Is The Arrest Of Bradley Manning Part Of A Coordinated Effort To Discredit Wikileaks?

from the conspiracy-theory-time dept

Like many folks, I've been following the bizarre story of the arrest of Bradly Manning, an US Army intelligence analyst, who supposedly "confessed" that he was leaking tons of information to Wikileaks. However, as this story has moved forward, it's actually raised a lot more questions than it's really answered. Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald is digging into some of the stranger parts of the story, some of which don't make much sense. Greenwald doesn't come out and make any direct accusations, but it's pretty clear that he doesn't trust or believe the stories being told by Adrian Lamo, who turned Manning in, or Kevin Poulsen, the reporter at Wired, who broke the story. Greenwald details the long and somewhat questionable history of Lamo and Poulsen -- both of whom were convicted on hacking charges at different points in their lives. I'd never noticed this, but apparently, Poulsen has basically served as Lamo's "go to" guy for getting press whenever he wants it. That could be meaningless, but there are large gaps in the details of the story that make the whole thing kind of questionable. It's also odd that, as Greenwald points out, after a few years out of the news, Poulsen just so happened to write an odd and not-very-newsworthy story about Lamo's mental health problems just a couple of weeks before this big story broke.

The other tidbit -- which very likely could be a coincidence, as it seems quite early to jump on the conspiracy theory bandwagon here -- is that back in 2008, a classified report by the US Army Counterintelligence Center suggested one way to discredit Wikileaks (which it viewed as a threat) would be the "Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the government... would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions." As Greenwald notes:
In other words, exactly what the U.S. Government wanted to happen in order to destroy WikiLeaks has happened here: news reports that a key WikiLeaks source has been identified and arrested, followed by announcements from anonymous government officials that there is now a worldwide "manhunt" for its Editor-in-Chief. Even though WikiLeaks did absolutely nothing (either in this case or ever) to compromise the identity of its source, isn't it easy to see how these screeching media reports -- WikiLeaks source arrested; worldwide manhunt for WikiLeaks; major national security threat -- would cause a prospective leaker to WikiLeaks to think twice, at least: exactly as the Pentagon Report sought to achieve? And that Pentagon Report was from 2008, before the Apache Video was released; imagine how intensified is the Pentagon's desire to destroy WikiLeaks now. Combine that with what both the NYT and Newsweek recently realized is the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistle-blowers, and one can't overstate the caution that's merited here before assuming one knows what happened.
Separately, Greenwald breaks down Lamo's story for why he turned in Manning, and finds the whole thing quite unconvincing. In fact, he notes that, beyond contradictory reports from Lamo about whether or not he implied or outright claimed that he would offer Manning confidentiality, most of the evidence suggests that Manning was a whistleblower, not particularly unlike Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers. That is, nothing in any of these conversations suggests an attempt to help enemies of the US, but rather to expose questionable behavior -- the very definition of whistleblowing, and the sort of thing that should be celebrated.

Admittedly, the whole story is rather strange, and lots of details are sadly hidden (another thing that Greenwald questions, since Wired or Lamo could fill in some of the big gaps to clear things up -- but neither seem willing to do so). I'm certainly not buying into any conspiracy theories at this point, but will admit that the whole story continues to raise more questions than it seems to answer.

Update: Don't miss Kevin Poulsen's response in the comments where he defends his reporting on this situation, and suggests Greenwald has it all wrong. I definitely don't buy the implication that Poulsen might be working with the US gov't -- that seems too out there to believe. However, the rest of the story still does seem weird. Lamo's turning in Manning story still doesn't add up, but it's likely an overreaction to suggest Poulsen was anything other than a reporter on this story.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    jakerome (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:12pm

    I don't think publishing every classified communication among embassies over a period of years is the sort of thing that should be celebrated. That's almost the very definition of something that suggests an attempt to help enemies of the US.

     

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  2.  
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    jakerome (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:13pm

    And of course the arrest is part of an effort to discredit Wikileaks, is that even remotely news? If the allegations are true, why shouldn't the government arrest him, prosecute him and publicize the event to deter future publication of classified information?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    its classified for a reason, you can't "leak" it and claim some protection against being arrested and charged for it

     

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  4.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:26pm

    There are no coincidences

    in the multi-trillion dollar military-industrial complex.

    But there are plenty of saps who see every "coincidence" as unique and not part of an overall pattern.

    And there are plenty of "jakerome" types who make up trivial question and willfully omit the video from this source of a helicopter gunship murdering innocent civilians.

     

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  5.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:40pm

    It is an odd story

    I understand the gaps and it's nerve wracking to say the least. Supposedly, there's emails between the two, there's a common sense of being outcast...

    Somehow the story didn't add up to what I thought about such an important leak. Wired tried to make the guy look like a jerk who was rebelling against the system. I don't know how exactly they got the guy (wither one) but the links we've been given are really, really tenuous at best.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    Re:

    I think that the country that lets some half-assed terrorists slam two airplanes into their buildings and lets people just waltz into the white house uninvited has bigger security concerns than some "traitor" exposing their "secrets".

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 5:58pm

    you said yourself that "it's too early to jump on the conspiracy theory bandwagon", so don't name the article like it's a piece from the National Enquirer.

     

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  8.  
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    Kevin Poulsen, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 6:40pm

    Greenwald

    Mike,

    I answered every single one of Greenwald's questions about my reporting on the Manning story, and the Columbia Journalism Review has reported on exactly how the story began.

