Janis Sharp, the mother of a British hacker who the United States intends to extradite for "the biggest military computer hack ever," issued a compelling public plea for mercy Friday during a press conference directed specifically at President Barack Obama, the BBC reports. The man, Gary McKinnon, 43, suffers from a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, and claims to only have been looking for information about UFOs in 2001 and 2002 when he was caught, according to the BBC.
Mr McKinnon admits hacking by accessing 97 government computers belonging to organisations such as the US Navy and Nasa, but denies it was malicious. He also denies the allegation he caused damage costing $800,000 (£487,000).
Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon had challenged refusals by the home secretary and the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to try him in the UK.
According to the BBC, Ms. Sharp enjoys the backing of 40 British MPs, who have sent a letter to Obama requesting that he "bring this shameful episode to an end." One MP, Andrew MacKinlay, has even resigned in protest following the British Parliament's failure to block McKinnon's extradition, the Telegraph reports.
In her public statements, she notes that Obama probably does not even know about her son's situation, given that it occurred during the Bush years, and she speculates that, "Obama wouldn't have this. He doesn't want the first guy extradited for computer misuse to be a guy with Asperger's [Syndrome], a UFO guy.
Asperger's syndrome is a lifelong condition, although it tends to stabilize over time, and improvements are often seen. Adults usually obtain a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. They are able to learn social skills and how to read others' social cues. Many people with Asperger's syndrome marry and have children.
Some traits that are typical of Asperger's syndrome, such as attention to detail and focused interests, can increase chances of university and career success. Many people with Asperger's seem to be fascinated with technology, and a common career choice is engineering. But scientific careers are by no means the only areas where people with Asperger's excel. Indeed, many respected historical figures have had symptoms of Asperger's, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Thomas Jefferson.
Watch Ms. Sharp's full press conference here.