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Adrian Lamo  (Source: Facebook.com)
"It was one of the hardest decisions I've made", said Lamo, but lives were at stake

Yesterday's story about U.S. Army Intelligence officer, SPC Bradley Manning's arrest received a lot of attention, which perhaps is not surprising.  It had all the trappings of high drama -- a young military officer leaking confidential media onto the internet, computer crime, and national security.

Immediately after writing the story, we contacted Adrian Lamo, the man who turned in Manning, to try to get his perspective on why Manning is in his current legal predicament and why he felt the need to turn him in.  Lamo graciously responded and we conducted a phone interview, gaining a lot of insight along the way.

Lamo, who currently works as a journalist and security expert, says that the situation was anything but ordinary.  He states, "People confess federal crimes to me every day and I don't turn them in.  But those cases didn't have this kind of national security risk."

He says that Manning's initial leaks might have been justified.  He says, "Certainly, releasing the gun cam footage would have been something I would have done in his place."

The gun cam footage referenced came from a 2007 attack on unarmed civilians who were mistaken for having weapons.  The civilians were journalists and the weapons turned out to be actually camera equipment.  A Reuters employee was killed in the attack.  A second attack in 2009 was also leaked and showed another strike, this time in Afghanistan, which killed apparently defenseless civilians.

However Manning's desire to leak went beyond just a quest for the truth.  He stated that Manning was "pending discharge" and "not a routine discharge".  This discharge was in no way related to his leaking activities, but Lamo did not wish to divulge the reason, out of respect for Manning's family.

He says that Manning basically was "disillusioned with the system, had internet access, and saw a solution that was far easier" than pursuing channels within the government.

Lamo says the point where Manning crossed the line was when he leaked the diplomatic cables.  According to Lamo, "He described them as not particularly damning, but he just wanted to release it regardless.  He talked about creating chaos in the U.S. foreign policy."

As much as Lamo says he hates the abuse and overuse of the word "nation security", he says that the leak constituted a real threat.  He points out that the diplomatic cable contained conversations that would likely be taken out of context, much like what would happen if  your full email record was leaked and all your friends, family, and coworkers found out what you were really saying about them.  Lamo states, "On a scale of nations [the creation of] a hostile environment can cost lives."

Lamo says he has repeatedly likened Manning's activities to "a kid playing with a rifle, shooting shells in the air", commenting "sooner or later someone is going to get hurt"

He says that suggestions that he somehow owed the government information are utterly ridiculous. He says that you can easily gain access to his plea agreement from his 2003 arrest (for hacking into Microsoft and New York Times servers) and there was no provisions in it that he would "do anything of the sort". He also points out that he successfully completed probation and has no obligations to the government. He says that they wanted him to "sign a form" not to discuss this information, but that he refused to do so, which is how he was able to talk to first Wired and now DailyTech on this subject.

As far as general thoughts on the topics of leaks, he says he generally stands by Wikileaks.  He says that despite repeated attacks on him and fellow security expert Kevin Poulsen by Wikileaks director Julian Assange, he still supports and donates to the site.  He says, "Wikileaks is an important source, regardless of who runs it."

He adds, however, that it needs "more oversight". He suggests a model like is used in a missile silos -- have a couple people screen every decision to post, rather than leave that discretion to just one person. That way, "common sense" would hopefully prevail and someone would prevent the leaking of information that would pointlessly endanger countries.

That said, he also adds that he would suggest that those looking to leak in the future consider first going to news agencies with information.  He says he is not aware of the Washington Post, for example, ever endangering the national security of the U.S.  He also encourages people in positions like Manning to contact him or other experienced individuals before they act, not after.

He continues, "Informing on him was a very hard decision for me, one of the hardest I have ever made.  I was also arrested [around] his age, so I know what it's like."

Asked if Manning had a future and could one day be successful, Lamo responds, "Absolutely.  If nothing else, he can get a book deal out of it."

