2011-07-16 WIRED Magazine: Disclosures and Cover-Ups in the Lamo-Manning Chat Logs

WIRED's publication of the full Lamo-Manning chat logs brings a year-long controversy to a close. But questions remain over WIRED's reticence.

1. The History of the Lamo-Manning Chat Logs
2. The Unredacted Chat Logs.
3. WL Central's Annotated Chat Log

The History of the Lamo-Manning Chat Logs

On June 10, 2010, Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter at WIRED Magazine published the abridged chat logs - supposedly between Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning. The logs gave considerable insight into the person accused of leaking to Wikileaks, and to his possible motivations.

However, many questions were raised over the veracity of the logs, the reliability of their source, Adrian Lamo, and his relationship to Kevin Poulsen. Poulsen and Zetter's introduction to the logs stated that redactions had been made to those parts of the logs that "discuss deeply personal information about Manning or that reveal apparently sensitive military information," but shortly after the release, other portions of the logs which fell into neither category appeared in a Washington Post article, and on BoingBoing. These extracts raised the question as to what purposes WIRED had performed the redactions.

Furthermore, Adrian Lamo's public statements were inconsistent, and impossible to confirm or deny because of the incomplete chat record. Shortly after that release, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald published a lengthy investigative piece, drawing on an interview with Lamo, which pointed out the long history between Poulsen and Lamo, Lamo's history of courting press attention, and the various inconsistencies that were already emerging between different statements Lamo had made. Gawker's Adrian Chen summarized the issue in June 2010. Others, more recently, have built on prior work on apparently deceptive reportage on Lamo written by Poulsen.

In particular, Greenwald had noted:

Indeed, Lamo told me (though it doesn't appear in the chat logs published by Wired) that he told Manning early on that he was a journalist and thus could offer him confidentiality for everything they discussed under California's shield law. Lamo also said he told Manning that he was an ordained minister and could treat Manning's talk as a confession, which would then compel Lamo under the law to keep their discussions confidential (early on in their chats, Manning said: "I can't believe what I'm confessing to you"). In sum, Lamo explicitly led Manning to believe he could trust him and that their discussions would be confidential -- perhaps legally required to be kept confidential -- only to then report everything Manning said to the Government.

Lamo was subsequently to alter this story considerably, telling Yahoo News that he had spelled out clearly to Manning that he was not acting as a journalist. This was one of many inconsistencies that emerged in Lamo's numerous dealings with the press.

Half a year later, in December, when the punitive pretrial treatment of Bradley Manning was becoming an issue in its own right, Greenwald penned a piece directing stringent criticism at WIRED for having withheld the rest of the chat logs. WIRED's Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen responded, reiterating the position that only military material of a sensitive nature, or personal information, had been redacted. Greenwald followed up, pointing out that this story was already inconsistent. A companion post documented what Greenwald felt were personal attacks by WIRED designed to distract from the issue. The exchange was summarized by Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing.

Bloggers at FireDogLake crowdsourced an effort to fully document every detail of the events, so as to better discover the inconsistencies in Lamo's public statements. To this end, they constructed a timeline of events, a compendium of the most important articles, and a painstakingly reconstructed version of the chat logs, merging the disparate excerpts from the now various publications which had obtained the logs. Their efforts divulged numerous inconsistencies.

On Wednesday evening, June 13 2011, - a year and three days since the original release - WIRED magazine released the unredacted Lamo-Manning chatlogs. WIRED claimed that its primary reasons for withholding the personal information in the logs had been eroded by recent disclosures in the mainstream press concerning Bradley Manning's gender identity and/or sexuality. WIRED, further, claimed that it had determined that the military information contained in the logs was not sensitive, and had "been satisfied for some time" of this. WIRED claims to stand by its former decision to hold off on publication.

The publication of the logs has prompted a series of reactions, from Greenwald, from BoingBoing, and from FireDogLake's Kevin Gosztala and Jeff Kaye, all to the effect that the full chat logs contain information that had been withheld which clearly was neither of national security interest, nor had anything to do with Manning or Lamo's private life. In particular, it is confirmed in the chat logs that Lamo had assured Manning:

LAMO: I'm a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection.

A widely aired criticism of WIRED has been that excerpts like the one above are neither personal, nor militarily sensitive, but were withheld for a year, even while WIRED was suspected, over Christmas, of withholding information to protect the reputation of Adrian Lamo. Furthermore, the unredacted chat logs contain information which was of high public interest pertaining to the alleged connection - or lack of - between Manning and Julian Assange. This was - again - neither personal nor militarily sensitive.

Since publication on Wednesday, criticism of WIRED's redaction procedures along these lines has not seen an official response. However, on Friday afternoon, Kevin Poulsen answered a question in the comment stream on the original article. His answer on the issue of why WIRED had redacted information which showed that Lamo had lied to Manning, and other information that was not of a sensitive nature, did not evince a clear reason for the prior redactions:

"Adrian Lamo has declared that he, Lamo, explicitly told Manning that he was not acting as a journalist during their chats. We now know that Lamo lied about that, and that WIRED shielded him by withholding these logs."

