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Wikileaks, Lamo & Manning (Oh My!)


Wow, a blog post? Yeah, this one didn't fit in 140 characters...

So much hay has been made recently about Adrian Lamo (@6) "outing" SPC Manning for leaking the Collateral Murder tape & other somewhat embarrassing (you could even say downright shameful) activities that the US Government has been engaging in. Both sides are throwing their fits and I'm saddened to see that mud slinging has already begun, so here I stand in defense of... well... everyone.
For those who want my $0.02, here is is:

Don't crucify The Leaker for following his conscience.
Don't crucify Lamo for making a judgment call & doing the same.
For those interested in more, here's my $19.95 plus postage, handling and applicable taxes:

The Leaker
SPC Manning has not been tried or convicted of anything as of this writing, but let's proceed anyway and discuss The (hypothetical) Leaker in general. The Leaker did a very brave thing in my personal estimation. Comparisons have been drawn between the video/cables and the Pentagon Papers, and those comparisons are fairly accurate, particularly in regard to the effect of the leak on the mindset of the American People.
The Leaker acted in the best interests of their conscience and in defense of the Public's Right to Know - A fundamental tenet of our democracy made manifest in the Freedom of Information Act and in at least the case of the Collateral Murder video wholly ignored by the Military in flagrant violation of that act.

Regarding SPC Manning specifically: Well, he bragged about being the leaker. Maybe he was, or maybe he was just talking shit.
If SPC Manning was the leaker in these cases he committed the ultimate bonehead move for someone who leaked classified information and broke rule #1: Keep your damnfool mouth shut. Much like in the Pentagon Papers case, a crime was most certainly committed, and the law must decide who is guilty of what, and what punishment should be meted out.

Lamo Outing Manning
Assuming for the sake of argument that Manning is The Leaker (which Lamo obviously has reason to believe if he went and said so), Lamo is now in an interesting position: He is aware of the commission of a felony because Manning has told him about it. By NOT reporting Manning he would become an accessory (after the fact) to that felony. Compound that with the fact that the data leaked was classified, presumably sensitive enough that the government didn't want it out in the open, and you have a very difficult moral choice to make. This choice is usually two-pronged: Was the leak justified and Do you trust the leaker's judgment in the future - I've faced that choice myself and it's not easy. Lamo had a third prong that makes it even harder: Is it worth shielding a leaker who is publicly bragging about what they've done. I've never had to deal with that.

I'm not going to second-guess Lamo's actions. I honestly don't know what I would do in this case. I take it as a given that he acted as his conscience dictated for his own reasons, just as we can assume The Leaker did. If Manning is The Leaker then Lamo only served to accelerate a process set in motion when the first public boast was made.

Everything Else
Lamo has criticized the opsec lapses around this mess, and here I agree with him wholeheartedly. Proper opsec practices would have protected The Leaker's identity. The Military would bluster and rage, but nothing could come of it because they wouldn't be able to pin down who leaked the information.
There is a lesson in this for anyone leaking classified information (unless you want to be tied to the leak for notoriety or political purposes). I'm sure there is also a lesson in this for Wikileaks somewhere, but it's less obvious to me.


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usefuldissident on :

*This is some good stuff you've figured out, your graph really explains the whole situation pretty good. It's good to see there are other people out there on this case.

mikeg on :

*I don't claim to have anything figured out -- The above observations are equally valid if you replace "Adrian Lamo" with "Donald Duck" and "Spc. Manning" with "Bugs Bunny". (Really, try it. Also try it with mainstream media, the results are often hilarious!) Re: the digraph, note that it's entirely a lark: It should be taken with no more faith than its inline note implies. Normally for a newsworthy situation I would encourage creating a more accurate graph, but I don't think Lamo or Assange should be the story here. A truly _useful_ digraph would be the one showing Spc. Manning's path through the US Military Justice System...

dissident on :

*1 of these DailyTech articles uses that graph of yours... So you're saying there's no factual basis in them? Darn...

mikeg on :

*Oh there is certainly a factual basis, but that fact would be the paragraph quoted in the diagram & through other secondary sources. To the best of my knowledge everything in that diagram is accurate in the sense that it has been said, and I have a reasonable belief that it is true (i.e. nobody on the diagram has said I got it wrong - corrections always welcome). I didn't go do extensive fact-checking or anything though. Like I said I did it more out of boredom than news-making :)

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