January 04, 2013

Bradley Manning — Adrian Lamo unapologetic about ratting him out

One of the saddest things about Bradley Manning's case in military court is how he was ratted out after online conversations with hacker Adrian Lamo. (The next saddest thing, after that, outside Team Obama's actions, would be how Wired magazine has repeatedly refused to release all the info it has about this story and its connections to Lamo, even after persistent badgering by the likes of Glenn Greenwald.)

Well, Lamo recently sat for an interview with the Guardian, and he's defiantly unapologetic about the ratting, or about allegedly misrepresenting himself as either a journalist or a minister and thereby allegedly promising Manning either source or confessional confidentiality.

Here's the nut grafs between interviewer Ed Pilkington and Adrian Lamo, identified by initials:
EP: Early on in your chat with Manning you reassured him about your trustworthiness, telling him you were a journalist and a church minister and that either way he'd have legal protection against his identity being revealed. That was clearly misleading, as things transpired, and your critics have accused you of lying to Manning by promising him protection. Do you regret having done that?

AL: Professionally and personally speaking, it's not my function to have people arrested. That's something that would ideally fall to law enforcement. In this matter, the harm from the subject's continued freedom appeared to objectively be greater than the harm of interdicting him. The offer was never meant to be construed as a suicide pact, and no one had ever mistaken it for one.
In the specific context of the logs, it's also relevant to note that the offer was never affirmatively accepted – it proposed two possible conditions, and one was never chosen.

EP: I want to press you on this point. If a priest, or a journalist, promises to protect someone's identity or confession, they can't then turn round and say: 'Oh, you've told me something bad, therefore I'm going to turn you in.' By telling Manning you would protect him (whether or not he accepted your offer) didn't you make pact, a vow, that couldn't be broken? If I tell a source of mine that I will protect his or her identity, I mean it.

AL: The two choices aren't fungible. They're distinct things, each with their own set of boundaries. In each case the law relating to privilege has exemption for exigent situations as the conscience sees them. Assuming the offer had been taken up and we'd gone forward – if I'd been a doctor or a counselor, the same would have been true – the law recognizes that privilege is not, as I said, a suicide pact. Meaning that once you enter into it, you're not bound to it no matter how much harm will arise. I'd have a much harder time saying with a straight face: "Well, he told me about the largest classified material breach in the history of western intelligence, but I wasn't supposed to tell anyone."
That last paragraph is bullshit. The idea that what Manning was confessing was a "suicide pact" is a pure lie. And, that in turn leads to other misrepresentation.

It also leads me to wonder if Lamo wasn't some sort of "double agent" all along, and not just in the Manning case. From what I've read of the world of hacking, a dedicated hacker would never spout such bullshit.

That's reinforced by the end of the interview:
EP: One final question based on hindsight. With everything we now know – including the way Manning was subjected to treatment that the UN likened to torture, and the fact that though he won't face the death penalty as you initially feared he does face possible life in military custody – would you make the same decision again?
AL: People are always asking me whether I'd have done the same if I'd known [x] or had foresight of [y]. Questions like that sound good in theory, but ultimately what they're asking is: "If linear time collapsed into itself and you were suddenly aware of every possible outcome, what would you do?" The thing is, it's not a question that can be answered. One of the great things about life, I think, is that we don't get do-overs. I don't think idealism could survive if we did.
The idea that Lamo can insinuate HE, not Manning, is the idealist, is risible.

It's made more risible yet by his own column in the Comment is Free portion of the Guardian, where he claims that what he was doing in 2003 wasn't hacking.

Let's not forget that Lamo pled guilty to federal charges in 2003. It's not implausible to wonder if he's not an "on retainer" double agent of some sort indeed. As for his claim that he "chose to surrender," it's technically true, but a warrant had been out for his arrest for some time, and the feds were probably narrowing down his hiding place.

As for his attacks on WikiLeaks? The redaction issue is overblown, and Greenwald and others have documented that. As for other issues with WikiLeaks, Lamo could have addressed them without ratting out Manning.

As for offender No. 2? Wired has always been a bit overrated in my book, with a lot of "gee-whiz" angles to it. But, the actions of Kevin Poulson and others in stonewalling Greenwald led me to question anything it does in terms of the intersection of technology with politics or other hard news.

Wired eventually published a redacted version of the Manning-Lamo chats in 2011, which, per Wikipedia, confirmed Greenwald's worst suspicions about both Wired and Lamo.

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