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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Did Asperger’s Make Him Do It?

Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking into U.S. military computers and facing extradition to the U.S. to stand trial, leaves a High Court hearing in 2009. (AP)

Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking into U.S. military computers, leaves a High Court hearing in 2009 in the U.K. (AP)

The U.S. government alleges that between February 2001 and March 2002, Scottish citizen Gary McKinnon went on a hacking spree of hundreds of U.S. military computers.

In what one U.S. attorney called “the biggest military computer hack of all time” McKinnon surfed around for months copying files and passwords, at one point taking down the Army’s entire Washington, D.C. computer network for three days.

“This is definitely entering the legal conversation and we’re seeing more cases that are raising what you might call the Asperger’s defense.”
– David Kushner, of IEEE Spectrum magazine

The government claims McKinnon threatened national security, caused hundreds of thousand dollars of damage to it’s high tech networks, and should be extradited to the U.S and if convicted, imprisoned.

But McKinnon also has Asperger’s Syndrome,  and that’s raising questions about how he should be prosecuted.

Asperger’s is a high-functioning form of Autism. A person with the condition often has difficulty in social situations and intense interests in certain things.

Some researchers think there may be an emerging connection between Asperger’s and people with an affinity for understanding complex systems — people like engineers or, say, computer programmers.

McKinnon has become a cause celeb in Britain, where he was arrested, and a martyr figure among members of the Asperger’s community.

McKinnon’s lawyers say that his Asperger’s influenced his actions and that he shouldn’t be charged as a terrorist in the U.S.

David Kushner, wrote in IEEE Spectrum Magazine that the idea of the “Geek Defense” is on the rise.

“This is definitely entering the legal conversation in a big way and we’re seeing more cases that are raising what you might call the Asperger’s defense,” he told Here & Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer.

Guest:

  • David Kushner, reporter for IEEE Spectrum Magazine

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  • homebuilding

    So called ‘mental health’ matters get way too much attention.
    In the USA, going to the therapist will get you a mental illness diagnosis from the DSM IV, almost without fail.  If you lack florrid symptoms, it is common to assign “adjustment disorder–not otherwise described.”
    (but a mental illness descriptor, nonetheless!)

    So there you have an electronic record in your electronic insurance files that will cost you real money in the future (any time you might try to obtain private health insurance)

    Always remember that any severe diagnosis is accompanied by thousands of minor ones–it’s a rule of statistical distribution.

    and if the jury is NOT discriminating and the ‘experts’ in court can persuade them of anything that would not withstand scientific scrutiny of peers outside of court–

    …….well you have the makings of another idiotic bit of contemporary entertainment.

    • Nola

      Asperger’s is NOT related to any mental health deficiency. It is a form of autism. Whether or not you believe he is innocent or guilty, take a moment to understand the disorder  (which includes obsessive focus on a specific topic or project).

      • Opinionated

        Right, Autism is not mental illness. It is a developmental disability.

        Mental illness gets too little exposure in the real world .. just stories that inflame and mis inform … the stigma is strong and unjustified in most cases. 

        Getting a diagnosis from DSM IV … required for insurance to pay. Therapy is costly and many need the extra support in today’s disconnected world. What used to come from close knit families and close friends now comes from a therapist Insurance won’t pay w/o diagnosis. Fix the insurance industry and you’ll have fewer diagnosis’

        All that being said .. not an excuse to commit a crime.

        • Leigh

          You know what they say about opinions, Opinionated.

  • Jaltman

    Aspergers Syndrome doesn’t prevent someone from knowing right from wrong or from taking responsibility for one’s actions. All his condition. Did was make it possible to do what he did. The malicious intent came from elsewhere.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that Aspergers Syndrome doesn’t prevent someone from knowing right from wrong but Aspergers Syndrome wasn’t even a diagnosis when he was a child.   He was born in 1966.   I think sometimes we project the knowledge we have today on the upbringing of a child years ago.

      Where children with Aspergers are treated and socialized these days, they weren’t back then.  I’m sure he was a completely misunderstood child and that would have delitarious effects on any childs future.

      Not that I condone what he did or think he shouldn’t be prosecuted, but I can imagine that this is the argument they will use to block extradition and I am not certain that the argument lacks merit.

      • Opinionated

        Actually, Hans Aspergers coined the term in 1948, in 1981, it became a subject of an intense American study and in 1994 it entered the DSM. When my son was diagnosed as PDD ( a form of Autism) in 1994 his gifted brother was evaluated for Aspergers ..

