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back to article Home Sec to decide Gary McKinnon's fate by 16 October

A timetable has finally been set for the next phase of NASA hacker Gary McKinnon's long-running fight against extradition to the US. The UK government's Home Secretary Theresa May will decide by 16 October on whether McKinnon's diagnosis as an Asperger's Syndrome sufferer is sufficient to block his extradition, according to his …

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Anonymous Coward

Why do I get the feeling Ecuador's Embassy may get a little crowded before long?

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Anonymous Coward

probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

...about time.

I just wish they'd get on with it and let him face the consequences of his actions.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

probably not a very compassionate thing to say

There, fixed it for you.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

"probably not a very compassionate thing to say"

What's compassion got to do with anything? He admitted to committing the crime a long time ago and has been kicking and screaming ever since in an attempt to evade punishment. As far as I'm concerned he's waived any right to compassion.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

I don't think it was about not wanting to face charges, I believe its a matter of wanting to face charges/court in this country not the US.

Its a bit of a wierd one because the crime was committed here, not like he visited the US and committed the crime there.

Also the cynic in me thinks it probably has to do with any punishment dished out in US court is going to be more servere than any punishment here.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

I have to agree with a few of the above statements. this has nothing to do with compassion. I have the feeling that his Aspergers Syndrome was greatly exagerated for the sole reason of avoiding extradition.

After watching some of the videos in which he is interviewed I got the feeling that this chap does not really suffer too much from anything. I almost got the impression that he was proud of his achievements.

McKinnon was very aware of what he was doing, hell he even communicated with a staff member that was on site. The computers were on American soil and it would only seem fair that he was tried in an American court.

Obvioulsy the Americanas have greatly exagerated the damage claims and are trying to keep face but at the end of the day he was caught for breaking in to their systems.

This whole case has been a farce from the beginning but I still believe that McKinnon should not go unpunished for his acts. He should be given a punishment that corresponds to the crime though, that of accessing a computer unlawfully. he should also pay back the costs of reseting the default passwords......

In other words he should get a slap on the wrist and be ordered to do some community service.

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Flame

Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

He has already suffered far more than he should for the crime he admitted. Imagine one of the Greenham Common women were a nutcase who had cut through the wire and gone through an unlocked office on the US base looking for alien invasion evidence. She would have been tried summarily by local magistrates and either given a non-custodial community sentence or if she'd made a lot of mess doing it, a couple of weeks jail term.

She would not have had her life on hold for more than 10 years awaiting probable extradition, banned from using modern communications or persuing her career and paying taxes.

Time for Teresa to stick up for the rights of UK citizens and our non-colonial independant nation status and tell the US to fuck off.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

What's compassion got to do with anything? We tend to show compassion for the ill, and he's been diagnosed with a mental illness.

That you'd wish to deny him that compassion because he's been fighting for it is akin to chucking someone into the lake because they've denied they're a witch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

"The computers were on American soil and it would only seem fair that he was tried in an American court."

So it's OK to court a 12 year old so long as the servers you're doing it on are in Columbia* for example? Sorry but the crime was committed in the UK and should be tried by UK law.

I do agree with the rest of what you've said, also the 11 years he's spent fighting extradition should be considered in his punishment.

*http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

Asperger's Syndrome is not a mental illness. It's a condition which lies at the extreme end of normal male behaviour. By repeatedly touting the notion that Asperger's leads inevitably to untrustworthy, dishonest and paranoid behaviour, McKinnon's lawyers have done incalculable harm to other people with the syndrome.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

Justice with compassion or mercy is merely law.

"[Only] The wretched have no compassion, they can do good only from strong principles of duty. "

~ Samuel Johnson

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@Khaptain Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

"After watching some of the videos in which he is interviewed I got the feeling that this chap does not really suffer too much from anything. I almost got the impression that he was proud of his achievements."

