Adrian Lamo

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Adrian Lamo
File:Adrian Lamo.png
Adrian Lamo
Born (1981-02-20) February 20, 1981 (age 37)
Boston, Massachusetts
Other names Adrián Lamo, R. Adrián Lamo
Occupation Threat analyst
Parent(s) Mario Lamo-Jiménez and Mary Lamo-Atwood

Adrian Lamo (born February 20, 1981[1]) is a Colombian-American threat analyst[2] and former hacker.[3]

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.[4] In 2010, Lamo reported U.S. soldier PFC Bradley Manning (now known as Chelsea 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.[5][6]

Early life and education

Lamo was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Mario Lamo and Mary Atwood in 1981.[1] He does not have a high school diploma.[7][8][9] Lamo got a GED and was ordered by the court[10] to take some classes at American River College, a community college in Sacramento County, California.[11][12] Lamo was known as the "Homeless Hacker" for his supposedly transient lifestyle.[13] 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.[4] Despite performing authorized and unauthorized vulnerability assessments for several large, high-profile entities, Lamo has claimed he refused to accept payment for his services.[14][15][16]

In the mid-1990s, Lamo volunteered for the gay and lesbian media firm[14][17] In 1998, Lamo was appointed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Youth Task Force by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.[18][19]

During this period, in 2001, he overdosed on prescription amphetamines.[1][20]

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.[20] Lamo disputed the claim, writing, "I have never been subject to a restraining order in my life".[21]

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.[22]

As of March 2011, Lamo was allegedly "in hiding," claiming that his "life was under threat" after turning in Manning.[23]

Activities and legal issues

Lamo first became known for operating AOL watchdog site[24][25]

Security compromise

In December 2001, Lamo was praised by Worldcom for helping to fortify their corporate security.[26] 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 pled guilty to one felony count of computer crimes against Microsoft, LexisNexis and The New York Times on January 8, 2004.[27][28]

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,[29][30] Yahoo![31] and WorldCom.[32]

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",[33] (probably a reference to science fiction television show Babylon 5) and "It's a beautiful day."[34]

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."[35]

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. [36]

DNA controversy

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.[37] 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.[38]

WikiLeaks and Manning

See also: Chelsea 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.[39][40] Wired reported that Lamo commented on his Twitter page, "Thanks WikiLeaks, for leaking your donor list... That's dedication."[40]

In May 2010,[41] 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.[42] 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.[42][43][44]

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."[41] WikiLeaks responded by denouncing Lamo and Wired Magazine reporter Kevin Poulsen as "notorious felons, informers & manipulators" and said that "journalists should take care."[42]

According to Andy Greenberg of Forbes,[45] Lamo may have worked as a "security specialist" with Project Vigilant, a private security institution that works with the FBI and the NSA.[46] 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."[45]

Lamo has been criticized by fellow hackers such as those at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in 2010, who called him a "snitch".[47] Another commented to Lamo following his speech during a panel discussion saying: "From my perspective, I see what you have done as treason."[48]

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.[49] 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".[49]

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."[50][51]

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.[52] Greenwald places the incident in the context of what he calls "the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistle-blowers".[52] 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."[53] 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."[52] 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."[52] In his response, Poulsen accused Greenwald of "name-calling, bizarre conspiracy theories and ad hominem attacks".[53]

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".[52] 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."[53] 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."[54]

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."[55] Greenwald wrote of the newly released logs that in his opinion they validated his claim that Wired had concealed important evidence.[56]

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."[57]

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.[58] 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.[59]