        The treatments were well in place and the late 80′s and early 90′s was the beginning of increase in diagnosis and treatments that were showing some success. By 96 it was pretty well established in the world of education and developmental disabilities.

        • Anonymous

          You do understand that he was born in 66, not 96, right?  ;)

          You are talking about studies beginning in 1981, actualization in 1994, and quality treatment in 1996 all of which are well after 1966.  Maybe, you were you trying to make my point for me?  You opened with the word Actually which reads as a contrary statement…  but your facts prove my theory that from 1966 through 1976 (fundamental years in a childs life) there was almost no diagnosis or treatment being offered to childern that eventually (much later in life) were diagnosed with Aspergers.

          The timeline is useful to know though so thank you for sharing it.

          • Alan Newman

            The first translations to English of Asperger’s original work were only published in 1991. The first academic paper coining the term Asperger’s Syndrome was by Lorna Wing in 1981. Even in the late nineties, most mental health professionals had no clue what Asperger’s Syndrome was and were still commonly misdiagnosing the condition as Paranoid Schizophrenia. It’s only in recent years, in the UK at least, that specialised services have sprung up, and even then there are only a handful located in specific places across the country.

            You must also remember that the difficulties associated with Asperger’s are often subtle, and those with the condition would historically be described with terms such as “shy”, “socially inept”, and so on. Asperger’s is just a diagnosis for those types of people. Those with the most difficulties integrating and seen as the most weird are those flagged up for diagnosis.

            A diagnosis in 1994 is impressive. In 2000 I was the first student the College nurse (who everyone who had some sort of diagnosis was asked to see) saw who had Asperger’s and she had never heard of it. I was only diagnosed myself around that time at 20 years old.

            My understanding was Gary was seen on TV by an expert in Asperger’s Syndrome (Simon Baron-Cohen) who suggested he may have the condition. (I may be wrong though so don’t quote me on that).

          • qvision

            Gary was seen on TV by another Asperger’s sufferer who then contacted his legal team, his legal team then organised an assessment by Baron-Cohen who was the first of five senior UK mental health professionals who all agreed he had Asperger’s.

        • Leigh

          Whatever to that comment….Dr’s are so ignorant to aspergers it is shameful! My son is 12 and I have told/hounded Dr’s since he was 4 that he is NOT okay… 2 psyciatrist said to my face, you are a bad mom and he is a spoiled brat. NOT ONE recognized aspergers until he was 11 years old,. And then it was ONLY due to his psyciatric co morbidities that he ended up in a hospital where a professional finally had him diagnosed.  Even after that, I find Dr’s always wanting to one up the diagnosing Dr and change his diagnoses.  Aspergers is just now coming into light. And so are it’s differing symptoms.  The ignorance that surrounds aspergers and most of these comments is just astounding.

    • Mark Jones

      That’s the thing.  There was no malicious intent, and no evidence of such.  The notes he left made it quite clear that he was a friend to the American people, and was simply appalled by the lack of security on US military systems, even after 9/11.  No-one is suggesting that his Asperger’s should mean that he shouldn’t be tried, just that he shouldn’t be tried under anti-terrorism legislation.

    • qvision

      What malicious intent ! ? Read my post above, i can’t believe how many people have opinions without knowing any of the facts, just sitting in their chairs, reading a bit of news and assuming they know it all !

  • RichardJones

    It would difficult to find anyone in jail (or anyone period) who doesn’t have some form of mental illness.  When (rich or good looking) whites commit crimes, we’re sure to find some excuse for their actions.  It isn’t their fault.  Had he been poor and robbed a store with a gun he would be put in jail quickly.

  • Paul Lembke (Lem-key)

    I always thought I had a mild form of Autism.  Then I heard about Asperger’s.  My mother was always amazed at my ability to ‘tune out’.  She would ask me something and I would answer yes or no and she would ask me to repeat what she asked and I never could.
    When someone is talking to me (at the front door), I may not respond (or respond inappropriatly because I am down in the basement working on some project.

    • De

      http://iautistic.com/test_AS.php  contains good info. Also, take the Simon Baron-Cohen  test and  then ask a few friends to take it. I was stunned to find out that my friends scored around 15 to 19. I scored over 36 every single time. If you do have it, it helps TREMENDOUSLY to explain the disorder to those close to you. You will suddenly make some sense to them!!  lol!!!

  • J Frog

    I am by no means an expert, but I have had a little experience with functional autistic (asperberger-type) persons.  It has been my limited experience that these individuals tend to be “rule followers”.  In fact, they get very uncomfortable when the rules are not followed.  Hacking into computers, where they know they don’t belong, seems to go against that.

