February 20, 1981 |
|Other names||Adrián Lamo, R. Adrián Lamo|
|Parent(s)||Mario Lamo-Jiménez and Mary Lamo-Atwood|
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 named Bradley Manning) to federal authorities, claiming that Manning had leaked hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested and incarcerated in the U.S. military justice system and later sentenced to 35 years in confinement.
Early life and education
Lamo was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Mario Lamo and Mary Atwood in 1981. He does not have a high school diploma. Lamo got a GED and was ordered by the court to take some classes at American River College, a community college in Sacramento County, California. Lamo was known as the "Homeless Hacker" for his supposedly 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, and sometimes exploiting security holes. Despite performing authorized and unauthorized vulnerability assessments for several large, high-profile entities, Lamo has claimed he 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 a 2004 interview with Wired, an ex-girlfriend of Lamo's described him as "very controlling," stating, "He carried a stun gun, which he used on me." According to the same article, a court 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 his backpack as stolen, 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, adding his name to the internal database of expert sources, and using 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 and 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", (probably 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 through his intrusions, with the court record quoting 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, one that 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. Wired reported that 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 [he] 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 that "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 also 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 his response, Poulsen accused Greenwald of "name-calling, bizarre conspiracy theories and ad hominem attacks".
Greenwald called for Wired to release more of the chat logs in its possession that pertain to a conversation between Manning and Lamo: "there are clearly relevant parts of those chats which Wired continues to conceal". Wired's editor-in-chief reiterated that "the logs include sensitive personal information with no bearing on WikiLeaks, and it would serve no purpose to publish them at this time." 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 that "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 mythologised the group. He also said that Anonymous is not the 'invulnerable' group it is claimed to be, and 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.
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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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