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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: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/9/2010 4:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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.


How the heck did you turn this into a discussion on religion? That kinda astounds me.

Yes, I made an error Monday, in the opinions I voiced in the comments section. I admitted it freely here. I voiced by opinions about the story in Monday's comments section that I would not have, had I had the information I now have.

I did that story *after* I finished hours of coverage on WWDC so I did not have time to review all the facts extensively. That's why I worked hard to deliver a followup. The original story was accurate, it was merely my comments, OPINIONS, in the commentary section that were flawed. That's why I'm now expressing my thoughts here to set the record straight on my current opinions on the issue.

Are you telling me you never changed your mind about something after further research?


RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By clovell on 6/9/2010 4:52:23 PM , Rating: 2
Aside - it was pretty cool that the guy gave you an interview. I always think it's really cool when you guys at DT get real interviews.

You did your job, Jason. At the end of the day, the readers are fully capable of thinking for themselves.


RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Mortando on 6/9/2010 5:04:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How the heck did you turn this into a discussion on religion? That kinda astounds me.

Pssst...: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/get+religion


RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By ekv on 6/10/2010 4:01:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I did that story *after* I finished hours of coverage on WWDC
Jayson, why do you deliberately misconstrue "get religion", a colloquial saying? Unless it were to sensationalize and pivot the conversation away from a sensitive topic.

Am I -- are we -- supposed to sympathize with you because you worked so hard on covering WWDC, but then jumped the gun [pun intended] here?

What really troubles me is, I'm supposed to cut you slack for changing your mind, but what about putting yourself in the position of the pilots in the video? or even in lamo's position? If the pilots screw up our people's lives are on the line. Those soldiers over there don't just work for a couple hours, they LIVE in the story. Those guys need support and guidance, not second guessing. Likewise, if lamo screws up who knows what nefarious deeds are committed by exposing diplomatic secrets.

There are situations where you shoot first and ask questions later. I learned the hard way that you don't do that all the time, and still look in the mirror. Similarly, the Blame-America-First shooting, as it were, has gone too far. I can only hope for a more balanced reporting.


RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/10/2010 8:10:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Jayson, why do you deliberately misconstrue "get religion", a colloquial saying? Unless it were to sensationalize and pivot the conversation away from a sensitive topic.


Yeah. I really find it hard to believe he's never heard that phrase used that way before. I donno...


RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By ekv on 6/10/2010 8:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
I get the impression he's trying to jerk your chain. He's in the wrong and yet he lashes out at you. And manages to spray bullets, as it were, every which way.

Flaming liberal opinion pieces are one thing, which I've unfortunately come to expect from Jayson, but balanced reportage is another. Reporting is practically a lost art. Maybe somebody jerking his chain, or a few sleepless nights, will set him to seek ....


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