    • Cyn Huddleston

      Rule-following makes it easier for us to negotiate a world where we have difficulty discerning nonverbal and interpersonal cues.  If you can make a rule for a social situation, it is easier than explaining all the intricacies of human interplay involved.  I happen to hate breaking rules and laws.  It’s certainly not impossible for me, though. 

    • Procrustestheclown

      That’s it, exactly.

      • Procrustestheclown

        I was replying  to Ian420 and not to JFrog. If AS people think a rule is illogical or wrong they may  disregard it particularly if it interferes with a special interest.

    • qvision

      Unless they feel that they are acting under a higher moral authority, seee my post above.

  • Anonymous

    So you have a  extremely high cognitive group of people that can accomplish many great things which normal people just day dream about doing, yet they lack social skills.  I just have a hard time believing this argument.  If they are smart enough to on the highest end of the IQ scale, then one would think they would be smart enough to learn the social norms, right?  Because, after all, it’s just patterns of light and auditory sounds and the way they mesh in space-time society deems it unethical.  If they are so good at crunching data, then they should be able to master this, where us dumb people need to rely on our more primitive systems to internalize these patterns.

    What’s next?  I have a nasty habit of being absent minded.  This could land me in court some day.  What if I get into an accident?  Can I claim Absent Minded Proferssorism once the DSM recognizes this disease?  Can people with ADHD do so too?  Can people we use Short Temper Syndrome as a defense too, once that is recognized as disease?

    The defense of this case just sounds really suspect.

    • De

      You don’t NEED to believe the argument- you just need to recognize the disorder. You may disregard the validity of the defense but DO NOT disregard this form of autism. I may be able to solve very complex problems with ease, but I am the last to get simple jokes, the last to understand plain concepts and struggle to participate in basic small talk. I TREASURE my  friends for their tolerance of my “quirks”. Thank your stars for the “primitive” systems you rely on. Those of us with Asperger’s can’t rely on those systems.

      Yes, I know right from wrong and rely on my friends and family to tell me when I am being rude or mean without meaning to be. Yes, this may, indeed, be a suspect defense. But when someone with Asperger’s becomes obsessed with a project, there is an internal drive that moves us to do it  to the nth degree and to exclusion of all else.

      Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just because a disorder does not seem to be a worthwhile defense does not mean that the same disorder did lend itself to the crime.

      • MR

        Thank you De!!!  You have succinctly explained the issue with those with Aspergers.  NOT ALL WITH ASPERGERS HAVE A TENDENCY TO BREAK THE LAW.  I have a son with Aspergers…  brilliant, but struggles with the social norms & is brutally honest (which I think isn’t such a bad trait).

    • Cyn Huddleston

      Yes. We are smart.  But, as an example, I did not know that there were facial expressions that exhibited surprise, disgust, fear, etc. until I was 11 years old.  I only knew happy, sad, scared.  When I read the information accompanied by photos in a social studies book in 5th grade, I had to have someone help me discern the differences.  Now, 4o years later, I am expert at reading faces, body language, and non-verbals.  I had to study them.  Most babies get these skills in the early years.  You wouldn’t even dream I couldn’t do it.  Others often think that we are smart enough to do these kinds of interpersonal interaction skills just because we can do complex academic thinking.  It’s not the same thing at all for us.

      BTW, I am not for using Asperger’s as a trial defense, just as a sentencing consideration. 

      • De

        AGREED!!!!!! I like to think of myself as compassionate, but am often told I am “robotic”. I can spot errors in grammar and usage that university professors would miss. But despite being thrown a million overt signals, I’m clueless as to when a member of the opposite like me unless he tells me in a very literal fashion.

        Cyn is right: trial defense? Probably not. Sentencing consideration depending on severity of his autism? Yes.

      • Anonymous

        I still don’t get you.  And your reply is puzzling to me.  You are an expert at non-verrbal cues.  You were able to integrate  visual and auditory patterns and declarative statements about complex society to master a body of knowledge that even ‘normal’ people may grasp, but never at the level of an expert who can write books on it without deliberate practice.  With an unlimited capacity to integrate facts that’s more like the program Watson digesting the library of Congress, why am I not surprised?

        In elementary school, I could not grasp the concept of a number yet alone a fraction.  I was rated last in reading skills and while kids played Chutes and Ladders, I had a hard time understanding what a ‘game’ was.  Yet somehow I knew I was dumb in the scholastic areas and I knew I had to make up for it.  With more than 10 years of extraordinary effort, I graduated high school the tops in science and math and won the National Honorary Science Award.