 



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RE: Unarmed civilians?
By MozeeToby on 6/9/2010 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
A) The 'combat zone' was downtown where thousands of people live and work every day.
B) It is neither illegal, nor uncommon to carry unconcealed weapons in Iraq, up to and including AK47s. Admittedly, this says nothing about the misidentification of the camera as an RPG.
C) When the gunner opened fire on the reporters and their bodyguards, that was an unfortunate accident; their behavior and equipment did look suspicious and the missed ID is understandable under combat conditions. However, when he opened fire on the completely unarmed civilian who stopped to help the injured, that went from accident to something else entirely. At a minimum dishonorable discharges for the gunner and person who gave him permission to fire, at maximum it could be considered a violation of the Geneva conventions and as a result a war crime.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/9/2010 2:57:20 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
A) The 'combat zone' was downtown where thousands of people live and work every day.
B) It is neither illegal, nor uncommon to carry unconcealed weapons in Iraq, up to and including AK47s. Admittedly, this says nothing about the misidentification of the camera as an RPG.
C) When the gunner opened fire on the reporters and their bodyguards, that was an unfortunate accident; their behavior and equipment did look suspicious and the missed ID is understandable under combat conditions. However, when he opened fire on the completely unarmed civilian who stopped to help the injured, that went from accident to something else entirely. At a minimum dishonorable discharges for the gunner and person who gave him permission to fire, at maximum it could be considered a violation of the Geneva conventions and as a result a war crime.


Exactly. In Iraq you virtually have to carry weapons for self-protection, and that was even more so the case three years ago, during the period of rampant civil disorder.

U.S. military contractors openly carried weapons.

You summarized the incident perfectly. It was poor judgement to mistake the civilians for insurgents just because SOME of them were armed, and worse judgement to continue to fire on those who were trying to drag bodies out of the line of fire.

That said, what Manning did with the diplomatic message leak seems equally wrong. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Smilin on 6/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Moohbear on 6/9/2010 3:13:47 PM , Rating: 3
You forget to mention there was a military operation going on in the neighborhood, with troops, fighting, everything... It was not "just another day". The chopper was deployed to support ground troops who were under fire.
I'm not saying it's okay, it's really horrible. But it was a tragic accident, the pilots and the ground crew supervising them followed procedures so it's unfair to paint them as cold blooded civilian murderers. This is not My Lai. Watch the video again and ask yourself if you would have known what was going on. And again, it could have been avoided if those people had stayed home during the shoot out.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By mcnabney on 6/9/2010 3:14:44 PM , Rating: 3
I totally agree. The crime was the attack on the van which stopped to render aid.

However, I don't like the idea of every person in government thinking that they should dump a bunch of information on the Internet whenever they get a wild hair up their ass.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Ammohunt on 6/9/2010 3:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
I suggest anyone that has interest in this spend some time watching gun camera footage on sites like miltary.com. there are hundreds of videos just like you described insurgents dressed in civilian attire behaving exactly like the video you just described meeting their maker.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By MozeeToby on 6/9/2010 3:39:46 PM , Rating: 2
The people in the van had no weapons, didn't try to pick up weapons, didn't do anything that you or I wouldn't do if we came across injured people lying in the street. Keep in mind that the gunships were much farther away than the video makes it seem, 2-3 seconds flight time for the bullets (not sure what the muzzle velocity of an Apache's 30mm gun is but I'm sure it's not low). They probably didn't even realize they were being watched.

So I ask you, if you were driving down a deserted street and saw 5-10 people lying in the street bleeding and dying, what would you do? Because if you say anything other than run away as fast as possible, there's a good chance you would have been lit up with a few dozen 30mm rounds for your trouble.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Ammohunt on 6/9/2010 3:58:23 PM , Rating: 2
I would be the guy behind the gun camera using my best judgement based on experince fighting a war like this thinking that re-enforcements have arrived and go about blasting the van with whatever i had just like i did dozens of times before that. All the while knowing that journalists have enough sense to stay out of active combat zones.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By theArchMichael on 6/9/2010 4:06:16 PM , Rating: 2
I THINK they two guys in the gunship were talking and said that they recognized the vans were just there to pick up wounded, so they were not working under the assumption that they thought that reinforcements were coming.

