Tuesday, July 6, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Former Hacker Lamo On Iraq Leaks

yesterday over at 3News and ended up down a rabbit hole of hacker drama. Former hacker 
Adrian Lamo, mentioned in the article, tweeted and emailed me after reading the article, confirming some of the claims I outlined.

Let's be clear, I am not anti WikiLeaks or its founder Julia Assange and my main interest comes from the activity I've seen on the WikiLeaks Twitter account and the Khatchadourian New Yorker article.

 I'm just curious and not an expert on such things. Hell I’m not even a journalist.

 Lamo called me an hour or so ago from San Francisco to make me aware of the response he wrote to the Salon.com article The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks.

In the article, Greenwald claims Lamo simply seeks media attention and ratted out Bradley Manning to be at the centre of a media storm.

Maybe I’ve been sucked in but either way, Lamo and I chatted for about an hour and it was interesting to hear his side of the story. He sincerely believes that he did the right thing by reporting Bradley Manning to the authorities for the alleged leaking of a detailed Army chronology of events in the Iraq war and a database of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Lamo has himself been arrested for breaking into The New York Times, Yahoo and Microsoft and stands by his version of events in the original Wired article.

Lamo claims that Greenwald has refused to run his response over at Salon.com so here it is in full. I’m not taking sides but it makes for interesting reading and I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.



Blinded By Contempt



“The difficultly one has in writing about the Manning/WikiLeaks story is the blinding contempt one has for what Adrian Lamo did.”

— Glenn Greenwald, Twitter | http://bit.ly/9k5wMN


“Frankly, (Greenwald's) assertions sound bizarre, even lunatic, to anyone who has ever met a journalist or a newspaper editor.”

— TheAtlantic.com | http://bit.ly/9mu0BQ


“Deceive, inveigle, obfuscate”

—The X-Files | http://bit.ly/bTXKP2



On 06 June 2010, Kevin Lee Poulsen & Kim Zetter of Wired News broke the story that PFC. Bradley Manning had been arrested in Iraqfollowing online discussions with me, in which he confessed to what could most charitably be called mishandling of classified information. Someone less charitable could call it espionage – the deliberate leaking of classified information to Wikileaks.org. A few weeks later, Salon.com reported the same basic facts... up to a point.


From there the facts flew out the window as the Salon.com reporter, Glenn Greenwald launched into a long-winded narrative, in essence, accusing me of not only Manning's incarceration, but for lies, conspiracy with the government, and black ops to take down Wikileaks. It was a clever attempt to turn the tables – to put my reputation on trial before the public.


It was not, however, much of a surprise. You see, Mr. Greenwald had showed his unshakable bias long before talking to me -- or even initiating correspondence -- in an interview with Democracy Now in which he slammed me as being “mentally ill,” a strong pejorative. It seemed strange for someone who claims to have a passion for the truth to make such personal attacks on me, without having first given me a chance to share my perspective. But Greenwald seemed to have no qualms about hurling vehemence at me -- in a following Twitter post, Greenwald expressed his “blinding contempt” - and as we see here, his contempt appears to have been blinding indeed.


This is not the first time that Greenwald's love/hate relationship with the truth has attracted attention. See the references I provide later in this piece to better understand my severe skepticism of Greenwald's ability to handle facts.


Greenwald certainly claims his report to be propped up with scores of unnamed sources – and at least one (and only one) source willing to go on the record. In an e-mail to me, he writes: 

“As I'm sure you know, I could fill a mid-sized phone book with the names of other people who say exactly the same thing as Appelbaum said about you.”


The Appelbaum in question is Jacob Appelbaum, who on the face of things is an independent source concerned for the common good, and coincidentally that only source from that mid-sized phone book willing to go on record. In the Salon piece, he acts as Greenwald's hatchet man, remarking:

“He basically destroyed a 22-year-old's life in order to get his name mentioned on the Wired.com blog,” and characterizing me as a “low-level, inconsequential hacker with an insatiable need for self-promotion and media attention ...”


Unfortunately, the appearance of that source turned out to be suspiciously convenient. Described in the Salon article as “a well-known hackerof the Tor Project who has known Lamo for years,” Appelbaum has other associations – namely as a high-level volunteer for Wikileaks.org, who has personally met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (who started the site with documents stolen via the above-mentioned Tor Project) and has been tracked to the same location as Assange as recently as this year. And it's clear that Assange and Appelbaum share a huge vested interest in trying to discredit me and exonerate Manning, with Assange even allegedly sending Wikileaks.org lawyers to try to defend Manning.


Greenwald's failure to properly research and disclose this conflict of interest on the part of a source – a source that I hadn't socialized with for the better part of a decade – is less surprising when you consider Greenwald's apparent history of deception. He defends himself saying:

“His relationship with WikiLeaks and Assange is and was both unknown to me and totally irrelevant to the point on which I quoted him, and his work for the Tor Project, though equally irrelevant, is something I cited.”


Irrelevant, perhaps, if not for the use of Tor to acquire classified documents in the founding days of Wikileaks. The associations are suspicious to say the least. It would appear the only responsible operational security policy would be to limit Appelbaum's access to Tor infrastructure until his loyalties can be vetted. And one would perhaps naively hope that any journalist using him as a source would research these ties before rushing to print.


The first time I heard of Salon.com was almost 11 years ago to this day, when I was contacted by a reporter for the site who had questions about an Internet presence I ran called Inside AOL. Looking back on the story today, the article quaintly relates pulling up search results on Hotbot.com, a search engine I only vaguely remember. I'm also fairly sure that my dad has more hits than the 440 Salon cited then for “AOL Sucks” (today Google lists 158,000.)


