Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bradley Manning: WikiLeaker, Part 2

One Sided


Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning

The conversations, first revealed by Wired magazine on June 10, 2010, followed by more complete versions released by the website and The Washington Post, with all of the known logs finally compiled by appear to be one-sided. Lamo, via Wired, redacted large portions of his own responses, in part for security reasons. The result: Manning's alleged conversations with Lamo make Manning appear eager and desperate to talk to someone, anyone:

(1:56:24 PM) Manning: im sure you're pretty busy...

(1:58:31 PM) Manning: if you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?

(1:58:31 PM) Adrian Lamo [AUTO-REPLY]: Tired of being tired

(2:17:29 PM) Manning: ?

The next day, he allegedly tried again. "hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time... say, 8-9 months... and you saw incredible things, awful things... things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC... what would you do? Or Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter: things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people. say... a database of half a million events during the iraq war... from 2004 to 2009... with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures... ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective? the air-gap has been penetrated...

Lamo's response was noncommittal: "How so? YT?" (You there?)

Because large chunks of the logs have been redacted from Lamo's part of the conversation, there are times when Manning appears to be bragging or taunting Lamo with what he knows, getting bolder and bolder with each admission: "Lets just say *someone I know intimately well, has been penetrating US classified networks, mining data like the ones described … and been transferring that data from the classified networks over the 'air gap' onto a commercial network computer... sorting the data, compressing it, encrypting it, and uploading it to a crazy white haired Aussie who can't seem to stay in one country very long =L"

That someone—if the chats are real—seems to be Manning himself. But, it might just be that Manning was trying to impress Lamo, whom he admired as a hacker.

Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald

Later Lamo would be excoriated in the media, with the sharpest criticism coming from Greg Mitchell of The Nation and Glenn Greenwald of Writes Mitchell in his book, Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences: "As Glenn Greenwald and many others have suggested, there is grave danger in treating the Lamo chat logs as pure evidence. They haven't even been confirmed as real, and accurate, in the eyes of many, and that doesn't even consider the many omissions—roughly three-quarters of what Lamo allegedly copies."

Mitchell points out that Lamo did testify in a deposition and therefore could be charged with perjury if the logs were faked or falsified in any way.

And, there is the odd nature of the immediacy and eagerness of Manning's willingness to chat to Lamo over AOL Instant Messenger, a rather loose and open portal compared with some of the ways these two high-tech individuals might be expected to converse about such sensitive information.

Greenwald's extensive interview with Lamo, revealed other wrinkles. The initial Twitter contact was more extended than initially thought: Manning had allegedly contacted Lamo via encrypted email, and because it was encrypted, the emails were initially not opened, and later had been locked. It was because of this that Lamo suggested Manning and he chat over IM.

Lamo told Greenwald that though he thought Bradley Manning should be commended for leaking the video which became “Collateral Murder,” it was the larger scope of documents that gave him pause. "I'm willing to most likely piss off half the federal government and say that I think that for a 22 year-old to take the risk of leaking the ‘Collateral Murder’ video is heroic because it's important that our civil population know how the troops on the ground or in the air think and how it is that they're approaching combat zones. I think that if we don't have that then we don't really understand what our taxpayer dollars are going to. I think when you start leaking masses of information that you can't vet so carefully, and that could put lives in danger, it's another issue entirely."

One of the biggest issues that Greenwald had with Lamo was that Lamo had presented himself as a journalist when he was not and had told Manning that their chats would be protected under the California Shield law. If this is what Manning had believed and the chat logs are true, then Manning felt safe telling Lamo everything he knew.