We speak with Adrian Lamo, the former hacker who last year informed the U.S. military authorities of his conversations with Army Private Bradley Manning, in which Manning claimed to have leaked a large body of classified documents. In internet chats with Lamo using a pseudonym, Manning allegedly disclosed he was providing materials to WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Lamo is now a witness in Manning’s trial. "I very much regret the situation that his actions have put him in. He is on my mind every day. I remember what it was to be that young and that idealistic. And when he came to me, he created a situation where there was no right decision. There were simply choices that were between greater and lesser harm. I had to go with the one that resulted in the lesser harm, but still resulted in harm," says Lamo. "The leaks have real potential to do harm or hazard. And then, additionally, they still do long-term damage to U.S. diplomacy with other countries, which in turn weakens our international position." [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the former hacker Adrian Lamo, who last year informed the U.S. military authorities of his conversations with Private Bradley Manning in Iraq, in which Manning claimed to have leaked a large body of classified documents. In internet chats with Lamo using a pseudonym, Manning allegedly disclosed he was providing materials to WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Adrian Lamo is a security analyst now. He came to the attention of reporters when he broke into the New York Times, Yahoo! and Microsoft computer networks, for which he was arrested in 2003 and later convicted on felony charges. He joins us now from the D.C. area.
Adrian, welcome to Democracy Now! We are now seeing Bradley Manning, or those in the military hearing, for the first time in a year and a half. Your thoughts on what has happened to Bradley Manning since you turned him in to authorities?
ADRIAN LAMO: I think that it is regrettable that he has had to undergo the conditions which he has. However, given that he has displayed a propensity for disseminating classified information, it would not have been secure to put him in a setting where he would have the opportunity to further to do so.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you been surprised by anything that’s come out of the military hearing?
ADRIAN LAMO: I was a bit taken aback by the lack of operational security which he displayed in covering his tracks. I was under the impression that he had made a better effort in order to avoid incriminating himself. And I’m frankly surprised that the defense is acting as though it can successfully prevail.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be speaking with Glenn Greenwald, but you told him in an interview, the Salon.com blogger, that you felt comfortable turning Manning in, if he were only to spend six months in jail. But now that he’s spent a year and a half in jail, faces life in prison, your thoughts? Perhaps death.
ADRIAN LAMO: I believe that is more of a paraphrase. I stated that I didn’t believe that he would do more than six months, based on the leniency that we tend to see in our system. However, given the facts that have emerged regarding the actions that he took, the scope of his disclosures, I believe that a more serious custodial sentence is warranted.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of sentence would you like to see?
ADRIAN LAMO: In a perfect world, I would like to see no sentence, because none of this would have ever happened.
AMY GOODMAN: You said that Bradley Manning was a traitor, that he risked harm to the United States. But now even the U.S. military says not a single person has been harmed from the leaks. Have you revised your views on this?
ADRIAN LAMO: I don’t believe that you can directly say that a single person has or has not been harmed by the leaks. It’s like saying whether or not a death is attributable to smoking or whether the person would have developed cancer naturally. The leaks have the real potential to do harm or hazard. And then, additionally, they still do long-term damage to U.S. diplomacy with other countries, which in turn weakens our international position.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you would think that the military, that the U.S. government, would make the case, for someone who was killed, that Bradley Manning was responsible, if that were the case, considering how many people have criticized the government for the conditions under which Bradley Manning has been held and for holding him this long before a hearing. So you’d think they would make the most of it, if they believed there were such a connection.
ADRIAN LAMO: I believe that they are [inaudible] connection, because the only way that such a connection can be made is if there were video of Bradley Manning putting a gun to somebody’s head and pulling a trigger. They are going with the case that they can, and that quite simply is good enough, the fact that he was responsible for the most prolific known intelligence leak in the history of the intelligence community.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your comment, Adrian, on the statement of Daniel Ellsberg on Friday on Democracy Now!, the nation’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers. I asked him about the significance of the video WikiLeaks released last year, the 2007 video that shows U.S. forces indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Military prosecutors have accused Manning of giving the video to WikiLeaks, the footage from July 2007, the video showing U.S. forces killing 12 people, including two Reuters employees—a journalist and his driver. I also asked Ellsberg about the significance of Time magazine naming "Protester" as the "Person of the Year." This is what Dan Ellsberg said.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: First of all, on that video, which I’ve seen a number of times, let me speak as a former Marine company commander, and I was a battalion training officer who trained the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines on rules of war. No question in my mind, as I looked at that, that the specific leaked pictures in there of helicopter gunners hunting down and shooting an unarmed man in civilian clothes, clearly wounded, in an area where a squad of American soldiers was about to appear, as the helicopter gunners knew, to take custody of anyone remaining living, that shooting was murder. It was a war crime. Not all killing in war is murder, but a lot of it is. And this was.
