February 20, 1981 |
|Other names||Adrián Lamo, R. Adrián Lamo|
|Occupation||Threat Analyst, Journalist|
|Years active||1999 - Present (5 Jan. 2017)|
|Known for||Extensive computer hacking, uncovering largest breach of classified information in history of Western intelligence community|
|Notable work||Appeared on Hackers Wanted, We Steal Secrets, Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Aqui y Ahora, and numerous other visual and print media outlets, including cover stories in Information Week and SF Weekly|
|Home town||San Francisco, Washington DC, Bogotá (Colombia)|
|Television||TechTV, KCRA Channel 3 News|
|Title||Assistant Director for Threat Intelligence|
|Criminal penalty||Six months of house arrest, 2 1/2 years probation, $64,938 restitution|
|Criminal status||In 2004, pleaded guilty to one felony count in SDNY to hacking The New York Times and Microsoft, and subsequently informed them and helped fix their security holes|
|Spouse(s)||Lauren Fisher (2007-2011)|
|Parent(s)||Mario Lamo-Jiménez and Mary Lamo-Atwood|
|Honors||Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa|
Lamo first gained media attention for breaking into several high-profile computer networks, including those of The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, culminating in his 2003 arrest. In 2010, Lamo reported U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) to Army Counterintelligence and United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, claiming that Manning had leaked hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks. The Taliban insurgency later announced its intention to execute Afghan nationals named in the leaks as having cooperated with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. By that time, the United States had received months of advance warning that their names were among the leaks. Manning was arrested and incarcerated in the U.S. military justice system and later sentenced to 35 years in confinement, which President Barack Obama commuted to a total of seven years at the end of his term, including time served. Lamo responded to the commutation with a single statement and a single interview.
Early life and education
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Lamo did not graduate from high school, but received a GED and was court ordered to take courses at American River College, a community college in Sacramento County, California. Known as the "Homeless Hacker" for his reportedly transient lifestyle, Lamo has claimed that he has spent much of his travels couch-surfing, squatting in abandoned buildings, and traveling to Internet cafes, libraries, and universities to investigate networks, sometimes exploiting security holes. Despite performing authorized and unauthorized vulnerability assessments for several large, high-profile entities, Lamo claims to have refused to accept payment for his services.
In the mid-1990s, Lamo volunteered for the gay and lesbian media firm PlanetOut.com. In 1998, Lamo was appointed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Youth Task Force by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In 1999, Lamo was ordained a minister in the Universal Life Church.
In a 2004 interview with Wired, an ex-girlfriend of Lamo's described him as "very controlling," alleging, "He carried a stun gun, which he used on me." According to the same article, a court allegedly issued a restraining order against Lamo. Lamo disputed the claim, writing, "I have never been subject to a restraining order in my life".
Lamo claimed in a Wired article that in May 2010, after he reported the theft of his backpack, an investigating officer noted unusual behavior and placed him under a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold, which was extended to a nine-day hold. Lamo says he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the psych ward.
For a period of time circa March 2011, Lamo was allegedly "in hiding," claiming that his "life was under threat" after turning in Manning. During this time he struggled with substance abuse, but claims he is now in recovery and his security situation has improved as well.
Activities and legal issues
In December 2001, Lamo was praised by Worldcom for helping to fortify their corporate security. In February 2002, he broke into the internal computer network of The New York Times, added his name to the internal database of expert sources, and used the paper's LexisNexis account to conduct research on high-profile subjects. The New York Times filed a complaint, and a warrant for Lamo's arrest was issued in August 2003 following a 15-month investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. At 10:15 AM on September 9, after spending a few days in hiding, he surrendered to the US Marshals in Sacramento, California. He re-surrendered to the FBI in New York City on September 11, and pleaded guilty to one felony count of computer crimes against Microsoft, LexisNexis, and The New York Times on January 8, 2004.
Later in 2004, Lamo was sentenced to six months' detention at his parents' home, plus two years probation, and was ordered to pay roughly $65,000 in restitution. He was convicted of compromising security at The New York Times, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and WorldCom.
When challenged for a response to allegations that he was glamorizing crime for the sake of publicity, his response was: "Anything I could say about my person or my actions would only cheapen what they have to say for themselves". When approached for comment during his criminal case, Lamo frustrated reporters with non sequiturs, such as: "Faith manages". (likely a reference to science fiction television show Babylon 5), and "It's a beautiful day."
At his sentencing, Lamo expressed remorse for harm he had caused by his intrusions. The court record quotes him as adding: "I want to answer for what I have done and do better with my life."
He subsequently declared on the question and answer site Quora, that: "We all own our actions in fullness, not just the pleasant aspects of them." Lamo accepted that he had committed mistakes.
On May 9, 2006, while 18 months into a two-year probation sentence, Lamo refused to give the United States government a blood sample, which they had demanded in order to record his DNA in their CODIS system. According to his attorney, Lamo has a religious objection to giving blood but is willing to give his DNA in another form. On June 15, 2007, lawyers for Lamo filed a motion citing the Book of Genesis as one basis for Lamo's religious opposition to the giving of blood.
On June 21, 2007, it was reported that Lamo's legal counsel had reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice whereby Lamo would submit DNA via buccal swab. According to Kevin Poulsen's blog, "the Justice Department formally settled the case, filing a joint stipulation along with Lamo's federal public defender dropping the demand for blood.
