There was great excitement here in Old Queen Street when Lord Carlile, the Government’s own adviser on anti-terror law, announced that Alan Johnson can and should
help poor Gary McKinnon. McKinnon is the computer nerd who hacked into the Pentagon looking for evidence of UFOs, but who is soon to be extradited and tried as a terrorist in America. Lord Carlile – not usually a dovish man – thinks a great injustice is being done (Mckinnon might get 70 years in a ‘supermax’ prison) and has said that the Home Secretary should prevent it.
So we called the Home Office to find out when Alan Johnson was planning to act. “The Home Secretary can do nothing. This is a matter for the judicial review,” said his spokesman. So why does Lord Carlile think he can? “The Home secretary can’t influence the DPP.” Ok, well even if the Home Secretary has no clout with the DPP, surely he can at least add his voice to the growing group of those concerned harmless Gary might die in a US prison? “The Home Secretary has no influence.”
Well, that’s as may be. But the fact is that of course it’s easier for Alan Johnson to lay low and ignore McKinnon’s plight, but he should at least consider the consequences of his cowardice. If he lets a vulnerable man with no previous convictions, who intended and did no real harm, be crushed by legislation designed for brutal, Islamist bombers, he will forfeit what’s left of the public trust in politicians. And the next time he, or the Home Office, try to reassure the British people that some heavy-handed, anti-terrorist, freedom-curtailing law will never be used against an innocent civilian, there will be a two-word reply: Gary McKinnon.