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
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
quote: I'm not sure if it is criminal act, but I think the coverup is criminal (in the ethical sense).
quote: The crime was the attack on the van which stopped to render aid.
quote: Is it lawful to use the 30mm cannon on the Apache to directly attack personnel?