US Extradition Act of 2003: UK Parliament fumes over use against citizens

July 9, 2012

Alaska Dispatch on July 8, 2012 released the following:

By: Michael Goldfarb

“LONDON, UK — The special relationship — Britain and the US, or is that the US and Britain? — is often remarked on here in Britain, particularly when there is a change at the top of government. A new president or prime minister is good for a couple of days of headlines, at least, about America and her most important ally.

It’s been decades since there was a serious challenge to the idea that the natural order of things is that the US and UK are as one on the matters that count. So it is easy to forget that for most of the last two centuries the two countries have frequently been “frenemies.”

But now there is an issue that threatens the perfect calm: extradition — to be specific, the Extradition Act of 2003.

Passed by a Labour-dominated Parliament in the aftermath of 9/11, when the Relationship was at the height of its Specialness, the Extradition Treaty was supposed to make it easier for Britain to send jihadists arrested on British soil to the US, if a request was made.

But the treaty immediately became controversial because it was used as much against British businessmen and computer hackers as suspects in the War on Terror.

The most recent example is the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a graduate student in computer science, who American authorities want extradited to face charges of copyright infringement. O’Dwyer set up a website TVshack.net, a search engine, which listed sites where films and programs could be watched. He is not accused of streaming any himself.

If you go to the site now, a notice comes up saying the domain name has been seized by US Immigration and Customs Service. This is followed by a brief, professionally made (and kind of clever) anti-piracy video.

The US request was granted by Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, last March. The controversy burst out again last week, when Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, launched a campaign in The Guardian newspaper to prevent the extradition by posting an online petition.

Wales notes that had O’Dwyer been arrested for similar crimes in Britain, the maximum sentence would be six months. In the US, he could serve 10 years, if convicted.

The disproportion in sentencing between the two countries is one reason the treaty is increasingly coming under fire. The other is the standard of proof required for an extradition request to be granted. The last extradition treaty — signed in 1870 when Britain was the global superpower — required the US to show it had a prima facie case against the person being extradited. The new one drops that to “reasonable suspicion.”

This is an issue that cuts across party lines. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, composed of members of all parties, called for the treaty to be renegotiated, although another parliamentary review found that there was no imbalance at all.

Typical of those raising questions is Conservative MP Dominic Raab. A self-described America lover and Atlanticist, he understands why fast-track extradition “might be a jolly good thing” when dealing with terror suspects, but feels “the pendulum has swung too far” in facilitating all manner of extradition requests.

He questions the low legal threshold these requests have to pass. He alludes to the O’Dwyer case, “If criminal conduct is alleged to take place in the UK and the UK courts aren’t interested in prosecuting, why should American courts be allowed to prosecute a British citizen?” Raab adds, “We need sensible safe guards for our citizens.”

Raab points out that regardless of whether a suspect is proven innocent, an extradition “destroys your life. If you take six months to two years to fight charges successfully, the expenses incurred are devastating.”

American legal costs are much higher than those in Britain. Some Brits who have been extradited have struck a plea bargain rather than lose all their money. “But if you cop a plea bargain in return for a lighter sentence it still destroys your life,” says Raab.

There is another aspect of the extradition law that has Brits concerned: the fearsome reputation of American prisons. Their image as sinkholes of gang violence, homosexual rape and other kinds of depravity has spread around the planet via films and television.

This reputation was testified to recently by Gary Mulgrew, one of the NatWest Three — British bankers who were accused of a fraud related to Enron’s collapse and extradited to Texas. The trio pleaded guilty to one count each in order to reduce their prison time.

Now Mulgrew has written an account of his time in Big Spring, Texas penitentiary. “Gang of One” appeared in the ultra-right wing Daily Mail earlier this year, with the headline, “This wasn’t punishment. It was the Big Brother house with wall-to-wall psychos.”

It spared readers none of the horrors of life inside.

It is articles like this — and the sense that somehow Britain is being bullied into sending for trial people the law was not intended to cover — that lead to calls for either the scrapping or renegotiation of the Extradition Treaty.

Enter the case of Gary McKinnon, accused of committing the biggest military hack of all time.

In 2001-2002, McKinnon is alleged to have hacked into US military and NASA computers a total of 97 times.

Why?

He was looking to prove the military and space agencies were hiding evidence of extraterrestrial life and alien technology.

Sound odd?

Well McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. His computer expertise and rather strange obsession is offered as proof of his condition.

