Glenn Greenwald interviewed Adrian Lamo on 6/17/2010 for his article, The Strange and Consequential Case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikileaksPart I can be found here.   In Part II, Lamo acknowledges that he handed classified information over to Wired Magazine after meeting with federal agents, and unlikely story at best.   Many thanks to Calamar for transcribing it.

LAMO: It’s premised on that section.

GREENWALD: No, I’ll keep that off the record, and I understand and appreciate that. So I understand that there were sections of this that were non-germane or were personal. And, actually, Kevin, when he published the chats, actually said that — that part of what he was leaving out was that — but it just seems like there was a lot of stuff that is germane, stuff that you’ve just told me about the interaction that also ended up being edited out, and that’s the part that I don’t quite understand, but, you know, I guess maybe Kevin can go back —

LAMO: I’m not an editor for Wired. Kevin is….

GREENWALD: Right, I get that.

LAMO: I’m not gonna say that Kevin is a reporter that has the most concern in the world for the source, but he is highly ethical. He’s….

GREENWALD: Do you consider him a friend?

LAMO: No. I, in fact, have some reasons to — well, I wouldn’t say dislike, but warned people about him in terms that he is a piranha when it comes to acquiring information, and I’m well aware of that, but….

GREENWALD: But you pretty much have used him as your kind of personal — I mean, every time or virtually every time you’ve had exclusives going all the way back to your hacking days, Kevin was the person that you picked to sort of either write about you, or speak for you, or contact the corporation which you had hacked, right? I mean you and he have a very long and kind of multi-layered relationship. You’d agree with that, right?

LAMO: I’d say that there’s just one layer to it: source and journalist. And that’s because I trust him whereas my dealings with other media outlets have not engendered trust in that they have not always been entirely ethical in the way that I understand journalistic ethics, either offering to allow me to edit stories if I wanted to, or showing entire stories and soliciting criticism beforehand, or related activities, and Kevin, [when journalist?], pretty much ever during my hacker days, would never let me do anything other than review my quotes in order to [meet?] me as a source. And I won’t say that I like him, but I trust him.

GREENWALD: Do you consider Bradley Manning to be a traitor? I had seen you use that word in a couple interviews that you did.

LAMO: Can you cite one so I can double-check and make sure it’s a direct quote?

GREENWALD: Yeah. I think the quote was, “I’m not a traitor, and I wasn’t going to harbor a traitor.” And it was unclear, I mean, the context was you were asked why. So I didn’t know if you meant that, that’s why I’m asking in an open-ended way, regardless of what you’ve said in the past: Do you think he’s a traitor?

LAMO: Well, in that case, I regret that statement. I don’t think he’s a traitor. I think. He did something not too different from what I did: break the law to accomplish what he believed to be a good purpose, and I apologized to a judge in tears for that, and I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t still believe that it was wrong now.

GREENWALD: But here’s what I don’t get about that, and this is really at the heart of one of the things I’m most confused about. You were a donor to WikiLeaks, right? You talked about that, that you had contributed — I think — thirty dollars to them, right?

LAMO: I don’t believe I ever specified an amount, but, yes, I was a donor to WikiLeaks.

GREENWALD: Okay. It was thirty dollars, right? Do you remember?

LAMO: I don’t remember.

GREENWALD: Okay. It doesn’t matter. But presumably you gave them money because you support in general what they do, right?

LAMO: Yes, I do, in general.

GREENWALD: But, in general, what they do is, what you just said should be condemned with prison sentences, which is they provide a venue for people to leak information that the law says is secret. So how can you on the one hand say that anyone who breaks the law the way that you did and the way Manning did needs to pay the price, but on the other hand, support with your own money an entity that exists to do nothing other than enable that very activity? I don’t understand how you can reconcile those two things.

LAMO: I don’t believe that WikiLeaks exists for the sole purpose of enabling national security violations, in fact, I think that that’s….


GREENWALD: I didn’t say that. No. Leaks from people who are just divulging things that by law they’re required to keep secret, whether it’s because they work for corporations, or they work for the government, or they work for the military. These are things that obviously they’re incapable of legally disclosing, or they wouldn’t need anonymity to do it, and the vast bulk of what WikiLeaks publishes is in fact information that by law the person leaking it was required to keep secret. And it’s certainly a huge part of what they do, so how can you support something like that on the one hand, and on the other hand say that anyone who does it should go to prison?

LAMO: Call it cognitive dissonance, Glenn. I think that, as an institution, they’re important, because they exist as a pressure valve, but, in particular, if they’d received almost three-hundred thousand cables from anyone, and if they published the ones they have now, they would lose my support.

GREENWALD: Right. Did you ever have any kind of agreement…

LAMO: I’m not a freakin’ Jesuit. I don’t have all the answers about what’s moral and what’s not. I’m not a jurist; I don’t have all the answers about what’s legal and what’s not. I just know what I come across first hand and what judgment calls I have to make in my daily life. The judgment calls I’ve are the — what I did — was not right, and though I had good intentions, if somebody else came to me and said that they had done the same thing, I wouldn’t turn them in, because that’s not my job. However, I do believe that it’s my job as a citizen of the country to protect other citizens. It’s not a complicated concept…

GREENWALD: Except for the one that you’re sending to prison? Except for the one that you just sent to prison?

