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Friday, January 4, 2013

Adrian Lamo, the man who betrayed Bradley Manning

While Adrian Lamo was pretending to be Bradley Manning's friend, the 5ft 2in soldier told him "I'm honestly scared, I have no one I can trust, I need a lot of help." Lamo told him he was a church minister and a journalist and promised Manning that his identity would never be known.  And then he blew the whistle.

When Manning first arrived at Quantico, he was happy to be back in the USA with air conditioning, solid floors and hot and cold water. But living in a 6ft x 8ft cell without any natural light 23 hours a day was hard, some even say his treatment was "torture."

Because he was a suicide risk, Manning had to use the toilet in full view of the guards and was denied toilet paper and a pillow. When nature called, he had to stand to attention at the front of the cell and yell "Lance Corporal Detainee Manning requests toilet paper."  He was forbidden to exercise in his cell so he started to dance.  Dancing wasn't considered to be exercise.

Three Quantico forensic psychiatrists gave evidence in court that within days of arriving at the marine base, Manning had recovered his mental health and was no longer a risk to himself.  They consistently recommended he be put on a much less rigid regime, but authorities wouldn't listen.

In May 2010, Adrian Lamo reported to US Army authorities that Manning claimed to have leaked 260,000 classified US diplomatic cables and also took credit for the release of the "collateral murder video" of July 2007 in Baghdad.

Lamo said at the time that he would not have betrayed Manning "if lives weren't in danger."  Julian Assange responded by calling him a "very disreputable character" and said it wasn't right to call him a contributor to WikiLeaks.  Fellow hackers called him a "snitch" and he became the most hated hacker in the world.

So was Lamo aware that turning Manning in could mean the death penalty?  "I knew my actions might cost him his life" he said.  But he has an excuse.  When he was 13, he was brutally mugged at a busy train station and nobody came to help him.  "That was a defining point in that stage of my life.  After that I could never tell myself that it was someone else's problem or let a situation pass me by if I felt something had to be done."

So how is he coping now?  

"I had quite the substance abuse problem for a while, I was in a period of recovery when I first met Bradley but it didn't last, at least not that particular time."

So in hindsight, did Manning's leak put the lives of others in danger, as he originally believed? 

"Not long after the files were released, the Taliban announced that they were combing poorly redacted contact logs for the names of Afghani nationals who were assisting security forces in post war Afghanistan. Even if that were the sole data point, I'd remain convinced that months of warning is a hell of an important thing to give someone before the date of their potential execution" he said.

Lamo says that Wikileaks has a history of hand-waving away the consequences of their disclosures.  When documents they released were linked to violence in Kenya, Julian Assange said "......we are not able to leave the field of doing good simply because harm might happen" and if anyone were conclusively killed because of WikiLeaks, they could take comfort knowing "we will review our procedures upon proof of their death."

So would he do it again? 

Lamo gave the example of Frank Willis - a man nobody has ever heard of.  He was the security guard at the Watergate in June 1972. 

"Depending on how you look at it" Lamo said "he was either in the right place at the right time or should never have gone to work that day.  He died at the age of 52 in poverty after problems seeking employment due to his connection to the incident.  He died five years before the identify of "Deep Throat" Mark Felt was revealed, but his death merited only a cursory obituary on Page B7 in the regional section of his local paper. From his point of view, would he have made the same choice again?  I'm not going to try to answer that.  No one could."