One of the symptoms of a more extreme case of Aspergers is the reduced ability to both properly understand and properly enact emotional cues. It's akin to a lack of empathy. Despite what some believe Aspies feel and express emotion but they don't do it the way "normal" people do and, as a consequence, they often appear to display inappropriate emotions. He might appear proud (arrogance is an accusation often levelled at aspies; they tend to be aloof as a coping strategy and that can often be interpreted as something malicious or purposeful) but any apparent pride he displays has nothing to do with the morality of a situation.

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@Ian Johnston Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

Actually Jon, it is a mental illness, in the sense that the physiology of an aspergic brain is different from the average to a significant degree. The general defintiion of mental illness includes differing perception of the world; by that measure alone Aspergers qualifies.

It's not an extreme "male" behaviour either. My wife is aspergic. Her behaviours aren't masculine, extreme or otherwise (and I believe I'd know), they're simply the typical behaviours of someone with Aspergers.

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Definitely not a very sensible thing to say, but...

The information was certainly made available on British jurisdiction.

That should be the ultimate distinction. Not where the actual data was put into the wild.

No third party should be held to account for the shortcomings of a computer network.

If you don't want information made available don't put it in the disseminator. Why is that so difficult to understand?

Even a chimpanzee can understand that you don't just classify information; you put the stuff you don't want seen under a different carpet. In Cuba say, or Syria.

But why should any court anywhere have to decide what is in a country's jurisdiction?

If it was done here it has to be punishable here. Or at least examined here in the light of a less dictatorial xenaphobic nation.

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Stop

Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

He admitted to committing the crime a long time ago

No. He admitted to some things but has never admitted to doing all the US has accused him of. Just because someone admits they have been inside a house that's not an admission they burgled it, smashed it up, or caused caused huge costs to be incurred.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

So justice is a fashion statement?

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

My experience of Aspergers is that is very much a mental illness.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

'Also the cynic in me thinks it probably has to do with any punishment dished out in US court is going to be more servere than any punishment here.'

Sure thing! Amerikan judges don't usually praise the bravery of burglars! Nor do they let people off charges of violent assault on the grounds of being a devout Muslim (Cherie Blair did)! I can see the judge handing down a pat on the wrist and saying that McKinnon is very brave and deserves tea and bikkies.

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Re: @Ian Johnston probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

"Actually Jon, it is a mental illness, in the sense that the physiology of an aspergic brain is different from the average to a significant degree."

More accurately it is a neuropsychiatric disorder. That said, and you will hear these words in secure forensic departments of psychiatry up and down the country, there is a difference between mad and bad, and being unwell does not excuse bad behaviour; outside of courtroom dramas and Web 2 sites. Moreover, if his disorder is such that the general categories of disturbed behaviour are such that he habitually and continually offends, that it is beyond his control, then it is right and proper that he be kept in an appropriate environment, or at least that his circumstances are appropriately controlled and curtailed. I find it telling that the family have refused a psychiatric examination, their comments notwithstanding.

You see, the age old conundrum for an offender wishing to plead illness as a mitigating factor, is that - severity of offence depending - they merit at least a section 37, and possibly section 41 (court order, home office order). The latter is so powerful that few mentally disturbed offenders ever manage to have the restriction order lifted, and quite rightly so; they are dangerous. Danger of course does not necessarily entail direct physical violence; it could be, as recently happened in Poland, that someone breaks into the rail network and shunts the trains up and down, or it could be that someone makes out they are on a hunt for UFOs, or perhaps that they were given lots of classified data by a third party. People can be killed at the stroke of a pen, the push of a key or the stroke of a mouse.

The case of psychopathy is more than analogous; the last government, on assuming office, wanted to put into effect special orders for psychopaths, so that they could be pulled in if they had become dangerous. Psychopaths either have damage to the frontal lobes of pathways that efferent it or pathways it afferents; psychopathy too can be described as a neuropsychiatric disorder in which offending is beyond the control of the individual, and there is some evidence that (e.g.) tricyclic antidepressants and other 5HT psychotropic medication can help control these individuals, though the effect is weak.

Most people, with the correct advice, tend to go quietly into prison. The period of incarceration is far shorter, they come out sooner and get to offend sooner, until they eventually do something really bad.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

"That you'd wish to deny him that compassion because he's been fighting for it is akin to chucking someone into the lake because they've denied they're a witch."

