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‘A Curious Individual’ Who ‘Takes Odd Jobs’ Named Adrian Lamo Takes the Stand

Hacker and (possibly former) confidential government informant via Wikimedia

Hacker Adrian Lamo was called to the stand by the prosecution to testify in the Pfc. Bradley Manning hearing today.

He took the stand just after a federal agent described his role as a confidential informant for the government. The testimony was some of the most exciting testimony thus far. Obviously, if not for Lamo, the government would have had a much harder time catching Manning.

Lamo entered the courtroom and walked up to the stand with one glove on his hand. He was carrying a glove in his other hand. Asked to raise his right hand so he could be sworn in, he removed the glove and raised it.

The prosecution asked if he was Adrian Lamo. “That is my name,” he answered.

Lamo described first coming in contact with the person who he eventually communicated with over IM as bradass87. He said he received a “series of emails,” one that could be tied to the1 10th Mountain Division (Manning’s unit). The emails were encrypted and suggested they communicate via AIM. And, later in the day, on May 20, bradass87 sent Lamo a message.

The chats were encrypted with a piece of software called OTR, “off the record.” Coombs asked Lamo why they were encrypted. Lamo answered: “I can only open-endedly speculate as to why people chat encrypted.” He asked about the nature of the question. Then, Lamo continued: “I value my privacy as a citizen and desire my communications to be private.”

Lamo described receiving a friend request from Facebook. He also received a login/password that would allow access to the Army online portal. Lamo declined to use the password because he says he thought it would be a crime.

How did Lamo know it was Manning who contacted him? “I know that based on photos, demographic information and extensive backs story on what’s known as the wall of the Facebook account that recounted biographical data unique to Bradley Manning,” Lamo stated.

Lamo claimed from May 20-26 while he was having the chats that there was no “encryption key change between the two parties” and he was communicating with someone using the same computer and same moniker.

It was Special Agent Tony Edwards who responded to initial reports of Manning’s actions. He came to Sacramento. Then, Lamo provided a 500 GB hard drive, a net book with a hard drive and two thumb drives of varying sizes.

Lamo was unable to state whom he gave materials to: “The number of people present and my lack of familiarity with the agencies in question makes it difficult to distinguish whom particularly I gave those materials to.”

Lamo claimed the chat logs were presented exactly as they were recorded.

Prosecution asked him about Jason Katz: “I am aware of the name and I am aware of certain circumstances regarding his life and times.” Lamo suggested he was informed by a chat network that there was an individual “engaged in a decryption effort to destroy video on behalf of WikiLeaks and that he was using federally funded lab resources.”

He was asked by prosecution if he had Asperger’s syndrome and he answered yes. He said it does not affect memory. In May 2010, he said he was “successfully treated and placed on a medication regiment that reduced the symptoms.” His condition now is consistent with his condition in May 2010, he claimed.

Finally, the prosecution asked if he had been a source for the media. “Yes I have,” he said. Why? “There is a necessity in certain circumstances to stay ahead” of a story “before it develops and takes on life of its own to ensure it remains correct.”

Lamo denied receiving other forms of reimbursement for his services to the government as a confidential informant.

The defense began cross-examination. He asked if Lamo was a convicted felon. He went over Lamo’s history as someone who committed a string of hacks against several large companies in 2000 and who then pled guilty in 2004 to computer fraud. Coombs had Lamo confirm that he had been placed under house arrest for six months and placed on probation for at least two years.

Continuing, Coombs had Lamo confirm that this was when he began to suffer from depression. It started as a result of over-medicating with prescription drugs. His parents called the police to report he was over-medicating on prescription drugs.

On April 2010, he was involuntarily institutionalized after he called the police. This was as a result of a “dispute over the possession of my medications.” He was placed on 72-hour psychiatric hold as is customary in the state of California. That was extended for a period of nine days. (Lamo said “voluntarily.)

He was discharged on May 7, 2010.

Coombs asked him about his work: “I do computer-related work and what could be consider odd jobs.” Not “full-time employment.”

“Did you receive an immunity agreement?” Coombs asked. He testified “no.”

What about for testimony? Coombs asked. The government made no promises for compensation for testimony today.

Are you here under your own desire and wishes? Lamo replied to Coombs, “I am here to ensure that the truth is presented.”

