The FBI has been hit with a new lawsuit over access to the bureau’s files on Adrian Lamo, the hacker who famously hacked the New York Times in 2003 before becoming notorious for turning in Wikileaks informant Chelsea Manning.
Filed by Lucy Parsons Labs researcher Camille Fassett, the complaint highlights the FBI’s failures to act upon her Freedom of Information Act request for the Lamo files and seeks to access the originally requested documents. While the FBI would normally be restricted from releasing such information under the Privacy Act, Lamo died in unknown circumstances in Witchita, Kansas last year, freeing up public access to the files.
Lamo’s original fame came following his 2003 arrest and later 2004 conviction for breaching several high-profile computer networks including The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. Manning reached out to Lamo in May of 2010 and, after developing a quick friendship, confided in him over her work with Wikileaks and the Iraq and Afghan war logs, a sum total of 750,000 classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents.
Shortly after talking with Manning, Lamo spoke with Chet Uber of cybercrime investigation group Project Vigilant, and with Timothy Webster, a friend formerly of Army counterintelligence, eventually being contacted by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) after Uber passed on the information. While Manning and Lamo only spoke for five days, for three of those Lamo was working with the federal agents.
Lamo would attempt to publicly justify his actions by stating his belief that the release of the material to Wikileaks had placed United States military personnel in danger, despite the fact that no investigation by either the government or media has ever proven that lives were placed in danger by Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.
Lamo was ostracised from the hacking community for his betrayal of Manning, a grave breach of a proud ethical code. Wanted dead-or-alive posters were created with his image, describing Lamo as “rat bastard”, while others settled for death threats and remembering him only as “a snitch”.
While Lamo would publicly express his worries about the danger to U.S. personnel as the cause of his betrayal, Julian Assange offered a suggestion of perhaps a differing motive. Speaking in 2011, Assange said that “Lamo, as far as I can see, his general motivation is he’s an attention seeker.”
“We investigated very quickly who this Adrian Lamo character was, and this is a very disreputable character… He seems to be someone who plays on the media. He’s even perhaps addicted to the media in a very self-destructive manner. He owes the federal government a large amount of money.”Julian Assange, 2011
Chelsea Manning is currently back in jail in Virginia after refusing to testify before a grand jury against Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Lawyers working for Manning have said that her ongoing detention is a punitive measure, with critics contending that her incarceration is likely due to a lack of genuine evidence against Assange on many of the charged the U.S. has thrown at him.
Adrian Lamo died on March 14, 2018, in Wichita, Kansas with the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center reporting that despite carrying out a full autopsy “no definitive cause of death was identified.” Lamo had a history of anxiety, depression, Asperger’s syndrome, and both drug and alcohol abuse.