Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Labour MPs Say One Thing & Do Another

I'm a bit late with this, but last Friday Andrew MacKinlay wrote a superb article in the Daily Mail on the case of Gary McKinnon, the aspergers sufferer who is being extradited to the US to face charges of hacking into the Pentagon computer. MacKinlay's piece isn't just an analysis of the merits or not of the case against McKinnon, it is a bitter attack on what he terms his "craven colleagues".

Since 2005, more than 80 Labour MPs have signed Commons motions expressing unease over these extradition arrangements. A large number have also declared their support for Mr McKinnon in media interviews or letters to constituents.

Yet when it came to the crunch on Wednesday during a specific vote on the case, only ten of my fellow Labour MPs lived up to their rhetoric and backed a motion opposing his extradition. Fifty-nine of them did the Labour whips' bidding, voting with the Government, and 15 abstained.

I am surprised and disappointed by the refusal of so many of my colleagues to live up to their past promises. Here was a chance to force the Government to rethink its policy on an individual case of justice, yet they squandered the opportunity.

The rebellion against the Government was far smaller than I expected, even though its case was very weak and Home Secretary was unable to articulate any truly convincing arguments for extraditing McKinnon.


Anonymous said...

Can we please not lose sight of the fact that this guy is not a hero or martyr. He was hacking into a crucial defence system, as I understand it.

The issue is wider than this, I know, so I'm going to hold back on talking about the extradition point. I will, however, emphasise that we are not talking about some random, innocent man on the street suddenly being told that he is to stand trial in America for no reason.

I wonder sometimes if the froth coming from rabid people's mouths finds it ways into their eyes, thereby blinding them to reality.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to watch Bercow in the chamber as he always waits until the last moment befor allowing 'Andrew Mackinlay' to ask his question. His questions are usually very critical of the gov. AM one of the few MPs I would buy a pint.

David Boothroyd said...

The motion as put down did not mention Gary McKinnon and did not call for any change in the way his case is being handled.

Before 1997 it was quite routine for Conservative MPs to denounce some policy of the Tory Government only to be brought round later and vote for it - think Jonathan Aitken on the Scott Report, or Winston Churchill on the closure of the mines.

Anonymous said...

Has it really taken him 12 years to discover how craven they are?

The socialists sold their souls to Blair and Campbell for a taste of power. There's no point in growing a spine now - they'll be gone soon.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Isn't this another example of why EDMs dont work - as when there is actually a vote on one of the issues in them, lots of MPs change their vote as they are whipped!!!

Little Black Sambo said...

The first Anon (NOT the second): Hear, hear!

Nigel said...

>>Can we please not lose sight of the fact that this guy is not a hero or martyr...<<

No one is suggesting any such thing, not even "this guy", who has asked to be put on trial in the UK, as if he did commit a crime, then he did so in the UK.

Nice of you to call those of us who care about due process "rabid".
All authoritarians are, of course, entirely level headed.

Rob said...

Fair play to Andrew Mackinlay. One of the few labour MP's that I've got any time for at the moment. (Well, him and Frank Field actually). The fact that McKinnon is being extradited is a disgrace. The public thinks it is wrong, the media thinks it is wrong, the opposition think it's wrong, but a succession of Home Secretaries have caved in to US demands. All it would take would be a phonecall between Brown and the sainted Obama to resolve this.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Iain this type of behaviour leaves me torn in terms of my hopes and fears for a Tory government.

New Labour have ripped up any codes of conduct and rode roughshod over tradition and honour.

My problem is: would I prefer a Tory government to champion those morals, or would I prefer them to be just as bad to make sure the scum don't get in again?

Alex said...

letrI have little sympathy for MacKinnon, but more sympathy for the NatWest 3 who were extradited for alleged crimes that don't exist under UK law and without presentation f aprima facie case, and pleaded guilty in order to plea bargain in the hope of the chance to serve shorter sentences in the UK. Other Enron convictions (4 out of 5 at Merrill Lynch) were overturned on appeal on the basis that the alleged misdeeds of the accused were not actually criminal acts under the US criminal code, and there are Texas lawyers who believe that the NatWest 3 were similarly charged on false charges, but were extradited and convicted because of US political pressure.

Leaving the NatWest 3 aside, whatever the politicians stated view of the Mackinnon case, it was MPs who let Blunkett ratify and implement the treaty without insisting that the US should also ratify the treaty before it came int force in the UK, s it is a bit late fr them to complain now.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Labour lie. It's what they do.

Hawkeye said...

Anon @ 11:24 said: "He was hacking into a crucial defence system, as I understand it."