I felt that article was fair and balanced. I was left with a positive impression of Salon. (http://bit.ly/cExRdQ)


Four years later, I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair in Salon's conference room in San Francisco, explaining to them how I'd hacked their premium subscriber database, helping myself to all their passwords and subscriber information. (That information has since been destroyed to protect the confidentiality of Salon subscribers, but I have no reason to believe that my security suggestions were taken seriously.)


It'd be a novel idea, I suggested, for Salon to report on their own hacking. Salon enthusiastically agreed, only to welch several months later. They were having cash flow problems, they explained. To me the unspoken message seemed clear -- transparency on this issue would not be helpful in solving those problems. So Salon.com never told its readers that it failed to prevent the compromise of their secure data.


Against my personal judgement, I kept their secret until now. It would be another seven years before the words “transparency” and “Salon.com” were to prove as hard to mix as oil and water once more.


Seven years later, Greenwald, who has a passion for Brazilian culture, travel, and fiction, went on to demonstrate that his allocution of blinding contempt for me was seemingly one of the most honest things he's said in print on this issue.


Greenwald writes that in the course of chatting with PFC. Manning, I “then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning's detention.” Manning, in fact, did most of the talking, as the published logs readily indicate. I was at no point coached or instructed by federal agents – the conversations took a natural course, with occasional manifestations of my innate curiosity. But this allegation, too, is excusable; those not acquainted with the truth are rarely equipped to recognize it.


Indeed, this projection is evident in Greenwald's statement that

“A definitive understanding of what really happened is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source: Lamo himself.”


There are two major problems with this statement. First Greenwald certainly pretends an understanding of events that he wasn't present for, leading me to wonder who exactly gave him such a trustworthy accounting – Manning not being available due to exigent circumstances.


Secondly, Greenwald has decided all by his lonesome that I'm untrustworthy, and then proceeds to run with the concept as though an actual trustworthy source had presented the idea as fact. Were I to say that Greenwald is a pathological liar, I'd at least have source material to point to. Also, see my source material stating the same in the references below.


In fact, any reader can review the thousands of articles which have cited me as a source, and not find any reference referring to me as extremely untrustworthy (unless they were quoting Greenwald's attempt to manufacture reality.) Not even moderately untrustworthy. Or even prone to mild exaggeration.


Greenwald, on the other hand, who holds himself out as a journalist, is in reality a writer of opinion, according to several published sources. And at least one of these sources has accused Greenwald of making up source material. As seen at http://bit.ly/drXCqM, one blogger writes of one of Greenwald's posts:

“Absolutely none of this rubbish is in evidence in my post. Greenwald, purely and simply, lied. Made up a fantasy. Attributed to me imaginary feelings that I do not have, and statements that I did not make. L. I. E. D. I’d call it a straw man argument, but it doesn’t even have that much integrity.”


At http://bit.ly/atmh73, Greenwald is called a “nihilist provocateur” for allegedly dividing the Democratic Party with his would-be journalistic op-ed pieces. I mean, seriously folks – to get back to the topic at hand, the original article writes like it thinks it's serious journalism, yet only manages to cite a single source, one that is tied to the offended party – and bases the rest on innuendo and conspiracy theories. This is the guy you'd start edging away from at the party if he began spouting this sort of stuff. For instance, he goes on to claim:


“... exactly what the U.S. Government wanted to happen in order to destroy WikiLeaks has happened here: news reports that a key WikiLeaks source has been identified and arrested, followed by announcements from anonymous government officials that there is now a worldwide "manhunt" for its Editor-in-Chief.” This language seemingly infers that the whole thing was staged. That I colluded to conspire with Kevin Lee Poulsen, the federal government, and who knows who else to somehow engineer this entire affair in order to give Wikileaks a black eye.


Greenwald's wildly paranoid theories, which he voices in the article, seem to presuppose the U.S. government to be incredibly stupid. Really, if the government wanted to set up Wikileaks, would using two of the most infamous ex-hackers in the free world exactly be the most subtle way to do it?


Let's clear this up now, friends and neighbors. I am not now, nor have I ever been, in the thrall or employ of the federal government, be it as a confidential informant, a special agent, or a janitor.


If anyone was engineering plans here, in fact, it seems likely to be Greenwald. As described at http://bit.ly/daTCUg, Greenwald has a noted history of using “sock puppets”, or fake accounts, to defend himself and praise his own work. Who's the deceptive one here, again?


Glenn Greenwald first contacted me via Twitter, attempting from the get-go to play me as the original rube. The blinding contempt post was a good thing, he asserted. His public bias encouraged transparency, Greenwald alleged.


I would hear a lot about transparency, but encounter precious little of it. He's refused to answer my questions about somehow, out of all the sources in the world, ending up with a Wikileaks staffer on the phone explaining to him why the guy who outed one of Wikileaks' agents-in-place was the bad guy.


During an hour-long phone conversation, I politely explained the events of the Manning case. Little or none of my explanation ended up in the finished article. What parts did, were spun like a tweaker on payday.


I invite readers to listen to the audio of the interview and use Google to research me. Draw your own conclusions. Don't let them be drawn for you by a man who was discussing how he'd judged a man well before he ever spoke to him, and wasn't about to let facts get in the way of a good hatchet piece. Think for yourselves. Watch my documentary, Hackers Wanted. Read articles with some actual neutrality. Research Greenwald's character for yourselves. But above all, judge based on facts, not innuendo and manufactured reality.


I wish I had some pithy signoff to put here. I don't. I'm just a guy trying to set the record straight – a pissed off guy, to be sure . But if some of you were willing to listen, then putting this to paper will have been worth it.


Thanks for reading.



Adrian Lamo

San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.

03 July 2010


Research & Fact-checking by Jason Mick (jason.mick@dailytech.com)







Posted via email from cjlambert's posterous