The logs show that when Lamo mentioned his 2600 Magazine affiliation, Manning said, "im not a source for you. im talking to you as someone who needs moral and emotional fucking support." To which Lamo replied: " i told you, none of this is for print."

This writer tried to push Poulsen on the issue asking for a clear reason why WIRED chose to redact this information. To date, the only response from Poulsen has been a tweet:

Kevin Poulsen

@nathanlfuller I'll admit that when we compiled those excerpts, we were more interested in the biggest leaks in U.S. history than in @6
15 July

Since much of the redacted information has to do directly with the leaks, and since much of it does not have to do with Adrian Lamo personally, this answer does not greatly illuminate the matter. Poulsen has not, as of yet, responded to clarificatory questions (here and here) on this tweet. WL Central will update this post should any new information come to light on WIRED's motives for redacting information in the chat logs.

The Unredacted Chat Logs.

The unredacted chatlogs are very much more voluminous than the former version. It must also be noted that although they now appear in (mostly) unredacted form, their provenance still relies on the honesty of Adrian Lamo, who is their original source. Until such time as they are confirmed by both parties, which is unlikely, they cannot be entirely trusted.

WL Central has prepared an annotated version, which highlights information that has either come to light in the new release, or demands rereading in the light of the new release. In particular, four topics of interest are identified:

Information Highlighted Yellow
This is information in the newly released parts of the logs which indicates that Adrian Lamo not only lied to Manning about the confidentiality he was granting him, but in fact appears to have deliberately attempted to earn his trust, and encouraged him to disclose more information that might incriminate him.

Information highlighted under this category was withheld by WIRED without any apparent justification.

For instance, in this (abridged, for brevity) exchange, Lamo attempts to trade on an association with the 2600 hacker periodical by claiming - spuriously - that disclosures to 2600 would not violate Wikileaks' operations security, since 2600 is "an ally of Wikileaks."

(1:52:54 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: i’ve been considering helping wikileaks with opsec

(1:53:13 PM) bradass87: they have decent opsec… im obviously violating it


(1:54:04 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: not really. 2600 is an ally of wikileaks.


(1:54:55 PM) bradass87: but im not a source for you… im talking to you as someone who needs moral and emotional fucking support

(1:55:02 PM) bradass87: :’(

(1:55:10 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: i told you, none of this is for print

(1:55:16 PM) bradass87: ok, ok

Information Highlighted Blue

This is information which has a bearing on the manner in which Manning (may have, if the chatlogs are true,) leaked information to Wikileaks, and the nature of the relationship between Manning and Wikileaks. In the first release of the chatlogs, references to this relationship appeared - but not conclusively - to tie Manning and Assange together rather closely. New information disclosed on Wednesday seems to militate against this idea. There is, again, no explicit justification for WIRED having withheld this information for a year.

For instance, in one newly released exchange, Manning claims that Assange knows "very little" about him, as a matter of policy:

(02:56:46 PM) bradass87: he knows very little about me

(02:56:54 PM) bradass87: he takes source protection uber-seriously

(02:57:01 PM) bradass87: “lie to me” he says

(02:57:06 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: Really. Interesting.

(02:57:34 PM) bradass87: he wont work with you if you reveal too much about yourself

A more complete picture therefore emerges of this matter, which is pivotal to the ongoing grand jury investigation in Virginia. For this reason, information that was already in the public domain is highlighted, along with information disclosed in the recent release. A reading of both will inform a fuller understanding of this matter.

Information Highlighted Green

This is information that falls into the category of possibly militarily sensitive information. This is information that WIRED explicitly made clear it had redacted, on ethical grounds, pending further vetting. Manning apparently describes various things: NSA wiretap and code-breaking capabilities, signals intelligence technology, Manning's alleged contacts in Washington DC, an elite cell of Hizbollah and Chinese botnet capabailities. Readers will also be able to see for themselves whether there was a valid public interest in withholding this information, or whether the stated motives for redaction pass muster.

Information Highlighted Pink

This is information having to do with the conditions giving rise to Manning's pending discharge at the time of the conversations. Previously, because of (entirely justified) redactions on WIRED's part, readers were led to believe that Manning was to be discharged for "adjustment disorder." This led to an adverse interpretation of his mental health on the part of the mainstream press, which was then used by his critics to stigmatize his alleged actions.

It can now be confirmed, from the chatlogs, that "adjustment disorder" was here a military euphemism for the gender identity issues that Manning was experiencing. The story that emerges from the unredacted chat logs is that an incident whereby Manning allegedly struck a superior officer served as an impetus for an inquiry into Manning's background. It appears that this made his psychiatric evaluations available to his superiors, and that his gender identity issues where hereby discovered, which were then used as a pretext for ejecting him from the military.

As a result, his then-pending discharge appears to be bound up with the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Other comments by Manning provide insight into how the gender/sexual orientation of serving individuals is, under DADT, unofficially tolerated, and officially ignored until it becomes a convenient way of dismissing service members - yet more evidence of the discriminatory hazards of that (now-repealed) policy. While this issue is separate from the whistleblower dimension of the Manning story, it has become relevant after several months of sustained perception management on the part of the establishment media, and the full chat logs provide some important context.

Visit WL Central's Annotated Chat Log Here