Nothing of the sort. There is no compassion between justice now for someone who has committed a crime, irrespective of diagnostic category, and the unjust treatment of someone accused of a bogus crime, itself unverifiable, not subject to accepted science and replicable amongst the community of scientists. Aspergers is not witchdom. If he has Aspergers syndrome and has committed an offence, then the correct approach is to have him arraigned in the jurisdiction of the country in whose jurisdiction the equipment resides, and then have him assessed prior to trial; the judge will, at the point of sentencing and if he is found guilty, take into account mitigating circumstances.

If private individuals are given the impression that they can break into defence, security or other sensitive computers without facing the consequences in the country where this equipment resides, this will set a precedent. If you think that the US is going to let people get away with this kind of thing, or our government even, then I can only say that I am puzzled at your naïveté.

Finally, he is not mentally ill; he has a neuropsychiatric disorder. See, e.g., http://www.jaapl.org/content/34/3/374.full and do note their comments on empathy and neuropsychiatric disorders. As to whether judgements about right and wrong are beyond these individuals, I have my doubts, but read the article. Maybe there is some wriggle room there.

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Re: probably not a very fashionable thing to say, but...

" "The computers were on American soil and it would only seem fair that he was tried in an American court."

So it's OK to court a 12 year old so long as the servers you're doing it on are in Columbia* for example? Sorry but the crime was committed in the UK and should be tried by UK law."

Fine example of the argumentum non sequitur (that is, "it does not follow from"; that is not what he is saying at all. Where is the twelve year old? Where are the US government computers... ...in case you didn't notice the question contains its answer. In the instance of your specious straw man example I cannot say where the 12 year old is.

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The US is wanting to make an example of McKinnon to try and cover up the massive failings there were in US security. He managed to hack in with a commercially available product, administrator passwords were left blank or in the comments field, how could they have been so stupid?

I agree that McKinnon should answer for what he has done but he should not be put on trial the US, he should face his peers in this country.

Come on Home Secretary grow a back bone!

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Anonymous Coward

@adam payne

"The US is wanting to make an example of McKinnon to try and cover up the massive failings there were in US security."

Wow - great point. Nobody's ever suggested that before. And there probably won't be 70 other posts saying the same thing by the end of the day, either. The originality in Reg posts never ceases to amaze me.

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Re: @adam payne

Wow - what insight. When there's essentially only one reason for a course of unpopular and counterproductive action, who would there be anything but manifold references to it?

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IT Angle

You sure?

I agree that McKinnon should answer for what he has done but he should not be put on trial the US, he should face his peers in this country.

Well, in this cyber world we live in, the place where you are and the place where you commit the crime can be two countries can't they? Ultimatley he broke into a computer system in America ergo the "crime" was commited in America.

I guess if an American hacked into a UK system then the Yanks wouldn't hesitate to extradite him to the UK (oh, wait, sorry, the treaty is one way isn't it, forgot!)

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@Falanx

No insight required. Guy commits offence. Government wants to punish him. Bunch of Reg readers say it's just because the Government's embarrassed. Cos it's standard practice here to say, "Oh, bad Government practice, it's all their fault that someone gained unauthorised access to their systems. The fact he chose to do so is irrelevant." If you're going to try to stick it to The Man, at least come up with a more credible argument, or better evidence than other people on the same forum saying the same thing. What evidence is there that embarassment is the motivation, other than "It's obvious"?

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Re: @adam payne

"Wow - what insight. When there's essentially only one reason for a course of unpopular and counterproductive action, who would there be anything but manifold references to it?"

Quite right, quite right, and the argumentum ad populum is our most certain and productive form of truth, isn't it?... ...and, if that is so, then capital punishment is just around the corner.

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Which means Theresa May will actually decide on 17th October

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Splendid callback, sir. Splendid.