I'm not sure its been a couple of weeks since I've seen the video...


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By theArchMichael on 6/9/2010 3:51:59 PM , Rating: 3
But is there a reason why some footage is released and some is highly classified? like the aforementioned was. I've seen the video and I felt it distastefully depicts the US military through their own actions. A van that the unit assumes is going to collect wounded is destroyed because it doesn't have the official Red Cross or Red Crescent... its just not a good look.

I'm not sure if it is criminal act, but I think the coverup is criminal (in the ethical sense).


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By rsmech on 6/9/2010 10:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not sure if it is criminal act, but I think the coverup is criminal (in the ethical sense).


You may know more about this than me but according to the previous article it was stated that this video was found in a JAG file. I thought that being in a JAG file would possibly indicate a potential investigation. So if there is a potential ongoing investigation where's the cover up? Could it be that this is another example of the military justice system trying to do what the are suppose to do, when a potential crime is commited to investigate it. There is a difference with justice being served & propaganda for the enemy.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Ammohunt on 6/10/2010 2:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
Thier are many reasons how about operation security? the enemy watches TV do we want video of recent operations broadcast? so they can learn tactics or know where our areas of interest is? People make the mistake thinking that soldiers are Police Officers and apply the same standards to them as they would a beat cop. Therein lies the true injustice of this video soldiers doing their job isn't pretty and frankly if i were in command of the soldiers in this video i would have them done the same thing.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By beerhound on 6/9/2010 4:21:11 PM , Rating: 2
The primary reason this happened is the difficulty in distinguishing between insurgents and civilians. They go out of their way to look like civilians because they know that a misidentification can lead to civilian casualties and a nightmare in the press for the troops.

The problem is, that the insurgents use those types of vehicles as support vehicles too. That pilot and gunner had no way of knowing that children were in that vehicle, it looked and operated exactly the way you would expect the insurgents to operate. It rushed in to give aid to combatants, lacking any information to the contrary, that makes it a target.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/2010 5:35:06 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
The crime was the attack on the van which stopped to render aid.


How could they have possibly known that??

The amount of hindsight you guys are using to criminalize this chopper crew is just ridiculous!!! They didn't have six months to pour over camera footage. They had to act that instant! And they had orders. They weren't just out cruisin' for civilians to kill...


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By mcnabney on 6/9/2010 6:07:31 PM , Rating: 3
Because the door to the van opened and nobody with guns came out. That driver went straight to the wounded, just like any good person would do. If it was a van full of insurgents they would have busted it out of there after seeing a gunship rip into those people.

Which brings up another topic. Is it lawful to use the 30mm cannon on the Apache to directly attack personnel? Seriously, rules of warfare - of which the US is a signatory - limit the use of heavy weapons against non-vehicle/fortification targets.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Unarmed civilians?
By Ammohunt on 6/10/2010 2:15:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well said! thats what a soft life does to people if your primary daily concern is a clan event in your favorite video game. Take comfort in knowing that these people have no idea how to survive with out a microwave for their burritos.


RE: Unarmed civilians?
By VultureTX on 6/9/2010 4:10:12 PM , Rating: 2
Prove it! -- that carrying an ak-47 in mufti is legal.

It is legal for each household to possess a registered ak47 and one magazine according to the DoD. I see no law that says it is legal to carry one in public. I also note that video does not back up your statement regarding open carry in Baghdad.

and of course the presence of an RPG in the group makes the group insurgents or involuntary martyr shields for an rpg toting insurgent.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














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