        People are born with deficiencies and it takes a mature soul to understand that they need to work hard in the areas that they lack.  It may take an enormous amount of energy, but that is what responsible people do.  That is what you and I did.  

        If I look through the DSM, I’m pretty sure I can find a mental affliction that would describe someone who is absent minded, or short tempered, impulsive or has ‘restless leg syndrome’.  Could I use anyone of these things as a defense or even or sentencing considerations, yeah I suppose, but whatever happened to a society that champions personal responsibility?

        Yes, there is a fine line between personal responsibility and falling prey to circumstance.  We need to look at it carefully on a case by case basis.  And right now, based off this show, Gary McKinnon is 45 years old, quite the adult, and has spent months hacking.  That’s plenty of time to understand that hacking is bad.  Heck, he is a system administrator by profession.  System administrator’s primary responsibility is to prevent hacking!  Did this guy really learn -from all the literature that is out there- how to prevent hacking without coming across the reason for the prevention?  

        I just simply don’t buy the defense (in the USA ignorance is not a valid excuse), nor can I consider leniency, at least in this case.  In fact, if you consider the circumstance and what you’ve told me about your own experience, I find it appalling that his lawyer should use this as a defense, it just smacks of exploitation of the Asperger community/ or the stigma associated with the syndrome.

        (By the way, I hope the guy is found innocent.  I admire a guy who sticks it ‘the man’. So whatever excuse he can use to get off is fine with me.  So, I’d give him leniency just for that, and NOT for his syndrome, per se.  Am I confusing you?  Anyways, I’m going off topic. we are discussing Asperger as a defense.)

  • Mark

    Prosecuted for hacking into military computers?  This guy should be rewarded for uncovering a security flaw, prior to other groups that could have posed a real threat to the country, which was apparently so severe that he could relatively easily gain access to sensitive information and “take down the Army’s computer network for 3 days.”  The individuals that should be prosecuted are those that set up such an insecure system in the first place.  If the U.S. government was truly smart, they would offer Gary McKinnon a high ranking and paying job at the Pentagon to assist with improving systems security.

    • http://www.aspergers-and-pdd.com Diane

      Hear hear!  I have been saying this since the story broke the news.  We need his expertise to close the holes in our security.  What if someone else comes along and hacks the system with every intention of causing harm?  Obviously it can be done.  Hire him to help identify our vulnerabilities.  Please note that I’m not addressing the part about using Asperger’s as a defense.  My son has Asperger’s and based on my research there are no two Aspies that are alike.  While it does appear that this defense is becoming more and more common, in some cases I do believe it is legit.  Whether or not it’s legit in this particular case I don’t know.  But all of that aside, this man could be priceless to our country and our safety.

    • RichardJones

      Great idea! A local store owner was held up the other day.  Let’s give the robber a job because he exposed security breaches in the store owner security system! 

      • http://www.aspergers-and-pdd.com Diane

        If someone with a lot more resources available breaches the store owner’s security system, that doesn’t put our national security at risk.  That wouldn’t allow that someone to drop bombs on our houses, or take out our military, or hurt us on any other national level.  If the store owner has a professional come in who points out the holes in the security system, that’s not going to protect our nation.  We’re talking national security here, not security on a local store.  And have you ever heard of thieves being hired to expose flaws in security systems?  It actually happens!  And being “held up” vs. a closed store with a security system being burglarized, that’s two different things in itself.  I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend you but I felt compelled to point out the difference between a security system on a local store vs. our national security system.

      • qvision

        Yes because physically entering a premises and being armed with the intent to steal ACTUAL things and perhaps caus REAL physical harm to someone is just like getting into a poorly-secured PC isn’t it ?

        What a ridiculous analogy. Just like when IT security software vendors say cracking someone’s computer security is just like breaking into someone’s house !

        If you asked people what would upset them most, someone snooping around their computer or someone breaking into their house i’m pretty sure what the most popular answer would be …

  • Josie Bahr

    I have 2 sons with Asperger’s Syndrome. They are definitely capable of learning right from wrong. In fact, my older son has TRIED to claim that “I act this way because I have Asperger’s Syndrome!” This ‘defense’ doesn’t work in our house.
    I am appalled that people will start to use this as an excuse for bad behavior. It scares me. If the general public comes to associate Asperger’s with law breaking and illegal behavior, my sons’ futures are going to be even more difficult to live than they already are facing.

