Last night, over a glass or two of hops and barley, my girlfriend and I were discussing who should be the subject of the next major Hollywood biopic. Having read that day's National Enquirer she decided that it was high time for the life story of David Carradine to grace the silver screen, controversial death and all. See according to this weeks
(Gee Note: It should be noted that the Enquirer said the same thing about James Brown. And Barry White. And, er, pretty much any celebrity that has snuffed it over the past five years. However this time according to the Enquirer it was those gosh darned Lady Boys that done ol' David in. In an interview with movie producer David Winters, who's previous work includes such
And it's a good shout. No really it is. Carradine's life and death has everything a good drama needs. Success, failure, a comeback, sex, martial arts, and a real life battle with a secret sect of Kung Fu assassins if family lawyer Mark Geragos is to be believed. Who wouldn't want to see that? Install a half decent director, script writer and star and who knows, it might even win an Oscar.
Thing is as much as my partner is correct to choose Carradine there is, in my mind, a much more interesting life story currently being played out in the media. And no it's not the tale of some slightly bonkers Scottish woman who can sing a bit. Instead it's the tale of 43 year old Scottish man Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome and is currently the subject of many a court case here in the UK. The reason? Well it turns out that Mr. McKinnon has rather annoyed the United States Government, and they are therefore attempting to extradite the chap in order to try him in one of their own courts. You know, one of those strange places where the lawyers and judges don't wear wigs and nobody says the word "M'lud". Various websites, including the excellent Naveed's Realm, have jumped to McKinnon's defence claiming he should either be set free or tried for his crimes here in the UK. Many feel that McKinnon simply won't receive a fair trial in the US of A.
"But what were his crimes?" I here you ask. Oh nothing really. All he did was hack in to several secure networks used by American Defence and Research Departments, most notably NASA, in the hope of trying to prove Alien life exists and that the American Government is well aware of such things and has been covering them up for, oh gosh, ages. You know. The usual.
McKinnon was born in Glasgow in 1966. At 14 he had his first computer, which considering the year was 1980, would have been a pretty big deal at the time (Gee Note: The earliest my family had a computer was about five years after that, and even then it was a ZX Spectrum. For those not familiar with the Speccy, it consisted of a keyboard with rubber keys and a cassette tape player instead of a disk drive. The tapes themselves used to make a high pitched squealing sound when played, meaning hoards of stray dogs would gather at our front door every time we decided to play Horace Goes Skiing). At the age of 17 he left school and like all budding IT enthusiast he was gainfully employed as a, erm, hairdresser. It wasn't until the early 1990's that he returned to his first love, earning a set of qualifications in the subject of computing and working on a series of contracts in that field.
By the late 90's McKinnon had developed a curiosity with aliens and UFOs. Somehow he had come up with a theory that not only had little green men visited our tiny blue planet, but had gone and buggered it all up by crashing their ship. The US Army had then salvaged the resultant wreckage, and had used it to develop all sorts of woovy bezerk gadgets. Such as anti gravity devices. And free renewable energy.
So McKinnon decided to conduct some "research" by hacking in to unsecured PC's owned and operated by the United States Government (Gee Note: Amazingly he managed to do so using an internet connection supplied by a 56k modem. For all you non-techy folks out there it's akin to robbing Fort Knox aremd with only a tooth pick and a small plastic sign that says "Milkmen do it on your doorstep"). From the glamorous location of his girlfriend's aunts house, McKinnon would go through a nightly ritual of sparking up a joint, popping open a can of Fosters, and then spending the next seven hours getting progressively stoned and accessing NASA computers remotely.
By the time 2000 rolled around McKinnon's obsession started to cause a wee bit of a problem. He quit his job as a systems analysts for a small business, which infuriated his girlfriend who promptly dumped him (Gee Note: Tsk. Women eh? Always wanting you to do unreasonable things like earn a living and wash occasionally). Still using his now ex-girlfriends Aunt's house as a base of operations, he dedicated himself full time to getting wasted and lurking around the internet. Going under the alias of SOLO he was successful in infiltrating any number of classified networks. He even started to get a bit cocky leaving a message on one PC he visited stating:
US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.
Alas in 2002 the wheels fell off the wagon. McKinnon was tracked down by the UK's National High Tech Crime Unit where he was promptly arrested and charged under the Computer Misuse Act. The case wasn’t followed up by the Crown Prosecution Service however, and so McKinnon was slapped on the wrists and sent on his merry way.