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Justice delayed

Whatever the ultimate outcome, how can it taking SEVEN YEARS (and counting) possibly be considered adequate? Yes, you go to court (Westminster Magistrates' Court, for extradition matters) ... maybe an appeal and even appeal the appeal, but playing musical court-rooms for the better part of a decade is just taking the mickey. Even now, we don't have an actual decision - just something to come from the Home Secretary, then back to the High Court again, then probably on to some other court after that ...

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Anonymous Coward

The US dont like to be embarressed

And that is the problem with his case, its not so much he did it, its the fact the US security was non existent and they where embarressed by the whole thing.

Any costs they incurred "fixing" this where the costs they should have spent doing it properly in the first place with proper staff training and proper security compliance.

That said, it doenst matter that they left the door wide open, McKinnon clearly knew what he was doing was unlawful and the crimes where committed on both US and UK soil so I guess its down to individual jurisdictions to deal accordingly and he could actually be tried and prosecuted in both.

The US should also prosecute the people responsible for the appalling security.

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Happy

Re: The US dont like to be embarressed

"The US dont like to be embarressed"

You should try the Russians; Putin was the subject of a very penetrating and negative analysis/report, and had the author killed. He used polonium. There was no sign of embarrassment, even when the trail was traced back to an Aeroflot plane used by the supposed killers, not a bit! ;-)

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So when are the US going to extradite all the ira men happily living there (y,know, actual terrorists as opposed to people who post links to tv shows)?

Anyway, this is all about the US being made to look a fool, I mean he didnt really hack much did he?, he just walked onto their servers with default pw`s etc. In a way he did them a favour by highlighting their awful, inexcusable security practices, at least he wasnt a terroist or Chinese or something.

Give him community service in the UK and be done with it, the negative publicity if he tops himself/is raped/is attacked in an American jail (which is quite likely judging by his mental state) wouldnt sit well with the governments of both countries, or the electorate.

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The Condom nation

See , a bad condom will be taken away and analysed for failures. That is what the Americans are doing to the Brits.

No condemnation accepted from a condom nation.

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Re: The Condom nation

What?

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Facepalm

Re: The Condom nation

Ooh, I know the answer to this one...

Get a grip!

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Bah!

For someone who supposedly didn't appreciate the legal nuances of unauthorized entry into a foreign military computer, he has a fine grasp of the nuances of the legal nuances of geography when it comes to going to trial.

Sorry, I buy his "didn't understand" defense about as much as I bought Reiser's "cleaning my car" explanation. But I would say that to a judge were I to be called for jury duty on this case and would have no say in the proceedings from that point on (in America).

On another note, has anyone else noticed the similarity of the Home Secretary to a Romulan? I hadn't until I saw the Reg's picture of him.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

I read something along the lines of anyone who allows US citizens to gamble on their websites were guilty of breaking US law no matter where on the planet the servers were.

So, I build a web server and host a gambling site and 'forget' to restrict the IP ranges as ostensibly belonging to America, and even though I live in the UK and have broken no UK law, I could be extradited to the US to be tried.

Actually, didn't this already happen?

The McKinnon thing is just another example of the US World Internet Police thingy gone mad.

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Re: Bah!

If you are referring to the business in Antigua, no it didn't already happen. In that case a US citizen formerly resident of California upped stakes for Antigua in a specific effort to evade certain laws (the tax statutes being one subset of them) and he was indeed prosecuted, but not for the offense the alleged criminal in the case at hand is accused of.

Gambling is a hot button issue in the States and the laws surrounding it are Knee-Jerk from the perspective of one who grew up able to legally bet on anything from horse racing to the date of the first snowfall. It took me years to understand it, and yes you break US law if you use US-based wires to conduct a gambling transaction (it is a variety of wire fraud in effect). Good luck finding a way to avoid doing that. Even the switching at the end office counts, so using your iSlab will still get you in hot water.

But what we have here is someone who broke into a military computer. Is it really reasonable to believe that he didn't think anyone would be very upset indeed about that, or that the people who were going to get upset would be insanely powerful with a long reach? The pentagon? When have they ever evinced a touchy-feely understanding manner when it comes to trespassers?