If it was crucial, why was it undefended? It is not that hard to protect servers and systems against remote logins from the internet. More often than not, when unauthorised logins occur it is because they are not properly set up or properly patched.

A truly crucial system will only allow logins from preset IP addresses and even then would require a key exchange to verify the login of user.

Even webservers can be hardened with the addition of packages like "Fail2ban" which, after three failed logins blocks your IP address. Most hack attempts generate a lot more than 3 failed logins.

Most hackers can be defeated by use of simple techniques and layered defences. If the company I work for can do it then the Pentagon darn well can.

The truth of the matter seems to be that McKinnon "wandered" in and out of poorly set up systems and made the US authorities look like tw*ts. One way they could shore up their reputation is to paint him as a master hacker and a danger to the western world. As they seem to be doing....

Scary Biscuits said...

Anonymous, 11:24. Your opinions are rupugnant. I think you should be locked up without trial or, better still, hanged so your do the dance of death while you piss yourself. Then others like you might be less likely to condemn their neighbours without trial.

You say he is not innocent; how do you know? He hasn't yet been tried and the US Govt hasn't even presented prima facie evidence against him. As Alex points out, even when they do present evidence it often turns out to be simply made up for the benefit of US politicians. Why is such treatment ok for British nationals but if you were an US citizen no such reciprocal arrangement exists?

Mark M said...

And why do MPs do their whips bidding? Because their whips have the power to prevent their career advancing, the public do not.

If I was a voter in Easington (maj 18,000+), for instance, I effectively have no say in who my MP is. Labour assign an MP and because the area is a Labour stronghold, he gets in. My vote, any way, is meaningless.

Of course, we know the solution. Open primaries. Let's see how Totnes does this week in being the first constitiuency to elect their candidate.

Osama the Nazarene said...

When it comes to NuLiebor spin then your favourite phrase do bears sh*t in the woods or is the pope a catholic come to mind.

The question is how will the Tories behave when they come back to power? We are now looking to a Tory administration in the not too distant future (thankfully) BUT is the careerism in the genes of all MPs?

Man in a Shed said...

And lets not forget the touching story of Sarah Brown tears offering her support to Gary McKinnon's mother which got such good publicity in the Daily Mail.

Simon Gardner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"If I was a voter in Easington (maj 18,000+), for instance, I effectively have no say in who my MP is. Labour assign an MP and because the area is a Labour stronghold, he gets in. My vote, any way, is meaningless."

Mark M - what a bizarre thing to complain of. That's how a majoritarian democracy works, right? People in the minority (be it in a constituency, or the nation as a whole) aren't represented as they'd like.

In 2005, Labour received 9.5 million votes out of the 27 million turnout. So 17.5 million people (plus those who didn't vote at all) didn't get the government they wanted? But Labour were the most supported party, and therefore deserved to win. Ditto your Labour MP.

Anonymous said...

In addition there was only approx 8 Labour members on the backbenches during the debate although miraculously almost 300 of them trooped through the government lobbies at the division such is their desire to support British citizens against a one-sided extradition treaty(after all we just pay their wages!!). Parliament in action - MPs wonder why the public are sick to the back teeth of them !!

Anonymous said...

Scary Biscuits wrote:

'Anonymous, 11:24. Your opinions are rupugnant. I think you should be locked up without trial or, better still, hanged so your do the dance of death while you piss yourself. Then others like you might be less likely to condemn their neighbours without trial.'

On the basis of the above, I stand by my earlier use of the word 'rabid'.

Not once in my post did I suggest that he is not or should not be entitled to a fair trial. Of course I believe he is entitled to one; you do yourself no credit by labelling me as a fascist and putting words in my mouth.

If you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have realised that I did at no stage say that he wasn't innocent. I made the point that he is different to a random and quite blatantly innocent person walking along the street. Do you really believe that the Americans would want to try this man without legitimate reason to believe that he was doing something illegal? They have more than the merest hint that he was doing something he shouldn't have been doing.

To Hawkeye, thank you for an altogether more rational post, one which doesn't hypocritically condone denial of fair process and infliction of degrading treatment while simultaneously expressing disdain for them.

You clearly know more about the technology than I do, but if it is seriously that easy to block hackers, then why do they frequently have success? Finally, do you really believe this myth that McKinnon 'wandered' across this sensitive material? I don't know about you, but I never come across files from the Pentagon when I'm surfing Google.

The conflict of laws question is the interesting one here, I think. I can't blame the Americans for wanting to try someone who hacked into their defence system. It is, however, questionable whether they have the right. Nonetheless, I don't think it's so straightforward as some here would have us believe.

Cynic said...

Hacking into a crucial system?