Hackers Wanted, a documentary film focusing on Lamo's life as a hacker, was produced by Trigger Street Productions, and narrated by Kevin Spacey.[60] Focusing on the 2003 hacking scene, the film features interviews with Kevin Rose and Steve Wozniak.[60] 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.[61] In May 2010, an earlier cut of the film was leaked via Bittorrent.[62] 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.[63]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Palmquist, Matt (April 16, 2003). "A Duty to Hack". SF Weekly. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  2. Adrin Lamo (November 17, 2013). "Adrian Lamo on Facebook". Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  3. "Hacker Adrian Lamo testifies at WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning's court-martial". Washington Post. June 4, 2013. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Wired 12.04: The Homeless Hacker v. The New York Times". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  5. Poulsen, Kevin; Zetter, Kim (June 6, 2010). "U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe". Wired. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  6. "US intelligence analyst arrested over security leaks". BBC. June 7, 2010. Archived from the original on June 7, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  7. Shachtman, Noah. "He Hacks by Day, Squats by Night." Wired. March 6, 2002. Retrieved on February 24, 2014. "[...]the suits weren't about to pay attention to some hacker kid who didn't even have a high school diploma."
  8. "With Friends Like This". InformationWeek.
  9. "A Duty to Hack". SF Weekly.
  10. Mills, Elinor. "Q&A: Adrian Lamo, the hacker philosopher." CNET. June 24, 2009. Retrieved on February 24, 2014. "In terms of higher education, I was court-ordered to attend school after I was arrested and I studied journalism at American River College in Carmichael, Calif."
  11. Shachtman, Noah (1 September 2004). "Adrian Lamo Cuts Deal With Feds". Wired. 
  12. "Q&A: Adrian Lamo, the hacker philosopher". CNET (CBS Interactive).
  13. Kahn, Jennifer (April 2004). "The Homeless Hacker v. The New York Times". Issue 12.04: Wired Magazine. Known as the Homeless Hacker before his arrest, Lamo did most of his virtual exploring from the Internet connections at Kinko's copy shops. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Shachtman, Noah (March 6, 2002). "He Hacks By Day, Squats By Night". Wired. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  15. Fantz, Ashley (July 29, 2010). "On WikiLeaks scandal, hacker says he didn't want to be a coward". CNN. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  16. The Week Staff (June 16, 2010). "Who is hacker hero Adrian Lamo". The Week. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  17. "Wired 12.04: The Homeless Hacker v. The New York Times". Retrieved December 20, 2011. 
  18. "Report: U.S. Army homosexual tied to WikiLeaks scandal". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  19. "Agenda & Minutes Archive". San Francisco Board of Supervisors. August 3, 1998. Retrieved October 23, 2010. Adrian Lamo, Seat No. 10 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Kahn, Jennifer (2004). "The Homeless Hacker v. The New York Times". Wired. Retrieved July 8, 2010. 
  21. Lamo, Adrian (July 10, 2010). "Citability (is important!)". God, Sex, & the FBI: Adrian Lamo's (alleged) blog. Retrieved July 10, 2010. [dead link]
  22. Poulsen, Kevin (May 20, 2010). "Ex-Hacker Adrian Lamo Institutionalized for Asperger's". Wired. Archived from the original on May 23, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  23. "Hacker: Why I turned FBI Informer". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on March 16, 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  24. Brown, Janelle (July 1, 1999). "Can AOL silence its critics?". Retrieved February 1, 2006. 
  25. Poulsen, Kevin (November 29, 2000). "Hijackers take AIM accounts". SecurityFocus. Retrieved February 1, 2006. 
  26. Poulsen, Kevin. "FBI reportedly hunting Adrian Lamo". The Register. 
  27. Shachtman, Noah. "Adrian Lamo Cuts Deal With Feds". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  28. Kevin Poulsen (January 8, 2004). "Lamo Pleads Guilty to Times Hack". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  29. Lemos, Robert (May 29, 2001). "Hacker helps Excite@Home toughen defenses". CNET News. Archived from the original on December 14, 2005. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  30. Poulsen, Kevin (May 5, 2001). "Proxy exposes Excite@Home data". SecurityFocus. Retrieved April 24, 2006. 
