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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 omnicronx on 6/9/2010 5:15:14 PM , Rating: 1
07:41 Come on, let us shoot!
06:33 Come on, buddy.
06:38 All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.

Nah these guys were not gun ho.. Nah they were not waiting for confirmation making comments such as 'Come on, let us shoot'. This was no mistake, we can see the video when they are talking on the radio making claims that for all intents and purposes were lies, or extreme exaggeration of the truth.

They were not under pressure, nor were they being engaged. So exactly how do you just 'fuck up' under this situation? And even if they did, are you seriously trying to imply that mistakes should go unpunished?

I.e just because something was a mistake, does not mean you are not liable. These are soldiers, war is their job, I would understand if this were stressful situation (or a situation in which decisions were made immediately because time was an issue), but that was not the case here. They were flying high in the sky and not once were they ever engaged.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By kyp275 on 6/10/2010 2:32:30 AM , Rating: 3
Way to go on letting your bias color everything you see and hear.

Fact 1: The incident occurred in an area that has seen fighting took place throughout the day.

Fact 2: There are friendly right down the street that is vulnerable to attack. (the journalist's camera even had photos of the coalition vehicles)

Fact 3: While the journalists did not have weapons, the men they were with did.

You know what's worse than getting shot at and killed in combat? it's letting your buddies and fellow servicemen get killed because you did or did not do something. Flying air support missions does not mean "shoot back after friendly forces get killed only", and don't even try to imply you even remotely understand what it's like to be in combat, that's just insulting to the rest of us.

and while you're at it, it may help to actually read the report from the actual investigation so you actually know what you're talking about.

RE: Adrian Lamo is the victim...
By Jaybus on 6/10/2010 1:07:45 PM , Rating: 1
There were armed enemy soldiers, insurgents, or whatever they are called these days, running in the streets. Anyone amongst them is either one of them, aiding them, or an idiot for not getting off the streets. Someone did fuck up....the journalists. You don't fight wars by waiting until you are engaged. General Patton put it best. "No dumb bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won the war by making some other dumb bastard die for his country." The journalists may not have been dumb bastards, but they were unlucky bastards. Fairness, righteousness, and civility are not words that are associated with wars.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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