What sort of defence department left its computers wide open to an UFO Obsessed authistic 18 year old?

The key point here is that we extradite everyone to the USA but in Congress the Irish American lobby vetoed the extradition to the UK of terrorists in the USA who are wanted in this country..... along with many other more mundane offenders who may be US citizens. So its a one way street.

And Tony and Gordon just rolled over and said "Thank you George"

Alfred T Mahan said...

Labour make huge play out of "protecting the vulnerable" - e.g. the Criminal Records Bureau, the simply appalling Protection of Vulnerable Adults Act - but when it comes to actually protecting a vulnerable person who does not appear to understand fully the consequences of his actions they are mute.

Their compassion truly is only skin deep.

Anonymous said...

The motion was not specifically about the case of Gary Mckinnon but to review the Extradition Act (primarily the treaty with the US).

The problem with that particular treaty is that to extradite somebody from the UK the US only has to show reasonable suspicion, whereas if the UK wishes to extradite somebody from the US then we must show probable cause (anything else would be unconstitutional). This bargain is clearly asymmetrical and unfair despite what Johnson says, and Blunket even said so himself.

During the debate Johnson was boasting about the fact he's had no legal training but that the two definitions seemed similar enough to him, as a dunce. Later on in the debate an MP (forget who) absolutely destroyed Johnson over this.

Another MP commented that when he visited a constituent who had been extradited to Texas the Judge had told him "he may be innocent, but he isn't a nice man, I don't want him walking around on my streets, so we'll execute him anyway".

It's also worth mentioning that a US diplomat said in 2007 that the US believes it reserves the right to bypass extradition entirely and simply kidnap people from Britain and rendition them to the US, should it be necessary.

One final thing; shortly before the vote took place Tom Watson was tweeting from his shopping expedition. Why the bloody hell wasn't he in the commons? Despicable.

Most of the people representing us don't feel it's a public duty they are performing, but their career.

If I were an MP I'd be glad to work for minimum wage and donate the balance of my salary to charity.

DespairingLiberal said...

I agree totally with the spirit of your point Iain, as it's obvious that McKinnon is mere cannon fodder for the nauseatingly subservient "extradition" treaty "between" (actually imposed by the US) the US and Britain.

Having said that, re: your point about venal MPs barking after the party masters in their attempts to get thrown a job bone, isn't that also exactly what we will get from the Tories once in office? And if this vote had gone the other way, would not you and the Tory bloggers have been jubilating about a House Victory for the Tories?

The problem goes much deeper than just the big Labour majority.

Mark M said...

OliverDrew and jamesmanning

My point isn't about the party. Yes, I accept that the majority party wins the seat. My point is that the seat is so strong that just about any candidate Labour choose for that seat would win. That MP could then spend five years doing absolutely nothing for the constituency and in all likelihood be voted in again because the people of Easington want a Labour MP.

So as a voter, I would have no say over who my MP is (none of us technically have a say over our MP, only the party who represents us) and my vote cannot influence his or her behaviour. Is it any surprise that the biggest abuses of expenses were carried out by long serving MPs in safe seats?

On the other hand, primaries would mean that the incumbent, inactive MP (in the example above) could be booted out in favour of a another Labour candidate who would do more for local people.

As for the denied the right to vote, 87% of votes cast in Easington were 'wasted votes', as per the technical definition of a wasted vote. It's not exactly empowering when there's that level of waste (although I should note that 50% of votes are techncially wasted in any single seat constituency).

Anonymous said...

Of course they won't Iain. Are you telling me that Tory backbenchers won't be bending over backwards to please the Leader and be promoted?

Yak40 said...

Are they really that cynical?


he did not commit the crime in America
Hmmm, the keyboard was in the UK, the actions/results/damages were in the US.
McKinnon is no injured innocent, his actions were akin to breaking and entering MI5 and trashing file cabinets, and he did it multiple times. Asperger's ? Very convenient recent "diagnosis".

Hawkeye said...

Anon @ 1:50 "To Hawkeye, thank you for an altogether more rational post"

I always try to be rational except when fighting the evils of world socialism


"but if it is seriously that easy to block hackers, then why do they frequently have success?"

It really is a numbers game. There are so many computers attached to the net and so many of them are very poorly set up or maintained by people who do not understand security. For example the 3 most common passwords in use are 123456, password and 12345678. You can lists of the top 500 password in use.

Security on a server is a series of layers - like an onion. You assume that one layer will fail and you have another in the way. For really sensitive information you do not connect the computer to the internet. If you do then your have a firewall, then you turn off every service you do not need, then you set up access rights and permissions, restrict users to logins ate certain times or form certain addresses, and so forth.