Despite the fact that the British Government was finished with McKinnon the American's weren't, and later that year he was indicted by the US and proceedings to extradite Gary started. According to our cousins across the pond McKinnon is responsible for "The Greatest Military Hack of All Time" and has caused approximately $700,000 worth of damage on various networks. Since the indictment the US Government has vigorously pursued McKinnon, and thanks to various orders submitted to the courts Gary now has to sign in at a local police station every morning and has been banned from any form of internet access. If McKinnon is extradited to America and found guilty he could face up to 70 years in prison.
The thing is that it all seems a bit over the top. McKinnon freely admits to trying to access Military computers but states that he was only ever able to access unsecured connections, using software that could be legally purchased online. Claims by the US Government that he had obtained sensitive information that could be passed on to America's enemies has been flatly denied my McKinnon. In fact McKinnon declares that despite hacking pretty much every day for a couple of years he has got absolutely nothing to show for it. No documents stamped with a large "TOP SECRET" on the front. No co-ordinates as to where the bodies are buried. No photographs of the third gunmen on the grassy gnoll. Nothing. Partly because, as previously mentioned, McKinnon was usually so stoned that even if he did find something controversial he would forget to save it anyway. According to Gary, the label of "Greatest military hack of all time" and the $700,000 figure are simply attempts to hide the military's embarrassment, painting McKinnon as some sort of evil genius rather than the "bumbling computer nerd" he professes to be.
And really it does appear as if McKinnon may have a point. I mean bare in mind that in the seven long years since he was first apprehended, there has been no public definition of either the type of classified information he is alleged to have obtained, nor an explanation of how exactly he caused enough chaos to rack up a $700,000 bill. Maybe the apparent over reaction means that the US government is hiding something after all?
So what of McKinnon's original goal to do "research" on the UFO phenomenon. Well according to an interview he did with The Guardian Newspaper, Gary found this:
"I found a list of officers' names under the heading 'Non-Terrestrial Officers'. I looked it up and it's nowhere. It doesn't mean little green men. What I think it means is not earth-based. I found a list of 'fleet-to-fleet transfers', and a list of ship names. I looked them up. They weren't US navy ships. What I saw made me believe they have some kind of spaceship, off-planet."
(Gee Note: Sadly McKinnon was too baked at the time to remember any of the names off either list. See now, that's the downside of weed that nobody tells you about. I mean the powers that be are always trying to convince Joe Public that drugs are bad for you, but they always manage to do it in the most laughable fashion. Like those "Winner's Don't Use Drugs" slogans that used to appear in video games. Nobody ever took them seriously. I mean sure winner's don't use drugs. Unless of course your name happens to Barry Bonds. In which case you can take a boat load of steroids, become the all time home run record holder, and get paid ridiculous amounts of money in the process. Winner's don't use drugs. Give me a break. Now if you had an advertising campaign that went "Dude! Do you remember that time when something amazing happened? No? That's because you were mashed, man." I reckon it would be ten times more effective. Wanna remember stuff in the morning? Yeah? Well in that case stay the f*** away from the ganja.)
According to another interview with "Wired" magazine McKinnon also found:
"A NASA photographic expert said that there was a Building 8 at Johnson Space Centre where they regularly airbrushed out images of UFOs from the high-resolution satellite imaging. I logged on to NASA and was able to access this department. They had huge, high-resolution images stored in their picture files. They had filtered and unfiltered, or processed and unprocessed, files.
My dialup 56K connection was very slow trying to download one of these picture files. As this was happening, I had remote control of their desktop, and by adjusting it to 4-bit colour and low screen resolution, I was able to briefly see one of these pictures. It was a silvery, cigar-shaped object with geodesic spheres on either side. There were no visible seams or riveting. There was no reference to the size of the object and the picture was taken presumably by a satellite looking down on it. The object didn't look manmade or anything like what we have created. Because I was using a Java application, I could only get a screenshot of the picture -- it did not go into my temporary internet files. At my crowning moment, someone at NASA discovered what I was doing and I was disconnected."
Including the above mentioned examples of two lists that may or may not have been important, and a photograph of something that could well have been a blimp, McKinnon also admits to discovering a bunch of "inspirational" training videos for Special Forces, as well as once clicking the wrong button and accidentally deleting a couple of Government files. And, er, that's about it.
In October 2008 McKinnon's lawyers lost their fight against extradition and it only seemed a matter of time before our boy would be headed across the waters. However judges ruled that Gary's recently diagnosed Asperger's syndrome hadn't been taken in to full account and so on June 9th this year a decision was made for an appeal hearing to take place on July 14th.
And this is why Gary's life story would be perfect for a biopic. Because however it goes, whether McKinnon is carted off to the land of the free, sentenced to serve time here, or simply let off altogether, you have to admit that it will have one hell of a final act.
Especially if it turns out that aliens do exist.