The Unlikely Story of Adrian Lamo, Bradley Manning, Wired Magazine and the Federal Government

Adrian Lamo (photo: quinnums via Flickr)

I’ve now gone through just about everything I can find of various accounts of what transpired between Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Wired and the federal government. (A data base of all the relevant media can be found here.)

And having reviewed all the material, I cannot tell you how implausible I find the cover story to be (Wired 6/6/2010, CJR 6/18 2010). Furthermore, I cannot believe that anyone of any journalistic standing has not seriously questioned it before going into print using Lamo as a source.

Although Lamo’s own accounts vary, this appears to be the basic structure of events:

May 20: Bradley Manning contacts Adrian Lamo via email.

May 21: Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo begin chatting over IM. Over the course of the next few days, Manning communicates to Lamo:

May 22: Adrian Lamo reaches out to a “friend” formerly in Army counterintelligence (per interview with AOL, his “ex”), presumably Timothy Webster, who puts him in contact with the Army.

May 23 or 24: Lamo reaches out to Chet Uber of Project Vigilance, who says Lamo claimed to have received “classified documents” from Manning. Uber tells Wired that “after speaking with Lamo, he called the Cyber Defense Crime Center, which gave him phone numbers for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and a couple of other agencies he didn’t recall.” (7/1/2010) He also tells CNET that he called “contacted Mark Rasch, previously the head of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit” (CNET, 8/9/2010)

May 24: Lamo calls Wired Magazine to say he has set up a meeting with authorities the next day, but does not give any details.

May 25: Two Army counterintelligence agents, an FBI agent, and a representative from the NSA drive up to Carmichael California to meet with Lamo at a nearby Starbucks. They have come “a good distance” to see him. Lamo shows them the chat logs. (CBC Radio, 6/7/2010).

Lamo: “Their immediate response when I related the code name for one of the operations was ‘Never say those words again’….Literally, ‘Forget you ever heard those words…When I met with two federal agents to discuss them, they had me write it down on a piece of paper rather than say it aloud.” (AOL News, 7/21/2010)

The two Army counterintelligence agents, the FBI Agent, and the NSA representative thank Lamo so much for his help, leave the convicted hacker in possession of all the chat logs containing details of “ongoing classified counterintelligence operations,” and tell him it won’t be any problem if he passes them off, unedited, to Wired Magazine, the Washington Post, and Wikileaks.



May 26: Lamo calls Wired Magazine, mentions Manning’s name for the first time, and gives details about what has transpired between the two of them. Wired asks for copies of the chat logs, and Lamo agrees.

May 27: Lamo meets with Wired and hands over the chat logs. He then meets with two FBI agents from the Oakland field office, who tell him that Manning had been arrested the day before in Iraq on the basis of information he had provided to them.

June 6: Wired publishes the first story about Manning and Lamo, reports Manning’s arrest.

June 10: Washington Post reports that Lamo has also provided them with the chat logs. Lamo tells Risky Business radio show he sent portions of the chat logs to Wikileaks, too.

June 11: Lamo meets with agents from the Army’s criminal and counterintelligence units, as well as the Diplomatic Security Service. “The agents asked for files related to the communications between him and Manning, Lamo said, and he gave them a laptop and the hard drive from another laptop, as well as encrypted e-mails that had been stored on a remote server.”

June 13: Lamo finally gives “a sworn statement to authorities.” (CNET 6/12/2010)

Just what did Lamo hand over to Wired? According to what they told Glenn Greenwald, “the whole unedited version” of the chats.

And during all this, with no small amount of irony, the New York Times reports:

Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press

In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.

You would have to have been f&#%ing r#*&rded to believe that in an era of unprecedented intolerance for press leaks of any kind, that the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the NSA, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Cyber Defense Crime Center knowingly and willingly not only allowed convicted hacker Adrian Lamo to hold on to chat logs that contained sensitive classified information, but to distribute them unexpurgated to the press.

I only see two possibilities. One, Wired had the chat logs before Lamo made any calls to authorities, and was a party to whatever subsequently happened. Or two, the copies of the chat logs that have been given to the press have been done so at the instigation of the US government, and with their full approval.

Of course there’s always c) all of the above, which is what I’m guessing is the most likely scenario.

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