WikiLeaks and Manning
In February 2009, a partial list of the anonymous donors to the WikiLeaks not-for-profit website was leaked and published on the WikiLeaks website. Some media sources indicated at the time that Lamo was among the donors on the list. Lamo commented on his Twitter page, "Thanks WikiLeaks, for leaking your donor list... That's dedication."
In May 2010, Lamo reported to U.S. Army authorities that Manning had claimed to have leaked a large body of classified documents, including 260,000 classified United States diplomatic cables. Lamo stated that Manning also "took credit for leaking" the video footage of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, which has since come to be known as the "Collateral Murder" video.
Lamo has stated that he would not have turned Manning in "if lives weren't in danger... [Manning] was in a war zone and basically trying to vacuum up as much classified information as [she] could, and just throwing it up into the air." WikiLeaks responded by denouncing Lamo and Wired Magazine reporter Kevin Poulsen as "notorious felons, informers & manipulators", and said: "journalists should take care."
According to Andy Greenberg of Forbes, Lamo may have worked as a "security specialist" with Project Vigilant, a private security institution that works with the FBI and the NSA. Chet Uber, the head of Project Vigilant, has claimed, "I'm the one who called the U.S. government... All the people who say that Adrian is a narc, he did a patriotic thing. He sees all kinds of hacks, and he was seriously worried about people dying."
Lamo has been criticized by fellow hackers, such as those at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in 2010, who called him a "snitch". Another commented to Lamo, following his speech during a panel discussion, saying: "From my perspective, I see what you have done as treason."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange calls Lamo "a very disreputable character", and says that Lamo's monetary support for WikiLeaks amounted to only 20 U.S. dollars on one occasion. Assange says that it is "not right to call [Lamo] a contributor to WikiLeaks", and questions the electronic record associated with the Manning–Lamo chats, because, according to Assange, Lamo has "strange motivations" and "had been in a mental hospital three weeks beforehand".
Lamo has characterized his decision to work with the government as morally ambiguous but objectively necessary, writing in The Guardian: "There were no right choices that day, only less wrong ones. It was cold, it was needful, and it was no one's to make except mine," adding to The Guardian's Ed Pilkington: "There were hundreds of thousands of documents—let's drop the number to 250,000 to be conservative—and doing nothing meant gambling that each and every one would do no harm if no warning was given."
Greenwald, Lamo, and Wired magazine
Lamo's role in the Manning case drew criticism from Glenn Greenwald of Salon Magazine. Greenwald suggested that Lamo lied to Manning by turning Manning in, and then lied after the fact to cover up the circumstances of Manning's confessions. Greenwald places the incident in the context of what he calls "the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistle-blowers". Greenwald's critique of Wired Magazine has drawn a response from that magazine which suggests that Greenwald is writing disingenuously: "At his most reasonable, Greenwald impugns our motives, attacks the character of our staff and carefully selects his facts and sources to misrepresent the truth and generate outrage in his readership." In an article about the Manning case, Greenwald mentions Wired reporter Kevin Poulsen's 1994 felony conviction for computer hacking, suggesting that "over the years, Poulsen has served more or less as Lamo's personal media voice." Greenwald is skeptical of an earlier story written by Poulsen about Lamo's institutionalization on psychiatric grounds, writing: "Lamo claimed he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a somewhat fashionable autism diagnosis which many stars in the computer world have also claimed."  In an article entitled "The Worsening Journalistic Disgrace at Wired", Greenwald claimed that Wired was "actively conceal[ing] from the public, for months on end, the key evidence in a political story that has generated headlines around the world."
On July 13, 2011, Wired published the logs in full, stating: "The most significant of the unpublished details have now been publicly established with sufficient authority that we no longer believe any purpose is served by withholding the logs." Greenwald wrote of the newly released logs that in his opinion they validated his claim that Wired had concealed important evidence.
Criticism of media coverage of Anonymous
Lamo has been critical of media coverage of the hacker collective Anonymous, claiming that media outlets have over-hyped and mythologized the group. He also said that Anonymous is not the "invulnerable" group it is claimed to be, and he can see "no rational point in what they're doing."
Film and television
On August 22, 2002, Lamo was removed from a segment of NBC Nightly News when, after being asked to demonstrate his skills for the camera, he gained access to NBC's internal network. NBC was concerned that they broke the law by taping Lamo while he (possibly) broke the law. Lamo was a guest on The Screen Savers five times beginning in 2002.
Hackers Wanted, a documentary film focusing on Lamo's life as a hacker, was produced by Trigger Street Productions, and narrated by Kevin Spacey. Focusing on the 2003 hacking scene, the film features interviews with Kevin Rose and Steve Wozniak. The film has not been conventionally released. In May 2009, a video purporting to be a trailer for Hackers Wanted was allegedly leaked to or by Internet film site Eye Crave. In May 2010, an earlier cut of the film was leaked via BitTorrent. According to an insider, what was leaked on the Internet was a very different film from the newer version, which includes additional footage. On June 12, 2010, a director's cut version of the film was also leaked onto torrent sites.
Lamo has also appeared on Good Morning America, Fox News, Democracy Now!, Frontline (U.S. TV series), and repeatedly on KCRA-TV News as an expert on netcentric crime and incidents. He was interviewed for the documentaries We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks and True Stories: Wikileaks - Secrets and Lies.  Lamo reconnected with Leo Laporte in 2015 as a result of a Quora article on the "dark web" for an episode of The New Screen Savers, bringing things full circle.
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Known as the Homeless Hacker before his arrest, Lamo did most of his virtual exploring from the Internet connections at Kinko's copy shops.
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Adrian Lamo, Seat No. 10
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