None of this is rocket science and none of it is hard to do, but many people install the operating system, stick a network cable in the back and store their sensitive files showing alien autopsies on the computer. Tick, tick, tick,......

"I can't blame the Americans for wanting to try someone who hacked into their defence system"

So try him here. The person who should be in the Yanks' court is the person who stored sensitive material without a clue how to secure it.

Eckersalld said...

Can we please not lose sight of the fact that this guy is not a hero or martyr. He was hacking into a crucial defence system, as I understand it.

He dialled into some barely secured networks, the US government ought to be thoroughly relieved it was only some nutjob looking for UFO's and not the Chinese or Al Qaeda.

Compare this to when Ehud Tenenbaum, amongst others, hacked into various US military systems, you have to wonder just why McKinnon is being targeted when others who did far more damage and caused far greater worry were not pursued.

McKinnon certainly needs punishing, but given we're usually quite happy to hoof murders and rapists out on licence after a few years, or fine someone for mowing down a family in their car, it seems more than a little excessive whats going on.

phompwl said...

"MacKinlay is as disillusioned with the behaviour of his colleagues as the public is."

He is not even close.

You are all bottom-feeders, every single last rotten one of you.

Anonymous said...

No matter what his mental state he is a hacker - into a state computer. There seems a de-facto case to extradite him - though I do note Mr Drews point. It is for justice in America to decide his fate.

Labour Party hypocrisy is another matter - as is the incompetent why the government is managed.

What is of course disgraceful is the way that this guy is extradited and other far more heinous offenders cannot be - thanks to the Human Rights Act etc. If that's justice 'then I'm a banana'.

Chris Paul said...

This is not a Labour thing Iain. Most MPs tend to vote with the whip most of the time. There were elected partly on their own merits as people but mostly as party representatives. Most MPs do not vote with opposition motions even if they generally agree with the sentiment.

Same goes for councillors. What's so difficult here? We call it discipline. We all like the occasional rebel and even the "usual suspect" gets grudging admiration or even adulation from fellow mavericks. But discipline is important and underrated. Without it being the default you can't have a meaningful rebellion.

And, what's more, the motion would have no effect.

Are you expecting Tories to vote for Labour opposition motions should Cam not collapse and gain office? Really?

niconoclast said...

It is a clever ploy of the Left to pathologise criminal behaviour.First you invent some imaginary illness,give it a fancy name to lend it gravitas,deploy psychobabble to gull the credulous and hey presto the criminal becomes a patient deserving of treatment not punishment.That Tories are defending this moron who has engaged in military espionage which could have sparked an international incident involving nuclear weapons beggars belief.They should be supporting his immediate extradition.

DespairingLiberal said...

It's also worth noting that both the US and (often) UK legal authorities greatly exaggerate the amount of damage in these cases. The US claim that McKinnon caused US$ 700,000 worth of damage is ridiculous. What he actually did was alert a bunch of dozy sysadmins to the fact that their so-called secure computers were totally open to the outside world. He actually performed a public service.

Clearly this extreme case is being bought "pour l'encouragement des autres" but the case itself sucks. If we had judges with even half an eye to human rights legislation there is no way they would have allowed this young man to go and face what amounts to banana republic US-style "justice", with it's rigged juries, bizarre rules of evidence and medieval prison system.

Victor, NW Kent said...

I believe that we have a rule or convention not to extradite anyone who might face cruel or unusual punishment. It appears that Gary McKinnon, age 43, faces 70 years in jail in the United States.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment for federal crimes. The amendment states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted."

The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars the states from inflicting such punishment for state crimes, and most state constitutions also prohibit the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.

So, why are we extraditing him and why does he face a term of imprisonment guaranteed to see him die in jail?

And, why are most Labour back-benchers so callous and gutless?

DespairingLiberal said...

Speaking of MPs, here are details of my MP's expenses. He is Mr Patrick Loughlin, MP for West Derbyshire and Conservative Chief Whip. Can people please advise me if I should vote for him? Comments welcome.

" Claim: According to the Telegraph, the Conservative chief whip spent £3,000 on new windows at his second home in Derbyshire. He claimed more than £80,000 towards the cost of his second home over four years, it says, including a quarter of the cost of a £12,630 bill for installing new windows. Other claims included £1,268 on internal decorations, £1,388 to paint external walls and £450 for a new thermostat for a bathroom. The paper says some of the receipts were made out in the name of the MP's wife, who is also his constituency office assistant. MPs are not allowed to claim for the living costs of anyone but themselves. "

Cynic said...

" And, why are most Labour back-benchers so callous and gutless?"

Self interest ....and those flying Nokia's really hurt when they hit you