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Adrian Lamo  (Source:
"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: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By theArchMichael on 6/9/2010 4:02:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote: Had he not acted, the possible lives lost would be on his conscience. How ironic. We're WE the ones in your other article pointing this out? All you were interested in was accusing the military of a cover-up. Jason, here's a hint. If I wanted to cover up an event, why would I leave the only video proof of it in existence on a computer that others have access to? I would delete the file, reformat the drives, demagnetize the drives, melt the computer down with acid, chop the hard drives into 30 pieces, melt THOSE down with acid and burn them, then deposit the ashes in 30 different States. I find it hilarious that you had to talk to a hacker, a criminal himself, to finally get religion and look at this with some shred of common sense. If I were you, I would be seeking some serious self reflection about my belief system right about now.

Are you saying that the video is invalidated because the person who delivered the video in question may not have had the best intentions? I think the video was classified for a reason, it had been requested by Reuters and others since like 2007 or right after it happened. A request which was repeatedly denied, while "hundreds" of other videos of gunship 'battles' are released for public consumption. I'm not sure if the activities in the video are illegal. But certainly, at the very least, I think a lot of Americans would be shocked at what some here describe as routine military behavior.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Dologan on 6/9/2010 6:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
...split second life or death decision making this chopper crew was dealing with...

Are you serious? Come on... There was never any sign of threat to the helicopter. The people on the ground weren't even paying attention to it.

The simple fact is lots of Americans are idealistic pacifists and believe NOTHING is worth going to war for.

And just what exactly is worth going to war for? Bogus WMD? Oil? The Righteous Crusade to bring Democracy to the unenlightened masses?

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Klinky1984 on 6/9/2010 8:56:22 PM , Rating: 3
Instead of blathering with pointless labels, how about you actually answer the question? What was the point of the Iraq war? 727 billion dollars & one hundred thousand lives(Iraqis count too!). What did it get us or the Iraqi people?

By maverick85wd on 6/10/2010 12:53:32 AM , Rating: 2
What did it get us or the Iraqi people?

It got us way into debt and it destabilized their nation. Not to mention the profuse loss of life on both sides.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By kyp275 on 6/10/2010 2:40:49 AM , Rating: 2
Are you serious? Come on... There was never any sign of threat to the helicopter. The people on the ground weren't even paying attention to it.

The Apache was flying air support, there were friendly ground forces nearby that could have came under fire.

And just what exactly is worth going to war for? Bogus WMD? Oil? The Righteous Crusade to bring Democracy to the unenlightened masses?

Reclaimer's point on that is very valid, as for things that are worth fighting for... that's a personal decision to make, but try looking at WW2 for some easy examples.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Zoridon on 6/10/2010 8:16:04 AM , Rating: 2
I have to ask for your definition of WMD? In my mind it is the end result that matters not the question. Did tens if not hundreds of thousands of people die under Saddam...yes. Did he gas his own people and wipe out several towns....yes. would the end result of taking a dull butter knife and use it to kill 10,000 people be the same as dropping nerve gas on a village and killing the same amount of people?... yes How about the mass graves they dug up with bodies hands tied behind their backs broadcast on CNN after we discovered them thanks to the reltives who showed us these examples of genocide? I refuse to accept your or anyone elses defininition of WMD when the end result is "Mass Death" it is the same thing, your using lawyer like politcally correct bs to hide the answer. Unable to see the forest due to the tree in front of your blind face. You ask for WMD and I show you a picture of Saddam.

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