On Wednesday Wired released an almost completely unredacted version of the May 2010 chat transcripts between Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning.
Lamo, an ex-hacker, would later turn these transcripts over to both Wired and the US government, causing Manning’s arrest on charges of having been WikiLeaks’s source for a string of high-profile releases.
But it’s very odd that Greenwald suggests that the transcript fails to confirm the explanation Lamo offered to him in a June 2010 interview about how Manning came to contact Lamo. Here’s Greenwald:
Lamo’s claim in his interview with me about one of the great mysteries here—namely, how and why Manning chose him of all people to contact and confess to (Manning “was searching for ‘Wikileaks’ on Twitter”)—is also not in the chat logs, certainly not with that specificity.
“Certainly not with that specificity” is a five-word phrase worth making note of. Greenwald is right that the just-released logs contain no sentence along the lines of “Hello Adrian, I found you by searching for ‘Wikileaks’ on Twitter.”
But the chat logs actually give ample reason to believe that on this, if on nothing else, Lamo was telling the truth as best as he understood it. And if you accept that, it diminishes the possibility (which Greenwald has brooked before) that something more baroque happened, that Manning’s arrest can be laid at something darker and grander than his poor choice of confidants.
To unwind this, let’s go back to Greenwald’s June 2010 interview with Lamo, where he asked Lamo how Manning had found him. From Greenwald’s transcript:
GREENWALD: One of the things that I find weird and difficult to understand about this whole episode is how he found you and why he decided to find you, so can you just walk me through that first encounter. Like how did he make contact with you and what did he say and how did the whole thing, how did the whole conversation, come about?
LAMO: Absolutely. I understand that he tracked me down as a result of… He was searching for “Wikileaks” on Twitter and saw that in the recent leak of my documentary and people had asked, “Hey where should we send money if we download this?” And I initially said, for lack of a better answer, “Send it to the director. He’s the one who spent his time on it.” And the director said, “No. I don’t want to be compensated for that. It’s problematic.” And I said, “Okay, well send it to Wikileaks because they support similar principles to what are discussed in the documentary. That is to say, curiosity for the sake of curiosity and freedom of information.” And it was a result of that that I popped up on his radar.
GREENWALD: I’m sorry, you were having that discussion on your Twitter feed or where?
LAMO: Yes, on Twitter [unintelligible at 03:05].
GREENWALD: And he was, how did he see that?
LAMO: By searching for “Wikileaks,” the term.
GREENWALD: And then your account came up basically?
LAMO: That is correct… .
GREENWALD: Right. And how do know that that’s how he found you?
LAMO: Because that’s what he proffered to me when I asked him how he had come across my identity.
GREENWALD: And he told that in the chats that you two were having, the IM chats?
LAMO: That’s correct… .
The documentary Lamo references is “Hackers Wanted,” an officially unreleased ninety-minute film from 2007 focusing on his hacking career. On May 20, 2010, Kevin Poulsen, the Wired writer who, with the cooperation of Lamo, would break the news of Manning’s arrest early that June, reported on the magazine’s Threat Level blog that a pirated version of the film had surfaced on the Internet on Tuesday, May 18.
And again, the just-released chat logs give plenty of reason to believe that Lamo came to understand that Manning had found him because of an Internet search, perhaps on Twitter—because it seems that’s exactly what Manning wrote. From the logs:
(10:38:37 AM) email@example.com: I’ve been a friend to Wikileaks—I’ve repeatedly asked people who download Hackers Wanted to donate.
(10:38:44 AM) firstname.lastname@example.org: And donated myself.
(10:38:49 AM) bradass87: i know
(10:38:59 AM) bradass87: actually how i noticed you
(10:39:20 AM) email@example.com: Whether I’ve given material, isn’t material. Semi-pun intended.
(10:39:28 AM) bradass87: during my usual open source collection [twitter, news.google.com, etc.]
(That bracketed text appears in the original, along with many other instances where Manning typed part or all of a particular instant message within brackets.)