  31. Poulsen, Kevin (September 9, 2001). "Yahoo! News hacked". SecurityFocus. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  32. Poulsen, Kevin (December 5, 2001). "Lamo's Adventures in WorldCom". SecurityFocus. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  33. McCullagh, Declan (September 16, 2003). "The 'homeless hacker' talks". CNET News. Archived from the original on February 3, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  34. McCullagh, Declan (September 12, 2003). "Judge lifts hacker's PC restrictions". CNET News. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  35. Poulsen, Kevin (September 15, 2004). "Feds say Lamo inspired other hackers". SecurityFocus. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  36. "Adrián Lamo's answer to How often do criminals hand themselves in? - Quora".
  37. Poulsen, Kevin (May 10, 2006). "Feds Want Hacker's Genetic Code". Wired. Retrieved January 21, 2006. 
  38. Poulsen, Kevin (June 21, 2007). "Hacker Adrian Lamo Wins, Won't Have to Give the FBI His Blood". Wired. Retrieved June 22, 2007. 
  39. "Wikileaks Forced to Post Its Own Secrets". DailyTech. Retrieved December 20, 2011. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 Singel, Ryan. "Wikileaks forced to leak its own secret info (Wired UK)". Retrieved December 20, 2011. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 Poulsen, Kevin. "U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe | Threat Level". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Bumiller, Elisabeth (June 7, 2010). "Army Leak Suspect Is Turned In, by Ex-Hacker". The New York Times. 
  43. Sheridan, Michael (June 7, 2010). "Report: Soldier arrested for allegedly leaking 'Collateral Murder' helicopter video to WikiLeaks". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on June 9, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  44. Fildes, Jonathan (June 8, 2010). "Wikileaks site unfazed by arrest of US army 'source'". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 10, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Andy Greenberg: Stealthy Government Contractor Monitors U.S. Internet Providers, Worked With Wikileaks Informant, August 1, 2010". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  46. FAZ.Net 4. August 2010 "'Collateral Murder'-Video – Erstaunliche Wendung in Sachen Wikileaks" ("surprising turn in wikileaks case")
  47. "According to Emmanuel Goldstein, who organized the panel discussion, 90 percent of the conference was anti-Lamo." 'WikiLeaks 'Snitch' Hacker Faces Wrath of His Peers', AOL News
  48. ""WikiLeaks Is Not One Person...We Are All the Threat" – Hacker Magazine Editor Says WikiLeaks Is Bigger Than Julian Assange". July 27, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  49. 49.0 49.1 ""WikiSecrets" | full interview footage - See video at 21:25". May 24, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  50. Lamo, Adrian (January 3, 2013). "Bradley Manning and me: why I cannot regret turning in the WikiLeaks suspect". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  51. "Pilkington, Ed (January 3, 2013). "Adrian Lamo on Bradley Manning: 'I knew my actions might cost him his life'". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
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  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 Hansen, Evan (December 31, 2010). "Putting the Record Straight on the Lamo–Manning Chat Logs | Threat Level". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  54. Greenwald, Glenn (December 27, 2010). "The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  55. Hansen, Evan (July 13, 2011). "Manning–Lamo Chat Logs Revealed". Wired. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2011. 
  56. Greenwald, Glenn (July 14, 2011). "Wired publishes the full Manning–Lamo chat logs". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2011. 
  57. Gianluca Mezzofiore (May 23, 2012). "EXCLUSIVE: Hacker Adrian Lamo Who Betrayed Wikileaks' Manning Turns Fire on Anonymous". International Business Times. 
  58. Poulsen, Kevin (August 27, 2002). "Lamo Bumped from NBC After Hacking Them". SecurityFocus. Retrieved January 2, 2007. 
  59. Null, Christopher (May 29, 2003). "Lamo Hacks Cingular Claims Site". Wired. Retrieved June 15, 2010. 
  60. 60.0 60.1 Poulsen, Kevin (May 21, 2010). "Lost Hacking Documentary Surfaces on Pirate Bay | Threat Level". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  61. Goodsmith, Ed (May 5, 2009). "Exclusive: Hackers Wanted (Documentary) Trailer!". Eve Crave Network. Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
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  63. enigmax (June 13, 2010). "Director Sam Bozzo On BitTorrent and the Movie Industry". TorrentFreak. Archived from the original on June 16, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 

Further reading

External links