Back in June, I interviewed Adrian Lamo, the former hacker to whom Bradley Manning confided his poaching of classified data from his Army issue computer. At the time, the Manning-Wikileaks story was waning in the public mind, or maybe just in mine, but I held onto the interview with the aim of putting together a comprehensive Manning post. Now, with Wired having released the full chat logs between Lamo and Manning, it seems like a good time to post the Lamo interview in full.
Lamo is a careful man. It took a great deal of effort to get in touch with him (which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the mysterious Shoq); and he spoke to me over an encrypted line. Lamo told me he has to live in an undisclosed location, and that he and his family have had to take their personal security very seriously since the whole Manning story broke. In talking to him, it was clear that he doesn’t think much of Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, or of David House, who scored his 15 minutes of fame by repeatedly visiting Pfc. Manning in prison at Quantico, and then becoming the sole source for the claims that Manning was being tortured.
I will say that what Adrian Lamo told me in June corresponds directly with what’s in those chat logs. The kinds of things he says were personal about Manning and that he was concerned about getting out, were personal indeed (read more about that here.) Here’s what Lamo had to say:
June 2, 2011:
TRR: Did David House know Bradley Manning prior to the alleged leaking?
LAMO: They were not associates as far as I know. They had no pre-existing friendship. And as you know, House’s access was pulled [at Quantico] due to discrepancies as to why he was visiting Manning.
TRR: How so?
LAMO: Manning’s dad became convinced that he didn’t have Manning’s best interests in mind and he was ultimately taken off the visitor’s list.
/I asked Lamo to elaborate/
LAMO: House wanted access, and thru access, self-aggrandizement, by placing himself in a situation that would allow him to propel himself into the spotlight. [At least] that’s what it seems. I’ve been approached by an ex of House’s that said House confided in her that he was only friends with me for purposes of being able to say he knew this famous hacker.
TRR: What about the allegations that Manning was “tortured” while at Quantico?
LAMO: Any lie repeated often enough becomes truth.
They just need an allegation to gain sympathy over the poor soldier being tortured. The reality is, it’s a prison. It’s not a country club. It’s not a spa. [I] Can’t say I’ve spent time in military custody, but I’ve spent time in lockup. It’s not a picnic and not intended to be.
/I then asked Lamo about being interviewed, early on in the story, by Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald./
TRR: You talked to Glenn Greenwald, right?
LAMO: Yes, to my ongoing regret. He already had a story in mind and he wanted to be able to print it by saying he had talked to the source. If you compare the audio of the interview to what’s actually printed, I don’t believe he actually quotes me at all. If he does, it’s once or twice, and what I said is at odds with what he wrote.
I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I got burned on that. He essentially created this entire fantasy about some sort of collusion between myself, Wired and someone else in order to conceal the truth that would exonerate Manning, when none of that stuff exists. The only thing that’s being held back [by Wired, previously] is stuff about Manning’s life that is deeply personal and that I don’t think he would want to see printed. I know it sounds incongruous, but I have a lot of personal concern for Manning’s well being. I considered him a friend during the brief time we corresponded. You don’t stop caring about someone because they did a bad thing.
TRR: Why do you think Manning reached out to you?
LAMO: I have my guesses about why Manning approached me, and I get the feeling he threw a dartboard and found somebody to unload to.
He seemed rather gleeful about [leaking classified data.]
TRR: Did he explain why he did it?
LAMO: He said it was because he was getting the truth out, but he also spoke in rather jubilant terms about Hillary Clinton and all these diplomats having a heart attack when they woke up and saw all their secrets in the paper. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the nobility of his actions, but it’s also clear that [there was an element] of fucking people over. The anger he felt regarding the military carries forward in his Facebook wall, in his conversations, in his statements… his post: “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment”; that sort of thing; his complaint that he felt unappreciated in his job… he just had a list of grievances against the milotary that were unrelated to war crimes or misconduct by any member of the military.
TRR: Did you get the feeling he liked being in the military?
LAMO: I don’t believe he enjoyed serving, and I believe he was looking forward to getting out.
TRR: Was “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” a factor?
LAMO: [It's my] standard policy not to discuss Manning’s sexuality because it’s not germane to the allegations.