    • claudia m.

      my feelings exactly, i have a son with asperger’s and just like you mentioned, he is perfectly capable of knowing right from wrong.

      • Ian420

        maybe gary did know right from wrong and decided he was right….to try and prove USA were hiding existence of E.T…

        • qvision

          McKinnon claimed he felt he was morally correct to crack computer security in order to retrieve information about alternative energy systems that would free us from oil, energy systems that were used to power UFO’s and their seemingly impossible flight characteristics.

          Whether or not you believe in UFO’s, his outlook is typical of many Asperger’s sufferers, he has a highly-developed sene of morality and can tell the difference between right/wrong and legal/illegal.

    • Leigh

      My son has asperger’s also and CANNOT tell right from wrong at all…so for pete sake you of all people should know this… autism is a spectrum disorder and now two cases are alike.

    • kt

      I really know someone who puts the “ASS” in Asperger’s! This jerk stalks people who refuse to be friends (even Facebook friends) or give a satisfactory explanation of exactly WHY they don’t want to be friends. Yes, it is just like a particular episode of “Frasier.” My acquaintance hasn’t burnt anyone’s newsstand to the ground yet; but police did respond to an incident highlighted by loud screaming, arm flailing, and hallway blocking. This person torments food service staff and retail store associates daily, demanding to know obscure, unknowable details about the items offered for sale, holding up lines of customers, making the captive employees squirm under intense interrogation. Oh yes: they are also accused of acting standoffish if they perceive personal insults (usually about their “hotness” or race) as anything but playful flirtation or camaraderie. When later asked “Didn’t you see you made her/him uncomfortable?” — ASPERGER’S SYNDROME is always provided as the excuse.

  • Cyn Huddleston

    I have Asperger’s and it makes me highly aware of right and wrong. I avoid doing certain things simlply because they are illegal.   I can see the  consequences of actions just because of my “understanding complex systems.”  It is right to understand people in light of their abilities and disabilities.  It is not a reason to excuse bad behavior.  Perhaps his sentencing could take this into consideration, but he should be tried.

    • qvision

       He thought he was doing right, he claims he never did any damage and the Crown PRosecution Servidce agree with him, in 2009 the CPS said there was no evidence of damage and it was all hearsday, and this was after looking at the US documentation on the case !

      So i don’t think he should be tried, his family and he have had this hanging over their heads for ten years and if he should be tried at all it should be in this country, he has admitted the unathorised access and the US authroties have no evidence of damage therefore no witnesses are required.

  • Tux

    The people that should be arrested and on trial are the management of the IT department of the Army whose systems were hacked for over a year!!!  This is not justice.  The US government has egg on its face and needs to find a scapegoat.  It is time for the congress to have hearings about the internal workings of IT in the military and to go through the SEC with a fine tooth comb for all our problems with the US economy.  Let’s place the blame where the blame belongs.  

    If there was any politician or a staffer with a brain in their head, the US government would hire him to do IT security work for us instead of  trying to pin our ineptitude on him.

  • Leslie

    Why not hire him to show the Pentagon the faults in their computer programs/systems?

  • Rubye Wright

    Complicated made simple.  Brainwashing is what schools are in the business of doing, and most children with different forms of Asperger’s Syndrome should be taught in a Montessori type environment of learning as in the purist sense these children are incapble of being brainwashed, and therefore incapable of holding ideas that make no sense like 99% of the laws that are on the books that cost taxpayers money and in point of fact make no sense.  Because all governments, without exception, are evil and stive to make evil good and just, governments truly can not legitmately enforce evil principles because the trees make make understanding the forrest illusive.

    The wealthy made rich by the governments should not be the only one’s who have access to information that belongs to the general public; since that the same as saying you can not have the right to read because you are a slave and this right is available to the wealthy only to separate you from me.  God certainly did not give certain human beings that right while denying it to others of the population.

    So what if the US had to waste in their estimation $700,000, it is no different than squandering money on a bridge to nowhere.  It was not as though he was not searching for something that many in the world suspect but can prove about UFO’s; he cleaned up information that should not have been there in the first place, and he made the human beings in government do their jobs as it was the human beings in government who were lax in protecting the American people by not randomly changing access codes giving the appearance that they wanted someone to hack into the computers to justify a need for their department and demanding more money for safegaurds that already exist.