LAMO: It will only be prison if he is sentenced by the Department of Justice and ends up serving over a year. He may end up either in the stockade or in jail, but — well, actually, either way it will be a federal prison, but for a prison term that would be less than a year.

GREENWALD: Have you ever cooperated with a — go ahead, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I thought you were done. Go ahead.

LAMO: [stammering] I’ll bet you either ten bucks or a beer at a hacker conference that he doesn’t do more than six months.

GREENWALD: Oh, I’ll take that bet, and we can do both ten dollars and the drink, and if you ever want to add any value to that bet, just let me know, and I’ll just have a standing agreement that I accept. Did you — have you ever worked in any way with the government before in terms of being an informant or helping them detect or uncover crimes, or anything like that?

LAMO: No. I have never worked with the government as an informant or helping them to detect or uncover crimes.

GREENWALD: Okay. Well, I think that’s pretty much all the questions I have for you, and I know we’ve spent a good amount of time on the phone, and I know — I mean, I’m going to be honest: I’m not convinced by the rationale that you offered. I don’t know if you’re sincere or not. I’ve never met you. I’ve only had this conversation with you, but I mean I do appreciate the fact at least that you’re kinda facing the music and being willing to answer questions and be accountable for what you do, including the people like me who you know in advance are not sympathetic, so I think at least — let me compliment you for that at least.

LAMO: Well, I will say that I feel very bad for his family, because I know that it was very difficult for my family when I was going through essentially the same process, but it’s a process that I know first-hand. It’s one that I went through, and it’s one that — I mean, mine was the civilian version; his is the military version, but, other than that, I didn’t send this kid off to any fate that I didn’t know first-hand from my own actions, and — actions that I undertook because I believed at the time that they could help lead to a world in which somebody could uncover a security vulnerability and not necessarily have a guaranteed prison sentence if they came forward, and I think that he has a similar amount of idealism, and I don’t hope that he gets anything else other than a dishonorable discharge and obviously revocation of his security clearance.

GREENWALD: Right. I think he’s gonna get more than that. Do you think Daniel Ellsburg should have gone to prison?

LAMO: I’m sorry. I don’t know who that is.

GREENWALD: Oh, the person who leaked the famous Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War that revealed — I’m not trying to test you, if you don’t know….

LAMO: Oh, did you say Ells….

GREENWALD: Yeah, Daniel Ellsburg.

LAMO: Sorry. I heard “Osborn.”

GREENWALD: No, it’s okay.

LAMO: You know, the only thing I can say about that is that I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the standing to make the call. I don’t blame the FBI agent that initiated my case, because it was a call she felt she had to make as part of her job, and….

GREENWALD: Was part of your motive — and I know that the national security motive (you’re gonna say) is the prime one, and I get that — but was part of your motive a concern that, especially given what you’ve gone through in the past, that, if you hadn’t reported what Manning said, that you might be subjected to criminal liability?

LAMO: Absolutely. And I have that same concern for Tyler Watkins who inexplicably confessed to Wired that he knew at least about the video leaks part to this information coming out.

GREENWALD: But there’s no legal obligation, if you learned of a crime, to report it to the government. I mean, you can’t aid and abet it; you can’t serve as an accomplice. But if I tell you right now that yesterday I robbed a bank, you have no legal compulsion to report me to the authorities, or — I mean, a lot of non-lawyers don’t know that, but that’s true. You can’t be held criminally liable just because I tell you about a crime I committed, and then you don’t go to the authorities.

LAMO: But classified information doesn’t work the same way. If I were to hand you a classified document, and right away just walk off, the difference is we could both go to jail.

GREENWALD: No. I could just throw it in the garbage. I don’t have an obligation to turn you in, but — anyway, I wasn’t so much interested in whether there really is legal liability that would have attached to what you did, because I already know the answer to that. I was honestly more interested in your subjective perception. Just listening to you, I get the sense that there wasn’t just a principled belief that this was some noble act, that you were saving your fellow citizens from being subjected to danger. I know there is that (you say) but I get the sense that there was actually a fear, given the fact that you’ve been involved in the criminal justice system before, that this was something that you had been dragged into of a serious nature, that if you didn’t go to the authorities for, you could face your own legal jeopardy again. And so I just wanted to ask….

LAMO: The only way that I could have avoided that for certain would be wiping my hard drive down to nothing but ones and zeroes of — derived randomly. Otherwise, somewhere on there, there could conceivably be some echo of classified information that I’d be mishandling.

GREENWALD: But you’re not a government employee. Journalists get classified information leaked to them all the time, and they’re under no legal obligation to keep it concealed. They don’t have that obligation. Government employees have that obligation, but journalists and citizens do not.

LAMO: And you know what? I wish to hell that Bradley Manning had said, “Yes, I would like your protection as a journalist,” because I would have honored that.

GREENWALD: If he had said “yes,” you would not have gone to the authorities, even if he had told you about the two-hundred, sixty-thousand pages of cable?