The size of the hack, however, has US prosecutors fuming. McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison if tried in the US and convicted on all counts.

The 46-year-old’s case is one of the hotter political potatoes British Prime Minister David Cameron has to handle. On July 5, McKinnon was offered another chance by Home Secretary May to have further medical tests before she makes her decision. Clearly, she wants to delay things for as long as possible, reports the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph.

If she chooses to interpret the treaty literally and send McKinnon to the US for trial, the “special relationship” will take a real beating here and the Conservative Party will pay the electoral price.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Gary McKinnon faces unthinkable ordeal if he is extradited to the US… says the NatWest Three banker hurled into American jail alongside ‘wall-to-wall psychos’

January 9, 2012
Gary McKinnon
(Photo: Henry Nolan) Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon with his mother Janis Sharp

Daily Mail on January 7, 2012 released the following:

“By NICHOLAS PYKE

Gary McKinnon, the computer buff accused of hacking into the Pentagon, faces an ordeal of terrifying brutality if he is extradited to the United States.

That is the verdict of Gary Mulgrew, one of the NatWest Three and the author of a compelling new account of two blood-spattered years spent at the hands of America’s penal system. The book, Gang Of One, is serialised in The Mail on Sunday’s Review today.

Mr McKinnon, 45, suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism which, say campaigners on his behalf, means he is too vulnerable for extradition and should be put on trial in the UK.

Mr Mulgrew’s experience will go some way to justifying their fears. Gang Of One details a regime of degradation that began from the moment his plane landed in Houston, Texas, in the summer of 2006.

Stripped naked, threatened and screamed at by the immigration service, he was later sent to a jail controlled by gangs. There, confined to a vast dormitory of ‘wall-to-wall psychos’, he witnessed savage beatings, including one of such ferocity he remains unclear whether the victim lived or died.

This, he says, was despite a promise from the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that he and his fellow accused, David Bermingham and Giles Darby, would be in safe hands.

‘What awaits Gary McKinnon if he is actually extradited to the US is unthinkable,’ said Mr Mulgrew, 49. ‘Why subject a British citizen to such stress and degradation when they could and should be dealt with here in the United Kingdom?’

The case of the NatWest Three generated years of controversy. They were extradited using highly contentious fast-track procedures that require little or no evidence and were originally aimed at tackling international terrorism. The same fast-track treaty has been employed in the McKinnon case.

Despite a parliamentary vote in favour of the three bankers and overwhelming public criticism of the American stance, the Blair Government failed to intervene. The NatWest Three had been accused, wrongly, of playing a part in the 2001 collapse of Enron, one of the world’s biggest commodities and energy companies.

They later pleaded guilty only to breaking the terms of their employment contracts with NatWest – pleas extracted from them, says Mr Mulgrew, as a result of threats from the US Department of Justice.

Referring to his treatment at the Houston immigration suite, where he was abused by two official ‘goons’, he writes: ‘It all seemed so unnecessary, although I learned later this was just the standard fare – everyone extradited got to enjoy this experience. Even then I wondered how Gary McKinnon, for example, a hacker with Asperger’s, would ever cope with such a welcome.

‘I thought of England. Of Tony Blair. I remembered I had heard him saying how we would be well treated.

‘I thought of my family, sitting at home wondering what was happening to me. Probably tuned into News At Ten by now, with some Labour puppet assuring everyone we were in the best possible hands. I wished they could see the hands I was in.’

Mr Mulgrew is now attempting to re-establish his life. Following his release, a video was published in which he described the US trial process as akin to torture. He is particularly angry at the tactics of the US DoJ, which told him that without a guilty plea, he faced a jail sentence so long he would never see his two children grow up.

And he is also critical of America’s claim that any ‘wire fraud’ crossing its national boundaries gives it the right to prosecute. ‘British parents with teenage children should know that a simple email sent through a US server could be enough – in the wrong circumstances – to see them extradited,’ he writes.

Mr McKinnon was arrested ten years ago after allegations he hacked into Nasa and Pentagon computers from his North London home, causing £450,000 damage. He admits breaching the computer systems, saying he was looking for the existence of ‘little green men’, but denies causing damage. US authorities want to jail him for up to 60 years.

His mother Janis Sharp says her son has lived through ten years of daily terror and his mental health is continuing to decline. After failed legal appeals, Mr McKinnon is waiting for a judicial review of whether he is fit to travel to the US.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and United Kingdom here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.