    We have real problems in this world and people technically if not literally are free make individual prosuits that define each of us. He did not steal anything as information belongs to the people and it is the people who has paid for this information with their tax dollars and not the private human beings in government who are just as falable as the human beings in the private sector.  This is both a wreckless pursuit, a waste of the taxpayers’ dollars and an irresponsible distraction on the part of government to blame someone else for human beings in government’s shortcomings; as he has a God given right to use the mind that God has given him.  We did not convict George W Bush for treason and starting WWIII, and we pay him and his wife like clockwork for holding office and allowed him to run a second term, wasting taxpayer dollars on guarding him, allowing the rich to bankrupt the treasury, and allow Clinton set up the possiblity of sending all the factory jobs overseas which further lined the pockets of the rich will devaluing the rights of the middle class; and Regan was responsible for eliminating the voice of the middle class and poor by breaking up the power of the people with the abolishment of most unions to insure that the rich stayed rich and the middle class and poor stayed in their place.   So now we are here at a point where Obama is president and the mess that the White man made over decades is blamed on him and we have the nerve to harrass Gary who is legitmately not a criminal to pacify egos that do rate the harrassment on either side of the Atlantic…I vote set this man free.

    rubye

    • qvision

      Very well said.

  • http://twitter.com/SkodaAnswers Skoda Puzzle Answers

    Also does the crime itself affect the use of Asperger’s as a defence. For example Asperger’s often gets mentioned in court in cases of people downloading and collecting child pornography.

  • Pfishtein

    That is ridiculous!  What about all of the people with Asperger’s who don’t do things that have dire consequences.  It is parenting!!! Don’t try to “label”  things to excuse behavior.
    Maybe it was a combination of a Twinkie and Asperger’s.  Bad parenting is called many things. It is a shame it is now being called Asperger’s!

    • Valliharrison

      You have no idea what it is like to raise a son with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I have had to be my son’s advocate since he was 3 years old in order that he be treated as any child should be. 
      Don’t say anything derogatory about my parenting skills until you walk the walk!  How do you think it would feel to ask your child if it’s ok to give him a hug or watch him turn his socks wrong side out so the seams won’t be irritating to his exceptionally sensitive skin?  Or watch him restrict his food to only 5 or 6 items?   He graduated Magna Cum Laude from college but he just doesn’t care to interact with people.   How would it feel to be a parent to a child who doesn’t want to leave his room but substitute the computer for any kind of human interaction?
      Believe me,  I didn’t ask to have a child with Asperger’s!  My life would have been a whole lot easier with a child with an average IQ but with normal social skills!   How dare you indicate that any child with Asperger’s is because of bad parenting!  But I will say he has taught me to be tolerant of differences in people a lesson you must have missed out on!  He is so compassionate with animals, insects, and children.   He doesn’t allow any insect to be killed in the house.  He is the main reason I became active with our Humane Society because he loved puppies so I fostered puppies so we would always have them around for him to hug and love on.   Go eat your Twinkies!!!!

      • De

        Your son is lucky to have you and lucky have been born when he was. I did not know I had the disorder until I was 40!!! But whenever I tried to categorize my “weirdness” I always came up with the same thing: autism. But how could I be autistic when I functioned in everyday life with lots of effort?

        I can imagine that being an advocate, whether one is related or not, requires one to care deeply for the person with A.S. What makes it harder is that we Aspies have tons of commonalities, but there is no “textbook” case.

        I, too, graduated Magna Cum Laude while working and nursing my daughter. My Asperger’s obsession with keeping charts and graphs helped me to success. I charted every minute spent studying, every grade and even how long my daughter nursed on each side! Every nap was planned, every homework assignment triple checked. I wouldn’t have noticed a MONSOON as long as my charts and graphs were not blown away!  And heaven forbid my poor ex-husband do something as terrible as offer me encouragement or, God forbid, try to HUG me at the wrong time.  A simple touch could send me off the deep end and leave me completely undone.

        People like your son and like me are less likely to commit crimes, in my humble opinion. Why? Because those who love us know that we can turn a hobby into an unhealthy obsession and, therefore, those who love us track us down when they haven’t heard from us. One of my sisters
        won’t go more than 2 days without finding me down if she has not heard from me. last week, i had FOUR people searching for me because of a minor mis-communication. With that kind of overt support, I’d not have time to hack into anything!

        Best of luck to you and your awesome son.

