As a whistleblower, pirate, and troll, I understand and respect what Adrian Lamo did. As hard as it was for Bradley Manning (as she was known at the time of their interaction) to do what he did, it wasn’t any easier for Adrian Lamo.
Lamo didn’t know Manning and was approached because of his reputation. That’s a shitty situation to be in, as any public figure knows. Information is power, and when you know more about me than I do about you, then you have the upper hand and I must be cautious.
For all Lamo knew, he was being baited by some mischievous third party. Manning approached him. Manning mentioned Lamo’s work. With all the cointelpro going on from the .govs, you really can’t trust anyone, especially when you exploit loopholes and vulnerabilities for a living.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Lamo could’ve been set up and implicated had he not reported what he knew. Even if Manning was genuine (which he turned out to be), aiding and abetting him is a huge risk.
One may argue that the neighborly thing to do is to give up your entire life and follow the path of some random stranger with a lunatic story, but what would that have accomplished?
If Lamo tried hiding Manning, he’d likely be in prison right now, and that’s quite the personal sacrifice to take for someone who’s in over their head, emotionally unstable, and unable to even help themselves. I don’t say that as a judgment of Manning, but rather to provide you with perspective of what it’s like to be a whistleblower on that level. I’ve been in a similar position taking on a corporation.
Manning would’ve been caught and ended up in prison anyway – Lamo simply covered his own ass.
I’m approached by strangers with crazy stories on the internet all the time because of my work. I don’t know who or what to believe if I wasn’t there to witness whatever they’re talking about, and I have to exercise caution when talking to anyone.
Social media “Anons” understand the Machiavellian concept of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. When I called out YourAnonNews for stealing over $55,000 from children, I received a flood of both death threats and useful tips to investigate (some of which turned out to be red herrings, and some were useful).
Many of the people who support YAN only support YAN as a way to keep an eye on the activists involved and collect incriminating information. This is the world in which we live.
If Adrian Lamo grew up with Chelsea Manning and they were best friends, I’d feel differently. If they were related through blood or marriage, I’d judge Lamo a little more harshly. But they weren’t.
What happened was a soldier was compelled to leak classified documents in order to expose crimes. In order to expose those crimes, that soldier had to commit a crime herself. In doing so, she sealed her own fate.
Manning sought out someone who thought like she did, and that person acted exactly like she did too. When presented with a crime, Adrian Lamo reported it to the proper authorities just like Manning did.
Luckily this all happened before I blew the whistle, and I learned from Manning’s missteps. Wikileaks, the ACLU, EFF, and Government Accountability Project also learned a lot, and Edward Snowden still walks free because of Chelsea Manning.
Adrian Lamo and Chelsea Manning are both victims of a systematic failure, and it’s entirely possible to side with both of them. Hate the game, not the player.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, Fast Company, Hardcore Droid, High Times, Intuit’s Small Business Resource, and The Street.