The British Conservative party and conservative press have seemingly added quite a luxurious feather to the claim that it is their end of the British political spectrum that best safeguards our civil rights, with home secretary Theresa May’s refusal to extradite hacker extraordinaire and UFO chaser Gary McKinnon to the USA, where it was widely anticipated he would – sooner or later – die in prison. Excluding the handful of MPs falling over themselves in their enthusiasm to hand McKinnon over in the first place (for which they presumably had their reasons), it was as if the entire nation sided with McKinnon, usually portrayed by the sympathetic mainstream media as a half-witted savant, with great emphasis placed on his quite recent diagnosis for Asperger’s.
Among ufologists, meanwhile, McKinnon is something of a folk hero, and his work and character afforded far greater respect. After all, he has consistently stressed that his primary motivation for falling into the hacking wormhole around the turn of the millennium was a passion to verify the existence of UFOs, while the (unverifiable) evidence he claims to have emerged clutching is celebrated and examined in equal measure.
This “evidence,” and the entire fascinating saga, is detailed below in a 2005 interview with McKinnon, which I heartily recommend for anyone not yet familiar with his incredible account of events. I found the ensuing exchange especially interesting in the light Theresa May’s ruling, when the off-camera interviewer (from Project Camelot: an organization that campaigns for “UFO exposure”), asks a question that prompts an exchange regarding McKinnon’s general safety (this takes place around the thirty-second minute, but do watch the interview from the beginning if you’ve got the time).
“Is there some stuff that you haven’t revealed to the press – your ace in the hole?”
“If there was I wouldn’t tell you.”
With this, McKinnon (who looks rather like the Aphex Twin) takes a triumphant sip of his pint.
“Oh really. There’s a sense that, if you had information, it would be stowed somewhere safe. Um, because, look, people disappear everyday, isn’t that right?”
“Um-hmm,” McKinnon nods, half smiling.
“Right, so hopefully you’ve protected yourself on some level…?”
“Ummm,” McKinnon glances to the right, apparently meditating, with customary coolness, on whether he could safely answer this. He turns his attention back to the camera. “I’m not going to disappear,” he declares, firmly. The same half smile creeps back across his face.
Of course, while I find his manner quite convincing, McKinnon could just be bluffing, or outright bullshitting, here. Certainly the mainstream media has tended to make light of what he claims to have discovered while hacking (he addresses all this in detail in the interview), a position McKinnon and his supporters have mostly encouraged. Furthermore, his “ace in the hole” – if it exists – presumably can’t be all that devastating, considering how prolonged his fight against extradition was: since his initial arrest McKinnon spent a solid decade in terrifying limbo. But then, he has just escaped the seemingly inescapable. Maybe, just maybe, he did have something up his sleeve, a possibility that throws up numerous intriguing questions.
Now I was never a big X-Files fan, but I do remember a rather cheesy conceit from one episode, where Mulder escapes the clutches of the secret government (or what have you) because he has bequeathed some outrageous state secret to a convenient word-of-mouth network of American Indians, who would only release said information in the eventuality of his untimely death or disappearance: a memorably ludicrous narrative device, but one that prompts curiosity regarding the method in which McKinnon may have safely disseminated his unvoiced discovery. Personally, I like to imagine a network of hackers analogous in their stoical reliability to those X-Files Indians, instructed to inundate the net with the secret(s) in the immediate event of McKinnon’s extradition. (Gary, if you’re reading, I’d certainly be interested in buying you some drinks in return for a few humble clues.)
Ultimately, who knows if there was any such thing, let alone if it had any bearing on Theresa May’s ruling last week. Certainly, however, this ruling hasn’t done the Conservatives any harm in the eyes of the electorate, while the bluster and indignation arising from the American Embassy only serves to enhance the impression of our maverick independence, which you can’t help but feel is really rather improbable.