Day two in the military trial of Bradley Manning continued today.
While much of the day’s events are reported to have focused on chain-of-custody issues and other evidentiary matters, one notable highlight was the testimony of the man who first alerted authorities to the extensive leak for which Manning stands accused.
Adrian Lamo, whom Manning contacted in 2010, was called as a witness in the case.
From the Washington Post:
Wearing a black jacket, Lamo quietly answered questions for a half hour on the second day of Manning’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Md. The testimony focused on the interactions between the two in May 2010, when they communicated through instant messages while Manning was stationed in Iraq. The day after Manning said he had obtained access to vast amounts of sensitive government information, Lamo alerted law enforcement authorities. […]
While stationed in Iraq, Manning decided to turn to Lamo, a former hacker whom he did not know but knew about in part because he was a well-known hacker.
“I’m an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern baghdad, pending discharge for ‘adjustment disorder,’ ” Manning said in one of the messages. “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?”
In a pointed cross-examination during a pretrial hearing in 2011, Coombs attempted to portray Lamo as a double-dealing government informant who betrayed the trust of a troubled soldier who had contacted him over the Internet for moral support. [...]
The prosecutor in the court-martial, Maj. Ashden Fein, questioned Lamo on Tuesday about how he technically communicated with Lamo and which computers Lamo provided to investigators to examine. Fein also asked Lamo how he knew no one else had had access to his own computer. “Computer geeks don’t always leave the house much,” Lamo said.
Lamo has been a controversial figure in the Wikileaks story. Many of his peers in the hacker community turned on him when it was revealed that Lamo had gone to the authorities concerning Manning’s admission, and that he’d provided some of the chatlogs between him and Manning to Wired magazine. While some believed that Lamo did the right thing, he was labeled a “snitch” by most in his own community of peers.
It was a sentiment that was evident during the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in Manhattan in 2010. Lamo spoke on a panel there, knowing that he was facing an audience that viewed him with hostility. It was an audience that largely hailed Bradley Manning as a hero and considered Lamo’s actions a betrayal to Manning and the community alike.
On Sunday afternoon [in July 2010], Lamo took part in a panel discussion at the hackers’ conference, enduring a barrage of comments like “You committed treason!” and “You belong in Guantanamo!” He responded to them all in his slow, deliberate manner, often with a wry smile.
He said he wished Manning had never contacted him, and that he believed that the classified information Manning wanted to leak would have led to a greater loss of life. But he still supported WikiLeaks, an assertion that prompted many a cry of “Bullsh*t!” in the audience. Lamo just smiled — “I respect your right to your opinion.”
Lamo stood firm in his ground at that 2010 conference, saying that he’d acted on his conscience, just as Manning and Assange were acting on theirs. He stressed that he found it unlikely that anyone could go through such an overwhelming breadth of information that Manning claimed to possess – over 250,000 documents that totaled nearly triple that in pages – and still assure that nothing in them could cause harm to or loss of human life or threaten national security.
From AOLNews in 2010:
Lamo also came under fire for taking a stand in defense of the United States, as patriotism is something of a dirty word in the hacker community. As one conference attendee from Norway scolded him, “We are internationalists — you should focus on an international point of view, not an America-centric one.”
But Lamo unashamedly characterized America as a force for global good, and a free country. “We have the freedom to hold this conference and talk about things that to the uninformed would sound threatening,” he told the audience. “And that’s not something that you get in a lot of places.”
He added he wished that WikiLeaks would focus its attention on oppressive regimes, rather than the U.S. “Is anyone here being oppressed right now?” he asked with a grin. The crowd yelled back, “Yes!”
Lamo’s continued to attract the ire of other hackers in recent years, more notably in his sometimes criticism of some of the actions of the Anonymous hacker collective.
But the ex-hacker’s position on his decision to turn Manning into authorities does not seem to have wavered since the ordeal first became public in 2010.
During his testimony today, Lamo answered questions from the prosecution and from Manning’s defense attorney. With respect as to why he chose to contact law enforcement with the information that Manning had conveyed to him, Lamo said he did so because “what I saw in the chats appeared to be an admission so egregious that they required a response.”