/Later, Lamo did elaborate a bit about the personal issues Manning told him he was going through./
LAMO: He was upset about a breakup and he had previously, from my understanding, tried to entice the individual with whom he broke up to help him transfer classified material, and was rebuffed. [I] don’t know if that had anything to do with the breakup, but it can’t have helped his situation. His significant other told [Wired's] Kevin Poulsen that in an interview.
TRR: You’ve said you were worried the leaks could get someone killed. Do you think Manning read it all? (Re the leaked material)
LAMO: We’re talking about over a million documents, cumulatively. They can’t all have been vetted. As soon as I saw the words 250,000 cables, I knew that I had to take some form of action. It was one of the most unfortunate moments in my life that I had to choose between betraying a friend and betraying the countless soldiers who counted on the faith and credit of the U.S. govt to maintain their secrets and their safety. As I’ve said before, the good of the many outweighed the good of the one. It was a choice between two negative outcomes.
/I then asked Lamo about his own safety and whether he’s had any security issues since the Manning story broke./
I’ve received federal security at conferences in the past. I’ve changed my location. Nobody knows where I’m living right now. We’ve had to have the bomb squad called out because of suspicious packages. There’s been a lot of blow-back, but none of it changes the fact that making sure the government had enough lead time and warning to protect the individuals named in the [leaked] documents was the main thing. I talk about national security whenever I talk about this, and its easy to dismiss that as jingoism, but at the end of day, national security is about individuals doing jobs that keep folks like you and me safe. National security is not a faceless military-industrial complex, it’s human beings with real lives, some of whom have jobs that put them in harm’s way and whose lives are only protected by the government’s ability to protect their identities.
Manning seems to believe that the ends: exposing alleged misconduct by the U.S. government; justified whatever fallout their might be. I don’t think it ever entered his mind that he might be hurting people, or if it did it did, it [didn't] dissuade him from pursuing his course of conduct.
TRR: Have you been interviewed by the prosecutors in the Manning case?
LAMO: I spoke with prosecutors yesterday and will be in D.C. in the near future to speak with them formally in real life.
/I then asked Lamo if he believed Glenn Greenwald’s antipathy toward him had anything to do with his past history, including having broken into the servers at Salon.com/
LAMO: I don’t think Greenwald was even aware of it. He doesn’t strike me as being all that [concerned about that.] I think he simply saw me as a convenient target for his ongoing demagoguery.
/I also asked whether he had heard the allegation that Greenwald had tried to find Manning a lawyer./
LAMO: I’ve heard it mentioned but don’t know any details.
/I then asked Adrian Lamo whether he had any regrets about turning Bradley Manning in./
LAMO: Absolutely, I regret that it was necessary. I regret that Mannning didn’t contact me before he leaked the documents. I regret that there wasn’t a way to recall the documents. I regret that he felt he had to betray his country. I don’t regret making the choice to protect people who will probably never know my name or my role in protecting their identities or their job.
/And I asked him whether he saw any parallels between the Manning case and that of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose covert identity was leaked by the George W. Bush administration as political payback to her husband, who revealed information undermining the case for going to war with Iraq./
LAMO: Only in a very superficial way. They both involved the revelation of information that should have remained covert. But this has much more far reaching consequences.
TRR: Are you surprised by how you have been treated by the media?
LAMO: No, I have learned in my life experience that no good deed goes unpunished. I knew that this would be kind of a rallying point for the left and it has left me somewhat cynical in that I no longer believe in either political party. They both choose arbitrary causes and gussy them up to look however they have to look to keep people in a constant state of agitation and distraction.
TRR: Do you consider yourself to be a liberal or a conservative?
LAMO: I consider myself a liberal. I have more conservative values when it comes to national defense and security, as well as economic policy. Socially I’m liberal, but I have nothing but loathing for what I’ve seen from the liberal side of things in this case, and the way they’ve blindly accepted what they’ve been told, and… I just haven’t the words for how much revulsion I have for the ease with which people are misled.
It’s easy to shoot at a target
/Lamo did say he’s gotten a more positive response from the public at large./
LAMO: People have posted my phone number online in an effort to get me harassed, but the only calls I’ve gotten are people who want to let me know I did the right thing. Despite the vocal minority, there’s a quiet majority out there who understand the importance of national security.