      • leigh

        My son has aspergers and has more troubles than I can imagine one person
        having. I cry myself to sleep most every night b/c I can see that this
        person’s future is most likely going to be jail…it is too sad to talk
        about.  Aspergers is so very complex that the average parent couldn’t have that type of influence on their child to make them “bad” if they tried…blame the parent is very old psychiatry and is outdated (from the 50′s)and has gotten many innocent parents in trouble.   Some Dr’s and therapist (especially the older ones) are still prone to this thinking out of ignorance and need to go back to school for an update. Hopefully, with more research, parents of aspergers can come out of shame and into the help they need. I recommend to everyone a YOUNG psyciatrist and therapist who has the latest research or a highly specialized one who deals with aspergers so much that it is second nature…

    • Leigh

      The bad parenting rule for psychiatry is very outdated. The over simplification of mental illness  by saying, hey it’s the
      parents, is a very ignorant view and as in all cases of over simplification…just won’t cut it in reality and is what “bad” therapist and psychiatrist say when a patient is over their head or past their expertise…
      Autism and all it’s spectrum have nothing to do with parenting be it good or bad… as of yet, autisim is not clearly understood.

       And despite what many “PC” aspergers parents may say…those with that disorder, depending on the severity of the person’s disability of course, can be dangerous and criminal…and if they are,  they don’t understand or realize that they are…they just cannot see it.  The reality of this concept that you are right and they are wrong… is simply out of their grasp.

  • Mark Jones

    This author doesn’t seem to have his facts quite straight.  McKinnon didn’t shut down any systems – the Washington network (which incidentally had a purely administrative/ceremonial, and not defensive function) was shut down by the US military themselves, when they were finally alerted (by a US university) to his presence on the system, having ignored the many notes he left there, trying to alert them to their security failings. 

    According to evidence presented in London’s High Court in 2009,  McKinnon  did not cause a single dollar of damage to the systems he accessed, thus the allegations against him appear to be grossly overblown and without foundation in fact.  Note also that his actions did not constitute an extraditable offence – therefore extradition would not be lawful in this case.  We appear to have some seriously rogue prosecutors at work here.

    Given the Asperger’s, and given the lack of any evidence for any terrorist offence, it would clearly be inappropriate to employ anti-terrorism legislation in this case.  The UK has perfectly adequate and appropriate legislation to prosecute for the offences that appear to have been committed, so why do we not simply allow the law to take its course as is right and proper, instead of insisting on pursuing this vindictive,  inappropriate and unlawful extradition? 

    • Dixie T

      What was the US University doing on a purely Government site, I wonder????

  • Anonymous

    This is why it is important to employ people with Aspergers.  Someone should have fixed that security flaw but they where provably playing video games in their moms basement because they where too weird to get a job.

    • qvision

      LOL ! Nice one Mary :)

  • jon

    yes ….It also makes me question the system and the status Quo….Any government that Cannot secure its own information Is expecting trouble…..imagine what foreign governments can do with Far bigger resources than Gary – he like many others is just a convenient Scapegoat (think Assange…..)

  • reg

    what is the government hiding – a genuine fascination – this guy was not trying to undermine the computers by leaving a virus – if the systems are accessible in the public domain (ie the internet) and not “hacked” (ie breaking an encryption) where is the crime ???

  • Sguerra1 Sg

    One of the things that makes Aspergers different from other disorders, is people with Aspergers tend to bound & follow the rules, because they DO know the difference between right & wrong, that is what makes them sometimes not fit in, because they do not follow the “cool” the “in’ things other people specially kids do. They do not bend the rules, that”s way they are not popular or cool.    A lawyer trying to win a case using Aspergers as an excuse is crap, because at the end it will affect people with Aspergers more, as ignorant people will relate Aspergers with wrong doing.  If  the “national security” wants to  follow the same and agree that their system got broken into because this guy has Aspergers, well that’s just another stupid excuse to cover up their faults. He broke into the “high tech system”  because  he could outsmart all those high paid “geniuses” not because he has Aspergers.
    For those that relate Aspergers to bad parenting, well the day you live 24/7 with a kid with Aspergers then you can come to me and give me parenting advise, because all the books, and articles that you read will not even come close to the reality of dealing with a kid with Aspergers.  Just because you knew or work with some one that had Aspergers does not give you even a glimpse of  what Aspergers is really like.
    Einstein was believed to have Aspergers, how come no one has claimed that everything he did was because  of  Aspergers?
    And I wouldn’t doubt this guy is found guilty, brought to jail to the U.S and then use him  to help them develop a better system as part of the “deal”
     If the guy is found guilty for outsmarting somebody else, breaking into their system  and showing them their faults, fine. But if Aspergers is used as an excuse, well that’s just B.S.

  • BBMom

    Not buying the Asperger’s defense.  As a mother of someone with Asperger’s I know he is well aware of right and wrong — that’s the bottom line here — right choices vs. wrong choices.

