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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 Grast on 6/9/2010 4:07:53 PM , Rating: -1
Adrian is NOT a victim here.

Why does everyone here thing the PEOPLE of the US has the right to see the gun camera footage. GUESS WHAT in any military action, CIVILIANS get killed and targeted the same as combatitants. I refuse to believe the solider with the gun cam set out to and purposefully fired on what he believed to be unarmed civilians. The soldier thought these people were combatitant and did his duty by firing on them and KILLING enemy.

Is this incedent regretable, YES. Is it going to happen again, YES.

Any time you have enemy combatitant which hide, dress, and use civilian as shields, you are going to have situations such as this. These are soldiers NOT POLICE.

I want OUR soldiers to fire on anyone they think is a threat. I would rather a civilian of these contries be killed rather than OUR SOLDIERS.

I digress. Adrian Lamo is TRAITOR and I HOPE he get convicted and sent to the firing squad.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By omnicronx on 6/9/2010 4:49:34 PM , Rating: 4
Yet another person that obviously did not watch the video.

I was truly disgusted with the footage, and I fully understand the conditions that these soldiers are subjected too. That being said, the actions of these guys just makes me sick.

Shelling a van with 50mm shells because he is picking up an injured person (who was not armed, you could clearly see from the video, the soldier even went as far as to say "Just pick up the weapon, please pick it up" when it was clear that was not what the journalist was after) cannot be justified period. There is no conceivable way that this could be construed any other way, they flat out lied on the radio when they were asking for confirmation . These actions resulted in the injury/death of a child that happened to be in the van.

Nobody was being used as a human shield, nobody ever engaged the helicopter that they could clearly see.. and they essentially lied on the confirmation requests to engage on multiple occasions.

In the end NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU WANT.. They MUST follow the rules of engagement. Because someone in a helocopter thinks they see a shiny object on 2 people in a crowd of people that they know do not have weapons is UNACCEPTABLE PERIOD.
We are there to maintain peace, killing 10 civilians to get 2 insurgents is completely unacceptable, and will not do anyone any good in the long run. It gives the rest of the soldiers, the military, and the US a bad name, and more of a reason for people in the area to continue attacks. Making matters worse, US soldiers were not in danger in the slightest.

I would completely understand if something like this happened in a stressful situation, but this was like killing fish in a barrel from a completely safe distance.

They should be Court Marshalled or better yet, charged with war crimes.

By maverick85wd on 6/10/2010 12:59:26 AM , Rating: 2
Just out of curiosity, have you ever been in a hostile area and engaged armed insurgents? How many of your friends would you need to see die or get seriously injured before you started hating those you are combating? Those boys are over there to kill people and break things, and that's what they were doing. If you're so against it, write your congressman and tell him to bring our boys home already, I will definitely agree with you there.

It's real easy to make these comments from the convenience of your living room or office, but no one cares about your superior morals. I agree with you often on many issues, but this is absolutely not one of them.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By tmouse on 6/10/2010 8:56:32 AM , Rating: 3
Of course because insurgents have big I's on them and civilians have big C's. As for the child IN the van I guess they should have used their x-ray specs. "Human shield" does NOT always mean the literal (hiding behind someone) just having them around make them shields, that's why many ammo dumps and C&C centers are in schools and hospitals when you fight guerilla wars. You also have no idea what is "a safe distance" vs. a RPG, unlike movies helicopters do not do those fantastic stunt rolls to narrowly miss multiple incoming missiles, they simply go up in flames. There are MANY, MANY incidences of vans loading up wounded and people coming out of those same vans firing RPG's to cover their escape. This may be a wrongful action but none of us here have all of the facts. Most combat footage looks really, really bad taken by itself, the JAG is the best place to sort out the facts not the court of public opinion.

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