Gary McKinnon : a retired Squadron Leader writes

An (apparently) genuine letter to Private Eye this week – (lightly abridged)

“In spite of reams of comment about Gary McKinnon in the Daily Mail, the real reason for US insistence on his extradition … has never been suggested.

It is an absolute fact that a single individual of normal means, especially anyone ill or just curious, cannot penetrate the computer systems of major American defence and security installations …

The reality is the same in all these situations.  A foreign power or agency, and we can speculate as to which that might be in this case, recruits a vulnerable and unwitting stooge to act as a front for their carefully planned and highly resourced penetration.  The attacking country or organisation provides their “agent”, through innocuous contact, with all the likely means to mount a remote attack.

When the penetration is discovered … the sponsoring organisation melts into the crowd, leaving the hapless individual to face the music.  In Gary McKinnon’s case, the USA is desperate to interrogate him to discover details of his sponsors.  The UK security agencies … will not be willing to undertake a sufficiently robust interrogation  of McKinnon to satifsy the US authorities.”  

Yours faithfully

Sqn Ldr J.N. Bennett (RAF Ret’d)

The truth’s been staring us in the face all the time, damnit.

2 thoughts on “Gary McKinnon : a retired Squadron Leader writes

  1. Hi

    The assertion that Gary McKinnon was being used by a Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS) is illogical and unsupported by evidence. Firstly, you rarely need the resources of a FIS to break into allegedly secure networks from the internet, and you certainly didn’t need them when McKinnon was doing his thing. Back in 2001, most security was done “through obscurity”, rather than by building in effective access controls, secure hardware/software and detection/prevention mechanisms. As an IT security professional , I come across many published instances of such breaches, and there are a whole load more that remain undisclosed. Try Googling “SCADA hacking” for some scary stuff.

    Secondly, why on Earth would a FIS want to use someone like McKinnon to hack NASA’s systems? There is no shortage of locally available, skilled and willing hackers who will make a proper effort to cover their tracks, and who would never take the sort of risks of getting caught that McKinnon took. In short, he would be a liability to any FIS. The great thing about the internet from a FIS perspective is that you can hack from anywhere in the world, and pretend to be somewhere or someone else. McKinnon, whilst obviously competent, is probably no uberhacker . The best ones hardly ever get caught.
    The US authorities want to make an example of McKinnon in order to deter other hackers, and are perpetrating the myth that McKinnon is so skilled and highly dangerous in order to divert the blame from their own, very obvious, security failings. They have previous “form” on this in the shape of Kevin Mitnick, the US hacker who was only released from prison, after 5 years in 2003, on condition that he never used the internet again, such is their fear of someone who, in fact operated more by using soft deception skills than hardcore hacking. We’d be better off if McKinnon was given a year or two custodial sentence as a deterrent to others, and then, if he’s any good, taking him on as a security specialist. All recreational hackers are obsessive; some are aspergic, but they aren’t usually bad people, and many have been “turned” to good effect.



  2. Tony

    Thanks for your comment.

    Well, yes, I agree with you entirely.

    The Squadron-Leader’s comments were fairly eccentric, but – as long as no-one takes them too seriously – I thought they were charmingly eccentric.

    This blog has a soft spot for retired military men, which is really why I wrote this, rather than because I thought it was a plausible theory.

    Best wishes


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