Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wikileaks, Wired Magazine, and a wayward private: the short story

Have you heard of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, and Kevin Poulsen?  If not, you've almost surely heard about the leaked video of the Apache helicopter shooting in Iraq, yes?  Ok, so Manning is the army private who supposedly leaked that video, Lamo is the hacker confidant he confessed to, and Poulsen is the journalist Lamo fed the story to after reporting Manning to the feds.  Got that?  Manning: Private.  Lamo: Hacker.  Poulsen: Journalist.  Here goes.

Manning for some reason began chatting with this hacker, Lamo, and admitted to him that he was the leaker of the Apache video, and a bunch of other way confidential stuff.  Lamo immediately started talking to the authorities, got more incriminating information from Manning, and then arranged for his arrest.  Lamo then took the story to Poulsen (journalist), who wrote a long story, credulous of Lamo, about the sting operation and Manning's arrest for the Wired Magazine ThreatLevel blog.  Ok.  Deep breath.  But then, Salon's Glenn Greenwald senses something was fishy about the story as told by Lamo and related by Poulsen and did some digging.  Apparently Lamo and Poulsen go way back, back to when they were both hackers, and have established a tradition of Lamo hacking something, then feeding a story to Poulsen to get publicity.  Moreover, Greenwald found Lamo's claims that Manning found him by twitter-searching "Wikileaks" (and then poured his heart out) to be extremely dubious.  Gawker has a good summary of the Greenwald article, which is long.  The basics are that according to chat transcripts and interviews with Lamo, it appears Lamo misled Manning into thinking he was both a journalist and a cleric, and could therefore offer him protection and anonymity in either capacity.  Then he called the feds.

But there's more.  The chat transcripts between Lamo and Manning (those that have been released, Wired has them all but is holding them back) also reveal that Manning is likely transgendered, and that this might have played a large role in shaping his negative relationship with the military in an era of #DADT.  Lamo is bisexual, and active in the LGBT community, and so this fact might have shaped Manning's willingness to put trust in him, and definitely sheds some light on how Manning found him.  Gawker accuses Lamo of trading on Manning's gender struggles to gain secrets, which seems to up the sleaze factor for them, but once you've told the kid you're a minister, I don't know how much more sleazy it can get.  From Gawker:
Lamo has admitted that he portrayed himself to Manning as both an ordained minister who would keep his secret for religious reasons, and as a journalist who could protect them under California's journalism shield law. It's not hard to believe that he would stoop so low as to pass himself off as sort of a LGBT guidance counselor for a young, confused soldier in order to pump him for information. Wired could then conveniently redact these parts of the chat logs, citing concern for Manning's privacy.
So where we stand now is that Manning is in jail in an undisclosed location and likely headed for a lifetime jail sentence, Lamo is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, and Ken Poulsen is having twitter wars with Glenn Greenwald.  And Wired is refusing to release the full chat transcripts, citing national security and privacy concerns.  Don't you feel smarter for knowing this all?

There are two main positions to take on this one.  Either you think that Manning was a threat to national security, and Lamo did the right thing (heroic, even) by turning him in, or you think that the leaks Manning provided were valuable to the public, and Lamo should have kept his mouth shut (possibly putting himself in danger of being caught by authorities later--given his previous hacking convictions, I imagine they keep an eye on him).  Or you think this Lamo guy sounds like kinda an a**hat, but that Manning probably should have been arrested, but also that we're glad those videos were leaked, which is kinda where I'm at.  I'm all about leaks that show military abuses of power, but when it's just a huge data dump that may or may not contain strategic but non-incriminating intelligence, that's a little dicier.  Couldn't have Manning edited it down to the juicy bits?  And then told a real minister?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commenting is now open, but we'd love it if you chose one username so other commenters can get to know you. To do this, select "Name/URL" in the "Comment as" drop down. Put the name you'd like others to see; the URL is optional.

Any profanity, bigotry, or synonyms for "[ ] sucks!" will be deleted. We welcome criticism as long as you're making a point!