the 97 occasions on which Mr McKinnon is alleged to have hacked into military computers, he was at his Wood Green flat, using only a modem and a primitive computer borrowed from his then girlfriend’s aunt.
US authorities allege he caused £500,000 damage to their computers, a sum he fiercely disputes.
In interviews in 2002, the Metropolitan Police clearly told Mr McKinnon there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution and he provided them with a detailed written confession.
Most of the evidence against him is held in the US. However, it is understood that British police are still confident they could bring a case against him.
Any prosecution would almost certainly require the co-operation of the US authorities, who are deeply unhappy at yesterday’s decision.
However, the alternative would be for them to refuse to provide evidence – unlikely considering how doggedly they have pursued the hacker over the past decade.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘We will carefully consider Gary McKinnon’s case and come to a decision as soon as possible.’”
I still don�t think that certain elements of US administration, military and society, have grown up enough to be trusted with the sort of judgments to be made in a case like this.
Maturity has nothing to do with it, Moon. I already said I don't believe politicians should make judgments of guilt or innocence, and that's as true of our politicians as it is of yours. Both are too easily swayed by self-interest.
Both, in other words, are too inclined to do what is expedient, not what they believe to be right.
While it is up to our executive branch to pursue extradition, the judgment of McKinney would fall to the judicial branch. The fate of a judge in this country doesn't depend, one way or the other, on his verdicts. They are protected, by the system, from succumbing to their own self-interest. I won't pretend it's a perfect system, but it's a far cry better than letting politicians get involved. Yours or ours.
Of course you are absolutely right about politicians, but as I have already said, I don’t believe May IS making a judgement about his guilt or innocence. She’s making a judgement about the forum in which his guilt or innocence will be judged.
I suppose we can argue about whether she is competent even to do that! You may well argue that even that decision will inevitably be politically motivated. I probably won’t disagree with you, but unlike a politically motivated judgement about his guilt, which would certainly be a bad thing, I am not so sure that the same applies to a judgement about WHERE he should be tried.
You have repeatedly, and strongly, made the point that politicians are often (always?) motivated by self-interest. That’s fine so far as it goes, but after all isn’t a politician’s self-interest almost always (and, some might argue, ideally) synonymous with the will of the majority of his or her constituents?
In this case, perhaps May, sensing the feeling of the majority in the UK, and, perhaps with self-interest at heart, has indeed made the decision not to extradite based partly upon what she thinks most people feel about the chances of McKinnon getting a fair trial in the US are.
Is that a bad thing?
I don’t know. It goes back I guess to my analogy about the rich and powerful family versus the downtrodden poor, and the perception that the US tends not to treat foreign suspects in a fair way. Until Obama, precious little was done to correct that perception – in fact rather the reverse. It is, though, a prevalent perception, and one which I suppose our politicians are bound to take notice of whether they actually believe it to be true or not.
In theory the judiciary in every liberal democracy should be independent of government. In practice I think judges can be swayed, corrupted and be more or less nationalistic, just like anyone else. I think judges in the US are perceived no differently to other US citizens by many foreigners: to be intensely proud (to a fault) of their country and fiercely defensive of the rightness of the US in all things! Maybe that perception is wrong, probably it is simplistic as all generalisations inevitably are, but it sure isn’t helping in situations like the McKinnon case.