The Time magazine cover gives protester, an anonymous protester, as "Person of the Year," but it is possible to put a face and a name to that picture of "Person of the Year." And the American face I would put on that is Private Bradley Manning. The fact is that he is credited by President Obama and the Justice Department, or the Army, actually, with having given WikiLeaks that helicopter picture and other evidence of atrocities and war crimes—and torture, specifically—in Iraq, including in the Obama administration. That, in other words, led to the Tunisian uprising, the occupation in Tunis Square, which has been renamed by—for another face that could go on that picture, Mohamed Bouazizi, who, after the WikiLeaks exposures of corruption, in Tunis, himself, Bouazizi, burned himself alive just one year ago tomorrow, Saturday, December 17th, in protest. And the combination of the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning exposures in Tunis and the exemplification of that by Mohamed Bouazizi led to the protests, the nonviolent protests, that drove Ben Ali out of power, our ally there who we supported up 'til that moment, and in turn sparked the uprising in Egypt, in Tahrir Square occupation, which immediately stimulated the Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere. So, "Person of the Year," one of those persons of the year is now sitting in a courthouse in Leavenworth. He deserves the recognition that he's just gotten in Time. Julian Assange, who published that, another person of the year, I would say, who’s gotten a number of journalistic awards, very much deserve our gratitude. And I hope they will have the effect in liberating us from the lawlessness that we have seen and the corruption—the corruption—that we have seen in this country in the last 10 years and more, which has been no less than that of Tunis and Egypt.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the country’s most famous whistleblower, Dan Ellsberg, who many have credited with helping to end the war in Vietnam. Adrian Lamo, how do you respond to what Dan Ellsberg said about Bradley Manning, the man you turned in?
ADRIAN LAMO: Well, you raise a whole bag of issues with that quote by Mr. Ellsberg, given that he goes on a number of topics. That being said, however, I think that he’s drawing a very tenuous connection between the uprisings in various countries and Bradley Manning’s actions. Additionally, I find it fortuitous that you use "whistleblower," because the Whistleblower Act of 1988 allows for protection for legitimate military whistleblowers, which Bradley Manning could have afforded himself of and either elected not to or was simply unwilling to do so. Instead, he went for a massive data dump, whereas the Pentagon Papers were, in effect, legitimized into the public eye by being read into evidence on the floor in legislature, where lawmakers are immune from—this was by Mike Gravel, by the way, where lawmakers are immune from any criminal culpability from their acts in the performance of their duties.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you say it’s possible that, if in fact Bradley Manning is guilty of what he is accused of, he helped to end the Iraq War, releasing, for example, the video from 2007 that shows the Reuters reporter and driver and other Iraqi civilians being killed, leading to—and some Iraqi newspapers have credited this—the Iraq not agreeing to a deal to give U.S. soldiers immunity, which led Obama to say then all soldiers are pulling out?
ADRIAN LAMO: I don’t believe it’s possible to make that direct connection. I believe that the video shows a one-sided accounting of a sequence of events, much in the same way that, as horrific as it was, the Rodney King video did not show the violence that led up to the unfortunate beating that sparked the resulting riots there.
AMY GOODMAN: When the Wired chat transcripts were finally all released in Wired magazine, the transcripts that you said were transcripts of your chat with Bradley Manning, you repeatedly swore that Manning was telling you these things in confidence, as a journalist and a minister. At one point, you said again, "this is not for print." Why did you then break that assurance that you gave to Bradley Manning?
ADRIAN LAMO: I believe that that is a fallacious interpretation of my words. I offered him the protection of both journalistic shield and clergical protection. And he did not affirmatively accept either. In fact, at one point he said to me, "I am not your source." So, he did not bring those factors into play.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end with a last question about something you told PBS Frontline during an interview about when you put your name on the New York Times editorial board masthead, when you hacked the New York Times site. You said, quote, talking then about hacking Yahoo!, "There was an article about a Russian programmer named Dmitry [Sklyarov] who had been arrested and was facing prosecution for creating a program that would allow anybody to read e-books which had been locked. And," you said, "I changed the story to say that he was facing the death penalty and added a quote citing Attorney General John Ashcroft as saying to a 'cheering horde' that 'Whomsoever told them that the truth shall set them free was obviously and grossly unfamiliar with federal law,'" unquote, "something that I think was rather factually accurate," you said in the PBS interview. Do you see any parallels with Bradley Manning?
ADRIAN LAMO: I absolutely agree that federal law is not a fantastic vehicle for the release of truth. FOIA is a lengthy and, to a certain degree, broken process. However, to say that because something is imperfect does not mean that the resolution is to engage in indiscriminate data dumps without first reviewing what it is that’s being put out there.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrian Lamo, I want to thank you for being with us and just ask you this final question. Do you have any regrets about what has happened to Bradley Manning as a result of you turning him in?
ADRIAN LAMO: I very much regret the situation that he—his actions have put him in. He is on my mind every day. I remember what it was to be that young and that idealistic. And when he came to me, he created a situation where there was no right decision. There were simply choices that were between greater and lesser harm. And one had to go—I had to go with the one that resulted in the lesser harm, but still resulted in harm. And I live with that.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you continue to work with the FBI and the military?
ADRIAN LAMO: I continue to be a witness in this case, as with any other individual who was a witness to a crime or to any information pertaining to a crime.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you in the courtroom watching this hearing?
ADRIAN LAMO: As a witness, I am barred from the courtroom.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us. Adrian Lamo is the hacker who turned Bradley Manning in. This, on the fourth day of the Bradley Manning Article 32 military hearing that’s taking place at Fort Meade.