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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 JediJeb on 6/9/2010 4:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
Did you also see the unedited video with the audio included? In that you hear the crew of the helicopter repeatedly asking command if they should fire or not. Command was reviewing the gun camera feed and made the decision to fire. Also when zooming in there are weapons present carried by others there not the journalists. The journalists just happened to be in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time.

Furthermore what exactly do you call a death as a result of disobeying the rules of engagement?

There was also no markings on the van which was assisting the people known to have guns, and the same type of van had been used before to transport insurgents to places to fire on our helicopters. The rules of engagement say you can't fire on vehicles marked as medical and such, but there was not red cross on top of that van to mark it as an ambulance in a war zone.

While this was a tragic event, it does not violate the rules of engagement. Also journalist know before they enter a war zone that they should be sure not to be around enemy combatants or their life is in danger.

These guys were trigger happy morons, just looking for a reason to release havoc. I also don't see why you are so hung up on them being journalists. This is completely irrelevant, the point is for all they know, they were opening fire on civilians.

Since the insurgents don't wear uniforms they look like civilians. Again if you listen to the audio, you will hear these are not just trigger happy morons, but soldiers doing their job by the book.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By omnicronx on 6/9/2010 5:28:40 PM , Rating: 1
you will hear these are not just trigger happy morons

You are living in denial my friend.

"look at that bitch go"

"nice missile"

"Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."

Furthermore, I've read many reports. Insurgents don't just sit out in the open when they see an attack helicoptor, they were circled numerous times before they were engaged. Usual behavior is for insurgents to run and hid and/or attempt to use the RPG's (that they apparently had right?).

I've listened to the entire thing many times, it was like they were in a computer game. This is not war, and these guys were having fun doing it.

Furthermore if this was all common and within the rules of engagement, why did the military lie?
"They said that the children were injured by shrapnel and the people who were killed were identified positively as militants who had put the security of Iraq at risk and that they had ... weapons.
They had the VIDEO, this is not how it went down and they know it. These children were injured from 30mm fire, not from shrapnel. And lets not get into the fact that obviously they could not have identified all the men as insurgents.

Witnesses of the event (including other reporters) also directly contradicted the military's story.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By clovell on 6/9/2010 5:36:17 PM , Rating: 3
There were RPGs sighted the area prior to the clip. The chopper was brought in for support. The ground was considered hot. It was a war.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Dologan on 6/9/2010 6:21:04 PM , Rating: 2
And that somehow immediately turns every person in civilian clothing into an insurgent and every black thing with a strap into a weapon?

What about the perfectly reasonable point of people in the most un-insurgent-like way possible? Once outside, was there anything these people could have done not to be fired upon? Surely running back inside at the sight of the helicopter would have been regarded as perfectly natural in the charitable judgement of these fine soldiers...~

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By clovell on 6/10/2010 10:19:46 AM , Rating: 1
Nope, it sure doesn't. Like I said, they fucked up.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Dologan on 6/9/2010 6:08:26 PM , Rating: 1
Since the insurgents don't wear uniforms they look like civilians. Again if you listen to the audio, you will hear these are not just trigger happy morons, but soldiers doing their job by the book.

So the conclusion is to regard all civilians as insurgents? Sorry, that's just a logic fail and it seems to be the one the soldiers are using.

The people there did nothing to indicate they were insurgents. All it took was for a few of them to have something vaguely resembling a weapon for the soldiers to claim without a shadow of doubt that they were AK47s and RPGs; conclude they were definitely up to no good and begging to be allowed to shoot. Really, is that all it takes to decide on the life or death of a bunch of people?

And then during the rescue attempt the damn soldier was even asking aloud to be given an excuse to shoot the already wounded person. If that is not being trigger happy, I don't know what it is.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By tmouse on 6/10/2010 8:25:32 AM , Rating: 4
I don't know what it is

That pretty much sums it up.

UNTIL you have been in such a situation you can simply have ABSOULTLY NO IDEA what it is like. You say a lot of things, your adrenalin is through the roof. I HAVE been in a similar situation, the fact that the wounded person was treated and not shot was a testament to my restraint, but if they had moved toward the weapon or if it looked like they had an explosive on them I would have killed them. Does that make me a gung-ho blood thirsty murder? Well let's see; on one of our in land missions we came across a village that was believed to be a base for the hostiles in the areas. Those SOB's thought nothing of wiring a grenade to a child's doll and having the girl (around 5) give it to one of the soldiers. Nothing like seeing someone you know get blown to bits while receiving a "gift" from a child. DO you then kill every child you see? of course not; do you find yourself saying if that f@@@ing kid comes over here I'll blow her head off for a while, unfortunately you do that's the horror of war and its 100 times worse when the hostiles do not wear uniforms. Unfortunately if you always wait for them to shoot first you are guaranteed to return home in a body bag. It's a hard call to determine how much suspicious activity justifies action, sitting back in a chair free from worry, looking back on the results and having all of the time in the world, it is easy to call something "clearly" right or wrong, but quite frankly until you have BEEN in that situation you are not qualified to judge the "facts". I'm not sure if this was or was not justified (quite frankly I have not seen the clips nor do I want too I've seen more than I want to first hand), this was in the JAG's office, their people have ALL of the facts available, like it or not they are in the best position to determine whether or not something went wrong and believe me the people in JAG are not gung-ho shoot first and ask latter types. The court of public opinion (and that stupid slob who made himself the sole judge over what should and should not be released)is simply no way capable of reaching a fair determination. There is a place for true whistle blowers (when things are being covered up but here it was clearly still an open investigation)but this guy is not one of them.

(sorry if this was a bit long and run on but it takes a lot of restraint to not come off as some sort of "gung-ho" crack pot when I read some of the judgements being made here)

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By T2k on 6/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By tmouse on 6/16/2010 3:44:42 PM , Rating: 3
Yes your post clearly shows us your superior intellect. I'll match my advanced degrees against your any day son.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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