Coombs presented “Exhibit 19” at this time—the Manning/Lamo chat logs. It was 2:22 PM EST. The prosecution immediately called for a conference with IO Almanza. They returned shortly after.


Coombs continued to cross-examine the witness. Coombs noted it was Lamo’s idea that the person believed to be Manning and him chat on AOL Instant Messenger. They began chatting on May 20, 2010, and continued to chat until May 26.

At the time, he was living with his parents. Coombs elicited from Lamo that he had contacted Army authorities through an intermediary that he knew on May 21. Who was this person? Timothy Douglas Webster, a psychology student at UC Santa Barbara.

Coombs pressed him on choosing to contact Webster. You wanted someone who would handle this right and who was good at this sort of investigation, he asked. Lamo did not disagree.

The testimony diverted away from the chat logs momentarily as Coombs tried to suggest Lamo was going off and acting on behalf of law enforcement. He referenced an IM chat with Danny Clark from July 21, 2010. In the chats, he agreed that neither of them were going to share the logs. Yet, he went and shared the logs with law enforcement.

Pressed on this, Lamo said with his eyes blinking wildly it was not his intent to go to law enforcement when he talked with Danny Clark. He received no active direction with regards to anything WikiLeaks.

But, Coombs said law enforcement had told you to keep your ear to the ground. “They stated that if I observed any criminal wrongdoing or any evidence as such, the same as any citizen, I should report it.” Coombs didn’t accept that as an answer. He wanted a yes or a no. Lamo said yes.

Coombs wanted to know why he had been working with Special Agent Edwards. Lamo said he found it unusual an individual with a military computer had installed additional encrypted software. This led Coombs to ask him if he believed he should be allowed to use encryption and members of the military should not.

Coombs moved on to ask about specific sections of the chat logs. Lamo recognized the cover page. The court waited for a few minutes so Lamo could verify the document he was holding. [Coombs actually said look at it. I want you to know that what you are holding are the chat logs.]

Aside, this was when Manning could be seen in the court becoming very active and flipping his hands in a gesture.

“A reasonable person would conclude that these are logs between myself and an individual who on multiple occasions has been identified as Bradley Manning,” stated Lamo. Manning was still having a conversation with a member of the defense.

The following sections were read aloud and brought up in court. On page 8, “12:46:17 PM – “How long have you helped WikiLeaks?” Lines down, “Give me some bonafides, y’know, any specifics?” and further down “Anything unreleased?”

Here, you are trying to determine if he has any other items that he hasn’t released, asked Coombs. Yes, said Lamo.

On page 14, “Is there a Baghdad 2600 meeting?” Coombs asked if this was in reference to a hacker meeting. “Reference to a meeting of computer enthusiasts who include hackers,” Lamo corrected.

Page 15, “Stands to reason that you have at least three people who have infosec knowledge” — He was asking this question “out of concern for additional harm that might result from these actions,” Lamo claimed. Coombs wondered if he wanted to know if any others were working with Manning.

Continuing, page 25: “How long between leak and publication?” [reference to “Collateral Murder”]. Further down, “Uploaded where?” and “Submission where?”

Coombs asked if Lamo was asking questions in the chats that he knew the answer to already. He was trying to figure out how information was shared with WikiLeaks, wasn’t he? “I was not familiar with the organizational structure of those leaks and wanted to determine more about it,” Lamo responded.

“You knew how you could upload files?” Coombs asked.

“Every setting in which one would upload to a server can be customized and tailored,” Lamo replied.

You were asking to find out how he did it? Coombs asked. “Correct,” Lamo said.

Back to the chat logs, Coombs had Lamo read, “02:14:36 AM “So you have those stored now?” and “02:16:10 AM “So how would you deploy the cables if at all?” and
“02:18:04 AM “What’s your endgame plan then?” Coombs asked if he wanted Manning to provide statements that would incriminate him. Lamo said he was just doing what anyone in the networked world would do to find out what someone suspected of misconduct was doing.

From page 36, another line was read: “01:54:14 PM “is that how you get the cables out?” and on page 37 “01:56:36 PM “From a professional perspective, I am curious how the server was insecure.”

Pressed on this part of the logs, Lamo stated, “I am a curious individual.”

“A curious individual cooperating with law enforcement?” Coombs asked.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this report on Adrian Lamo’s testimony at the hearing.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."