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CyberFrequencies Interview with Adrian Lamo, 8-16-2010 (TRANSCRIPT AND AUDIO)

On August 16, 2010, Queena Kim and Tanya Jo Miller interviewed Adrian Lamo on Cyberfrequencies. Lamo now describes himself as an “Associate Director for Project Vigilant,” and talks about a “velvet espionage ring” that includes himself. Transcribed by Duncan.



DAVID COHN: And you can almost see the movie of this, right? I mean, if someone isn’t following him around to get those movie rights they should start.

CF: That’s David Cohn of Spot us, he’s been in touch with Assange by email, which, for the anonymous Assange, is kind of a big deal.

David: From what you can tell he doesn’t have a steady place where he lives. Their servers are based in Sweden, but I think they’re routed also in Belgium, and they do some of their encryption in Iceland. And all of this is to try and avoid suing. And, from what you also understand about this character Julian, he was born in Australia but his parents moved around a lot and he lived in Kenya. So he just seems like a movie character. One of the most recent emails I got from Julian he said, “I’m wearing my Kevlar vests lately.”

LAMO: My name is Adrian Lamo, I’m a threat analyst for Reality Planning LLC and Associate Director for Project Vigilant. We are sitting here in Carmichael, California, at approximately…

CF: –Adrian Lamo, the hacker who turned in wiki-leaker Private Manning…

CF: –Lamo himself was tried and convicted of hacking into the New York Times website. So many in the hacker community consider him both a hypocrite, and a villain, for turning in Manning…

LAMO: I would have kept my mouth shut about the “collateral murder” video. We have an interest in seeing how our tax dollars are spent on the war, how our troops approach combat. I could see that as being an act of conscience and as such wouldn’t be worth ruining a poor kid’s life over.

CF: What is it that changed your mind?

LAMO: Mr. Manning’s revelation that he had leaked over a quarter million State Department cables and a massive database…information which could not possibly have been vetted by a single individual or even a team of individuals in the period of time he is describing, and people are probably going to die because somebody saw fit to release these logs.

CF:  How do you verify who died as a result of these wikileaks?

CF:  It really breaks down this internet ethos that “more information is better”, ‘cause nobody’s been able to go through this, everybody’s been spinning: the Taliban has been saying that they’ve already killed an informant. You have the government coming out, saying that hundreds of people are gonna be killed. But really, nobody knows…

CF:  I think everyone’s in their own private little espionage video game, from the collateral murder… if you see that video it literally looks like a video game, they’re just like, “ahh, nice kill, yeah!”  You know Lamo says that he wishes this never happened to him – and I believe him – but on the other hand if you read the iChat he’s kind of trying to get information about this kid.

LAMO: We discussed a great deal about his romantic situation, his break up, personal issues that have been alleged in the press..

CF:  In other words, speculation that he’s gay…

LAMO: Right. I can tell you that, ironically, almost everyone involved is, somewhere in that spectrum…

CF:  In what spectrum?

LAMO: Gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning – myself… my contact – who was a former Special Agent with Army counterintelligence – Julian Assange, it’s sort of a humorous aspect to that – has not been lost on investigators: a velvet espionage ring, if you will.

CF:  A “velvet espionage ring?” Holy moly…

CF: So LAMO is bisexual, and when he started getting a little sketched-out by what Manning was saying he turned to his ex-boyfriend, who is an intelligence guy in the military

CF: Don’t ask, don’t tell…

CF: and then I guess, he’s saying that Assange is?

CF: Yeah, I’ve read all about wikileaks and I’ve never heard that Assange was gay. I certainly could not verify that.

CF: When you are in a community you sometimes hear things that people who aren’t, don’t.

CF: Maybe he went to like, some club in Switzerland, and he saw Assange there…

CF: OK, let’s roll the next piece of tape…

CF: Who do you think has more responsibility: Assange or Manning?

LAMO: I think that obviously the older, more sophisticated individual has more responsibility. Assange induced Manning into engaging into the conduct that he ultimately followed.

CF: And how do you I know that that’s true?

LAMO: Manning had access that few if any other sources had: special servers that allowed him to submit leaks that jumped to the head of the queue.

CF: Manning told you that he had access to these servers?

LAMO: Manning did, and he also told me about the piece that ran in the New Yorker prior to it being published. I hope that Manning’s willing to give up the people who used him. Right now they’re probably getting kids to put their lives on the line and Manning is on suicide watch. I think that if there’s anybody that ought to be in solitary confinement it ought to be Assange. Manning was a socially conscious young man – he is a socially conscious young man, and Wikileaks started to run him the same way that any other intelligence service – because I do believe that they are at this point indistinguishable from any other foreign intelligence service.  The ideal dream of state-sponsored foreign intelligence service, Wikileaks would be it: instead of having to recruit your own agents, agents would come to you. The only difference being that they seem to be more commercial than ideological or state-sponsored and they are essentially running agents, trying to collect information and trying to do damage to their adversary.

CF: Everybody thinks of wikileaks as sort of these heroes of the information age, but you have a very different point of view…

LAMO: I think wikileaks actually serves a valuable purpose in providing a venue for individuals in countries that don’t otherwise have mediums for the expression of suppressed information. However, I think that they ought to be going after countries that are more genuinely oppressive. They should  be going after North Korea, they should be going after Russia. Instead, the vast majority of their leaks center around the United States.

CF: Why do you think that is?

LAMO: Part of it is having an agenda and I think part of it is that — Russia, China, North Korea, if you’re an enemy of the state you get a bullet in the back of the head. In the United States you get donations.

CF: So David your organization, “Spot dot us,” raises money for journalistic projects, and you brokered some funding for wikileaks?

David: Sort of, yeah, I mean, when they released the collateral murder, we put up a quick pitch on spot us, we did raise a little over a thousand dollars, and I do consider that their money. I’ve emailed him and said that, “whenever you want me to spend it, you let me know.” We’ll just send it to their non- profit, which is based in Germany.

CF: Back to the tape, of Adrian Lamo, who blew the whistle on the whistleblower. And you’re listening to Cyber frequencies, on Offramp.

LAMO: If there was going to be a good response to wikileaks, and the fact that they are a stateless entity, would be to hit them where it really hurts and add them to the State Department list for organizations that sponsor terrorism. They are responsible for deaths, and they’re doing it for the purpose of changing political modus operandi in the United States. And that pretty much fits the bill. If it were illegal for U.S. nationals to do commerce with them, donate money to them, they would be severely crippled.

CF:: According to that logic, Spot us would have committed some criminal activity. Are you afraid.

COHN: Um, I’m not really afraid. If I were in the movie I would be such a B-rate actor – you know, might not even have a line, kind of thing.

CF: So you are now in an undisclosed location, a cabin in the woods, right?

COHN: (laughing) That is true, I am in a cabin in the woods…

CF: The last time we met with you we just publicly had a drink with you and since then you seem to have gone into hiding, what gives?

COHN: Uh, you know I’ve just been on the go, I won’t go into he details…

CF:  That’s it for Cyber frequencies…(outro)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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