FORT MEADE, Md. — Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who reported Private First Class Bradley Manning to military authorities in May 2010 after Manning confided that he had leaked vast archives of secret government documents to WikiLeaks, testified at Manning’s court-martial trial Tuesday that he saw parallels between his own youthful hacking offenses and those of the young Army intelligence analyst.
Lamo has been a polarizing figure in the WikiLeaks saga. He is despised by many of Manning’s supporters for betraying the trust of a person they see as an important whistle-blower; Lamo has maintained that turning Manning in was the socially responsible thing to do because Manning’s wholesale leaking recklessly endangered others. Lamo said he reached out to the military the day after his first online talk with Manning, while continuing to chat online with him over the next week.
When Lamo was 22, he hacked into the networks of several companies, including The New York Times. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to the offenses and was sentenced to six months of home arrest and two years of probation. He has since become a network threat analyst.
During cross-examination, Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, stressed the portions of the chat logs showing that his client had reached out to Lamo at a time when he was struggling with his own gender identity, had just spent several months downloading government secrets, and sending them to WikiLeaks, and was scared, confused, and possibly suicidal.
While the trial could last 12 weeks, there is no doubt that Manning did nearly everything that he is accused of doing: He confessed in detail in February to being WikiLeaks’ source and pled guilty to nine lesser versions — and one full version — of the charges he is facing, which has exposed him to up to 20 years in prison.
The government is pressing forward with a trial because it wants to convict him of 20 more serious versions of the charges, like espionage and aiding the enemy, which could result in a life sentence.