    • qvision

      “bottom line”, “right vs wrong’”

      You obviously fall into the “black and white” category, how pleasant for you to have such an easy outlook on life, you don’t have to go to the trouble of thinking things through deeply or researching things thoroughly.

  • Karl Snow

    OK, McKinnon has been diagnosed as Asperger’s and not the only one! But your article questions whether Asperger’s MADE HIM DO what he did which in itself is a stupid statement/question. By questioning in that way you are criminalizing Asperger’s syndrome and almost hinting at that Asperger’s is almost a state of possession or that persons with Asperger’s are under a spell that you can wash away, cure, or something like that. Thereby taking any responsibility for this persons actions.
    You could as well question yourself whether what you are and stand for MADE YOU marry that woman you are married to. Or, if you are not married, that you are not responsible for that sex with other women/men; you were just under a momentary spell of lust and desire! Of course what you are lies behind your and every others actions, but not in a way of being possessed by something or someone without being responsibility for it.Well, if you can describe sexual lust and love as a state of possession and denying any part of responsibility in being in love or having sex, well, thats ok with me because then I would understand your statement/question a little better. But still it is false or not true/real, or show just little knowledge of or immature view of life and Asperger’s.

    A little puzzle for you: What made me comment on your article?

    • De

      Karl, as a woman with Asperger’s syndrome, I am embarrassed that  I did not include the vital point you made: ” By questioning in that way you are criminalizing Asperger’s syndrome
      and almost hinting  that Asperger’s is almost a state of possession”.

      KUDOS!!!

      Ofcourse who we are can in many ways contribute to what we do. That goes without saying. But the title of the article above sets up a nonsensical debate and, thus, made me defensive enough to want to explain how being an Aspie might CONTRIBUTE to McKinnon’s actions but not CAUSE his actions.

      Using Asperger’s as a defense can only harm those of us who have the syndrome. While deeper research into the case may indeed show that the disorder was an extenuating circumstance, I cannot accept it as a full defense.

      On another note- for those of you who have only recently learned of this syndrome: the issue is NOT that we don’t know right from wrong. We do. Our tendency to become fixated on a hobby, problem or puzzle to exclusion of ALL else is what can be problematic.

      On a separate note, I’ve no doubt that the photo of McKinnon wearing an intelligent, knowing look was carefully chosen. . .

  • Steve

    I have a friend who is almost the exact opposite of me in a lot of respects.  The biggest one being that he doesn’t mind breaking the rules.  I have Asperger’s syndrome and whenever we’re driving somewhere he hates it that I do things like, religiously follow speed limits and drive as if I’m taking a driving test.  For example he’ll tell me “just pull over here”, and I’ll respond “no that’s a double yellow line”.

    He knew fine well what he was doing, and as someone who has AS, there are things we do, and not knowing that you are breaking the law certainly isn’t one of them.  I find it insulting that he would use that as a defense.

    I would also say that while I don’t like to break rules, I do do it from time to time.  Such as downloading movies illegally, stealing stuff when I was a student.  That being said I am fully aware that what I’m doing is illegal, and I’m more than prepared to accept the consequences if caught.

    • qvision

      I bet you haven’t even looked up the consequences of downloading a movie illegally. If you do it in the UK and it’s a hollywood film you could be extradited with the possibility of waiting two years in a state penitentiary until your case even comes up ! In the US it is five eyars in jail or a $30,000 dollar fine, are you prepared to accept those kind of consequences, do you think they are fair ?

  • Procrustestheclown

    I have read much here about how Asperger people just cannot break rules and therefore there’s no way to link what McKinnon did with his condition, that there is fear that if such a defence works then all people with the condition will be persecuted, which is a scary notion for me; throw him to the wolves to protect us.  However, about the rules. AS people are often inclined to not follow rules if they deem them to be illogical or harmful. If there is a larger principle at play, if they think they can bring light into darkness, they will willingly break the rules.  They also tend not to be so impressed by rank and are more likely to “forget themselves” in the social hierarchy and thus be less impressed by for instance the majesty of the Pentagon. In the case of McKinnon, his special interest which gave him unusual pleasure and meaning in life required the uncovering of information in the way that he did. He would not have done it had he not had AS. He for one thing wasn’t doing it for money, profit, or to blackmail anyone. He didn’t try to cover up his tracks, really. He believed he was right. Neurotypical people would not have done this.

  • This man talks

    Gary thought that what he was doing was right. That’s the point that all you people have overlooked.

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