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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 michael67 on 6/10/2010 10:40:01 AM , Rating: -1
I think Lamo perfectly illustrates the difference between a rat (himself) and an informant (Manning).

hmm i have to disagree whit you on this one.

Manning got entrusted whit secret information, and sign for it to do so, the video's he released ware about covering up wrong doing, so i have no problem whit those, the cables on the other hand ware out of pure spite, and have noting to do whit the greater good.

Imo signing a confidentiality contract comes down to the same as the duties of a lawyer and client confidentiality, they can report when i crime is being committed (the video's) but they are not allowed to talk about anything else even if its morally wrong.

On the other hand i would not mind for having the US forging polecies mindset out in the open.
Working as a supervisor in the oil industry i have bin up close and personal whit some of the arrogance of it.

In my personal experience dealing whit US companies and officials, "American lives" and "American interest" go before almost anything else, as if the other side dose not count, and if the US is in a mouths stronger position then the weaker one they take advantage from it.

(Not saying that EU governments and companies don't do the same but most of the time there is a differences between them, properly because EU countries are smaller and have to work more together and have to see more the other point of view)

And i don't know if Americans know how arrogant it sounds every time we here "American lives" and "American interest" as if other life's are less important ore ore the "interests" of people that are worse of then we from the west is not maybe even more important.

Fact is that poor people are the most aggressive because they have noting to loos, so in long term there well being is also in there own interest.

That said i don't dislike Americans (true my work i made some real close US friends), just one particular side of there behavior, just like whit some friends you really like just one side of them you cant agree on whit them.

All that said i think bringing out those cables would be a bad idea, as sometimes in politics, you have to decide between to evils, and even if you pick the lesser of those, in those cables there are properly some tings said about those people that better not come in the open.

Unless WikiLeaks is going to be really responsible, in what they will bring out in the open, get help from experts on what the impact will be of every cable before releasing it.

If not i hope they will keep this one shelled, because this could have global financial and political impact that would far outweigh there benefits of having things in the open.

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