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't buy it. I didn't buy Reiser's car-cleaning with a hosepipe excuse either and got downvoted for saying so, so I sorta expected to get red-arrowed this time too, but I stand by my assessment of the situation as I see it based on the information I have now.

The lesson is clear; If you don't want the threat of being hauled summarily off to answer charges in the US don't f*** with computers that are the property of the US government.

Jeeze. Whatever happened to "if you don't own it, don't touch it?" No wonder we have stupid "attractive menace" laws that make it the owner's fault if a teenager crushes himself by effing about with a parked and properly secured motorcycle or drowns himself trying to gain access to a secured, private swimming pool.

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Re: Bah!

"The McKinnon thing is just another example of the US World Internet Police thingy gone mad."

Not really. Look at the body count for journalists in Russia, look at what happened to someone to whom the Chechen government took exception... ...in Germany. Look at how the East German state used to mount snatch missions in West Germany, and sometimes assassinations too.

If you fuck about with a defence computer in another country expect shit to happen. There is no excuse, Vicky Pollard stuff does not work here.

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Anonymous Coward

Crimes

A UK citizen breaks into a house in the US looking for evidence of UFO's. The house was insecure. Is it a crime in the US?

A UK citizen breaks into a computer in the US looking for evidence of UFO's. The computer was insecure. Is it a crime in the US?

If extradited, prosecuted and found guilty, the incompetence of the sysadmins should definitely mitigate against the severity of any punishment he receives - not much more than a slap on the wrist should be the order of the day. But he can't legitimately argue that it wasn't a crime in the US. Breaking into somebody else's computer is a criminal offence: that's something that a few people round here should do well to remember.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: REALITY

Clue #1. Breaking and entering is a "crime" no matter where it is committed.

Clue #2. It doesn't matter if the doors are locked or not when a crim B&Es a home or computer

Clue #3. If a person commits a crime in the U.S. that is where they are prosecuted

Clue #4. Extradition treaties are designed to return suspects or convicted criminals to the country they don't want to be held accountable in for their actions

Clue #5. McKinnon should and probably will be sent to the U.S. to face trial despite the bleeding hearts and ignorance of many

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Meh

If he doesn't get extradited, it's because of the Asperger's

If he does get extradited, it's because of the Assangeberger.

The US doesn't like to lose two in a row.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If he doesn't get extradited, it's because of the Asperger's

By law McKinnon must be returned to the U.S. for trial. All the other nonsense is irrelevant. Aspergers should not have any influence on the judicial process.

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Unhappy

Re: In a perfect world you would be correct.

However, this is not a perfect world. If you haven't noticed, it is a most imperfect world.

And if Asperger's is now used as a defense, it's because lawyers for the very rich used it to get their clients acquitted of charges that we plebeians would serve time for.

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WTF?

Re: If he doesn't get extradited, it's because of the Asperger's

"If he does get extradited, it's because of the Assangeberger.

The US doesn't like to lose two in a row."

Really? Baddeley and Hitch found the magical number 7 in studies of STM. It's a constant, there is a lot of data on the subject. Tell me, what evidence is there for your magic number two?

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Thumb Up

Re: If he doesn't get extradited, it's because of the Asperger's

"By law McKinnon must be returned to the U.S. for trial. All the other nonsense is irrelevant. Aspergers should not have any influence on the judicial process."

To be accurate, it's something that the judge weighs up when sentencing. Or perhaps committing the offender to a safe place.

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Facepalm

"what evidence is there for your magic number two?"

Dunno. Just because it's more than never, I suppose.

Try to figure a superpower out.

You can't live with them; you can't live without them.

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Re: "what evidence is there for your magic number two?"

"Try to figure a superpower out.

You can't live with them; you can't live without them."

Just wait until China eclipses the USA. It won't be long now, and the Chinese have absolutely no tradition of human rights, democracy, whistle blowing, nada. Their judicial responses are most harsh, and will stay so until long after the readership here is asleep 6' under the soil. For the meantime, the US looks quite gentle in comparison, right down to the matter of firing squads.

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