Pfc. Manning Confronts His Accuser and Mirror Image

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – The former hacker who exposed the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history agreed Tuesday that his finger-pointing had been ironic given how much he had in common with Pfc. Bradley Manning.
     Manning, a former intelligence specialist, was 22 years old when he was arrested in May 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 files.
     The trove included diplomatic cables, incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of a Baghdad airstrike that WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.” For the most part, Manning does not contest that he was the source of the leaked files.
     The young soldier managed to escape detection until he confessed everything to online confidante Adrian Lamo whom he believed would be a sympathetic ear. Lamo had also been 22 when he was arrested in 2003 for penetrating the internal networks of Microsoft, Lexis Nexis and The New York Times.
     At the time, Lamo professed to be acting out of an idealistic vision of computer intrusion for the public good. Both he and Manning were activists in the gay community and then-supporters of WikiLeaks. Each coped with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
     Lamo also has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and Manning told Lamo that he had “gender identity disorder,” a now-antiquated medical description related to his former exploration of a female identity.
     The day after their first chat on May 20, 2010, Lamo alerted the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division about Manning’s disclosures. The two engaged in another encrypted chat on May 26, hours before Manning was arrested.
     Manning’s trial for allegedly “aiding the enemy” began here at a military base home to U.S. intelligence agencies on Monday, and Lamo returned to provide critical testimony on the second day of trial Tuesday.
     He conceded that the irony of his testimony against the young soldier “was not lost on me.”
     On direct examination, Maj. Ashden Fein prodded Lamo about his history, his computer knowledge, and his interactions with Manning.
     Lamo said the soldier first got his attention by sending a series of encrypted emails from his military and personal addresses.
     Noting that he received a “high volume” of messages from strangers, Lamo initially ignored the emails. He said gave them a closer look when he noticed their transmission from Manning’s old post in Iraq: the 10th Mountain Division.
     Lamo added that he later suggested that they engage in encrypted chats, first through a service of AOL and later by a service called Pigeon chat.
     Rebuffing public speculation that the chats he provided the government may have been altered, Lamo said that Pigeon automatically logs all encrypted communications, and that they cannot be revised because they are saved as read-only files.
     Lead defense attorney David Coombs confronted Lamo with the contents of one such chat in which young soldier confided that he felt that he made a “huge mess.”
     Using the handle bradass87, Manning described himself as a “broken soul” and “emotionally fractured.” He warned that he was afraid that he might kill himself.
     Manning also shared that he “saw incredible things, awful things” on classified U.S. military networks, “things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC,” such as the true casualty figures of the Iraq war.
     The diplomatic cables showed “how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective,” bradass87 wrote. He further promised they would expose a “diplomatic scandal” everywhere that the U.S. has a post.
     “i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore, ” bradass87 also wrote. “only a plethora of states acting in self interest.”
     Lamo appeared somewhat emotional as he confirmed that he remembered these parts of the chat, and he said that he sympathized with Manning’s statement that he wanted to “investigate to find out the truth.”
     “Something that I could appreciate, yes,” Lamo said.
     At one point in the chats, Lamo asked Manning why he never considered selling the information to Russia or China. The soldier replied: “it belongs in the public domain.”
     Coombs asked whether Manning “at any point” said “that he had no loyalty to America.”
     Lamo replied: “Not in those words.”
     Pressing him on this point, Coombs continued, “At any point, did he say that the American flag doesn’t mean anything to me?”
     Lamo: “No.”
     On redirect, Maj. Fein pressed Lamo on whether Manning also acknowledged speaking to somebody he believed to be WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange and disclosing thousands of documents.
     Lamo said that was also true and was then excused from the stand for the remainder of trial.

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