LAMO: I would have felt an obligation not to, because there are, in the same vein, dangers to the public if they believe that they can’t trust the media to keep their secrets.

GREENWALD: So you would have felt comfortable “putting all of those citizens in danger?”

LAMO: No, I would have. I’d be uncomfortable.

GREENWALD: But you would have done it.

LAMO: I would have felt required to, yes, and, when I talked to Kevin Poulsen last, I told him that, if he wanted me to, I would plead the First if asked whether or not I had given him the full logs, because that might mean that he was in possession of classified information, and he fortunately declined that offer, but I made him the offer. I don’t think a source has ever plead the First under that particular legal theory.

GREENWALD: Uh huh. I think that is a novel theory, but — all right. Well, that’s interesting. Again, I appreciate it —

LAMO: And I don’t expect an article that agrees with me. I don’t expect an article that portrays me positively, but I hope that you see that I was willing and I wished that Manning had been a little bit more sophisticated in taking me up on my offer.

GREENWALD: Okay. I mean, I’m gonna be critical of what you did, but I’m also gonna endeavor to be as fair as I possibly can given what the facts are and to represent as fairly as I can what you’ve told me.

LAMO: Can I trouble you for an opportunity to review my quotes before you go to print?

GREENWALD: You know, I don’t actually do that, but what I will do — especially since I’m gonna post it in the morning — but what I definitely will do is if for whatever reason you feel like there’s something unfair, inaccurate, or even if you want to add something, I will publish along with what I publish any statement that you want to make. So, if you want to say, “When he says this, I think that’s totally unfair; this is the reality,” or, “I think he distorted this,” I will publish in full whatever you want to say along with whatever I write. I won’t give you prepublication approval rights before I publish, but I will do what I just said.

LAMO: I appreciate that. I’m also going to send you a pair of links, I guess over Twitter, since that seems to be the best medium for us to communicate online, unless you have an AOL Instant Messenger screen name you’d like to volunteer.

GREENWALD: Yeah, I don’t use AOL. You can use my email, but I’m fine with Twitter too.

LAMO: Yeah, it didn’t seem my email from earlier got through, but I’ll just send you the pair to go over, and one is just the BBC article in which I explained — because I’m more articulate in text than I am in voice, so I’m kinda playing at a handicap here, doing this interview over the phone — and the other one was a recent news release in which I explained why I felt I didn’t believe I was acting as a journalist in speaking with Bradley Manning. However, I’ll also commend you for asking if he had actively declined the opportunity, because I don’t think anybody else other than Kevin had asked me that up until now.

GREENWALD: Okay. Yeah, again, I wish I could see those parts of the chat logs, because I’m sure it’s hard to remember verbatim what was said, and, you know, I might even ask that Kevin publish that part of it, since he told me that the stuff he edited out was only personal stuff and things that might compromise national security, and that would not apply — neither of those would apply to this part of the discussion, but, you know, that’s up to him. And obviously you could do the same thing. Anyway, so why don’t we do that? Why don’t — you’ll read tomorrow what I’ve written. If you want to add anything at all, like I’ve said, I’ll extend to you the absolute right to do so in completely unedited fashion, and then we’ll go from there.

LAMO: Well, if nothing else, at least you won’t be able to accuse me of doing this to seek out good publicity.

GREENWALD: Well, you’ve gotten some good publicity. You probably have a lot of good sentiment among people in the federal government and parts of the Pentagon and intelligence communities which might be valuable to you, but certainly you’ve triggered a great deal of animosity as well, but I guess some people think, you know, there’s no such as bad publicity, or as long as they’re talking about you, better than being ignored. I don’t know you, so I don’t know if that’s the way you think, but it could be valuable, even though lots of people are opposed to you.

LAMO: To be frank, I was initially going to blow you off after seeing your tweet, but — although I felt you [should have printed that in an email?], I also figured that there aren’t that many times you get a chance to do interviews with someone who is as up-front as you ended up being — by necessity — about their feeling towards your actions.

GREENWALD: Yeah. I assumed you were gonna see what I wrote, and I wasn’t trying to hide it. And, like I said, I would have told you up front what my perspective of the case was, and I’ve written a little bit about it today, and so I wasn’t trying to hide it, so — all right, Adrian, again, I —



LAMO: Sorry. Go on.

GREENWALD: No, I was just gonna say, I need to go — in part because I need to finish writing what I’m writing — but I just wanna say I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me. You didn’t have to do that, and I’m glad you did.

LAMO: Well, at any point in which I can add context to this story, and that includes times in which my name isn’t mentioned, unless you come to believe that it’s all about name-count or whatever, I’m happy to do so. I’ll comment if you want in the future exclusively on background, just so long as it helps you get the story right.

GREENWALD: All right, Adrian. Thanks so much, have a good night. I’ll talk to you.

LAMO: And for both my sake and Mr. Manning’s, I hope you’ll end up owing me ten bucks and a beer.

GREENWALD: I don’t expect to. I think you should start saving up, but we’ll see how that goes.

LAMO: I’ll start a piggy bank.

GREENWALD: All right. Buh-bye.

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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