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Terry Waite speaks for NASA hacker

Former Lebanon hostage says NASA should be grateful to Gary McKinnon for exposing the fragility of U.S. military systems.

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon ZDNet UK

The Pentagon should thank NASA hacker Gary McKinnon for "exposing the fragility" of U.S. military systems, according to Terry Waite.

Waite, who was held hostage in Lebanon for four years after being kidnapped in 1987, said that McKinnon's motives were "harmless," according to an article by Jack Doyle, a Press Association legal affairs correspondent.

"Gary is clearly a very clever chap," said Waite. "He has that unique ability to find his way through the Internet jungle and enter the inner recesses of the Pentagon. Full marks for his ingenuity. Was Gary a spy? Was he attempting to bring down the mighty military force of the USA? As far as I know, he was not. He was simply looking for little green men. Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with that problem (Asperger's Syndrome) will know that while the sufferer can be, and indeed often is, brilliant in certain logical processes, they can become irrationally obsessive in other directions. The Pentagon ought to thank him for exposing the vulnerability of their systems. More importantly, the accused is suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, and no nation under the sun ought to convict an individual whose behavior is occasioned by illness."

The Daily Record is running the unchanged Press Association article here, while the BBC is running its version of the article, with the same quotes, paragraphs in a different order, plus some slightly different body text here.

Waite joins a growing number of celebrities, parliamentarians, and legal experts who have said that McKinnon should at least be tried in the U.K., if at all. A whole range of people now support McKinnon, from Sting on one side of the equation to Lord Carlile on the other.

McKinnon has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum, and faces up to 70 years in jail if extradited to the U.S. and convicted under U.S. anti-terrorism laws.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.