Saturday, 20 October 2012

US Attorney General fulminates over McKinnon and Megrahi

[The following are excerpts from a report in today’s edition of the The Daily Telegraph:]

America is preparing formally to complain to Britain over Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to block the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon (...)

A strongly-worded letter from US attorney general Eric Holder was due to be delivered to Mrs May’s office at the Home Office last night.

The row over Mr McKinnon has turned into the biggest cooling in trans-Atlantic relations since Lockerbie bomber was released three years ago.

Senior US officials are now understood to describe the relationship between the Obama administration and Mrs May as “finished”.

Mr Holder is understood to feel “completely screwed” by Mrs May’s decision not to extradite Mr McKinnon because of doctors’ fears that he might kill himself, complaining that the US has wasted million so pounds on legal fees for the case.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Holder has refused to return Mrs May’s phone calls since her surprise announcement on Tuesday.

The depth of ill-feeling could jeopardise co-operation with the US over security because Mrs May leads for the UK in talks with Washington.

A senior administration official said: “This was a cheap political trick by Theresa May to further her political career.

“Mrs May told us in July that there were no legal or medical grounds to block his extradition, and then she changed her mind without having the decency to inform us.”

The official said the row had comparisons with row over the Scottish Government’s decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset Al Megrahi in 2009.

The source said: “After all the controversy over the release of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya on humanitarian grounds, this decision on Gary McKinnon does not inspire confidence that the British government is serious about dealing with serious security issues.” (...)

American officials were surprised by the sudden change in stance because Mrs May told Mr Holder in a letter on July 12 there were no legal or medical grounds to block McKinnon’s extradition to the US.

According to former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson, Mrs May admitted to Mr Holder in July there were also “ramifications for national security” if the extradition was blocked.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on Ministerial correspondence.”

[Earlier instances of Attorney General Holder’s involvement in the Megrahi case can be found here.]

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