    I've written hundreds of stories for Wired.com since I started in 2005, about a wealth of topics, including government surveillance, online sexual predators, politics, cyberwarfare, and dozens and dozens of different hackers. You know this, since you've picked up many of them, by me and my staff at Threat Level.

    Prior to Manning, I'd written about five stories in that same time period about, or quoting, Adrian Lamo (by my quick Google search.) In other words, an average of about one a year, out of hundreds. You have to go back to 2000-2002 to find me reporting frequently on him, and even then he wasn't exclusive to me. It's true that he usually told me about his intrusions before other reporters, but not always. And he always talked to other journalists afterwards. His hacks were reported by national media outlets, including the major newswires, and were the subject of a documentary, so the idea that he had to "go to" me to get press seems ludicrous on its face.

    I reported on his 5150 for Asperger's last month because it was interesting, even if it wasn't "newsworthy," and to date I've received nearly as much e-mail from people with Asperger's thanking me for that story as I've gotten hate mail from Greenwald readers who think Threat Level is suddenly part of a vast government conspiracy.

    As a reminder, I and my writers were first to post the AT&T/NSA wiretap documents; we sued DHS to get them to comply with the FOIA; were first to report that Hushmail had been subverted by law enforcement; first to report on the FBI's use of spyware delivered through browser exploits; the first to report on Wikileaks; and first to report in detail on the executive branch's abuse of the state secrets privilege.

    Kevin Poulsen
    senior editor - wired.com
    klp@wired.com

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 7:04pm

    Re: Greenwald

    gee, i wonder if mike is going to use his usual dismissals that he keeps for people who dont agree with him.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 7:50pm

    Re: Re: Greenwald

    If nothing else, it is certainly amusing comparing the rational discussion from Kevin to the bitter trolling from e e.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Greenwald

    Are you one of the people that frequently fellates Steve Jobs? The rest of wired has been doing so for a year now. Go work for a company that doesn't suck and maybe people will consider you a serious writer again.

     

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  12.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Greenwald

    Thanks for your CV, completely and entirely necessary, especially in situations where you can't directly address the questions being brought up.

     

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  13.  
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    Kevin Poulsen (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 8:19pm

    Re: Greenwald

    @Modplan, what questions are those?

     

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  14.  
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    alternatives(), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 9:16pm

    Depending onwhereyou look

    The internet is a funny thing WRT "truth". It all depends on where you look.

    Claims of wikileaks being a CIA front or a Chinese operation from the same base URL. Claims of fiscal mismanagement - the leader of wikileaks spending money without proper oversight. The upside to a crap economy - I don't have excess money to worry about handing any over to 'em.

    I'm all for the disinfectant of sunshine. I'm not sure that wikileaks is sunshine or the hollywood set of the lunar landings is all due to the cynicism in my arteries.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 9:33pm

    Re:

    What?

     

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  16.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 10:21pm

    Re: Re: Greenwald

    Your relation to Mano in regards to claims he was nothing more than a source despite a seemingly fairly close relationship, whether various parts of the emails are being held back for seemingly little reason (http://www.boingboing.net/2010/06/19/wikileaks-a-somewhat.html), and the potential involvement in turning Manning in.

    Even if he indeed did go to other journalists, this does not gloss over the fact he seemed to regularly go through first you on many occasions. Perhaps you didn't see it in this way, but his own view on the relationship as a means to get publicity may have been very different. I don't think amount of articles is a very convincing argument when the issue is the nature of the relationship.

     

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  17.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    Re: Re: Greenwald

    I had to really look at the articles right now.

    @Kevin

    This seems to be a twisted tale. I understand that you and Lamo were friends but it really seems to be a horrible situation that Lamo has put others in for a chance at spotlight. I don't know what's in the chat logs but I would rather put the entire chat logs out for debate than letting it "die" by saying it's a government secret and needs to be protected.

    In a way, it gives the appearance of collusion on your part which is why I am concerned.

    I thank you for all that you've done in reporting abuses in the past. As it stands, I believe this one is truly too twisted to give a fair judgement on the outcome.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Greenwald

    Kevin, thanks for responding in the comments (and corresponding email). I've added an update to the post pointing people to your comments. You're right that it's silly to have the focus on you for this, though I do understand where people might have some questions, given the strange details around the Lamo/Manning situation. However, it does feel like a stretch to lump you into the discussion as anything more than a reporter who covered the story.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 11:10pm

    Re:

    its classified for a reason, you can't "leak" it and claim some protection against being arrested and charged for it

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_Papers

    Those who don't know history, are destined to troll?

     

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  20.  
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    Kevin Poulsen (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 11:13pm

    Re: Greenwald

    @Modplan: Those aren't questions.

    @Jay: Adrian is a source and a subject. If I had a social relationship with him, I'd have disclosed it in the story. You're right that we haven't posted the chats, and I concede that others might have made a different call.

     

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  21.  
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    Richard, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 11:19pm

    Re: Anonymous Coward

    Unless, of course, it has been classified to cover up unlawful or criminal actions such as the murder of inocent civilians.

     

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  22.  
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    Richard, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 11:28pm

    Re: jakerome

    You don't think people have a right to know what their elected representatives and employees are doing?

    If these people didn't have something to hide there would be no need for classification or secrecy.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 12:05am

    Re: Greenwald

    ...the idea that he had to "go to" me to get press seems ludicrous on its face.

    I just re-read what Mike wrote to be sure, and I can't see anywhere that he wrote that Lamo *had to* go to you, just that he did.

     

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  24.  
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    abc gum, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re: jakerome

    "If these people didn't have something to hide there would be no need for classification or secrecy."

    That is not neccessarily so. Although secrecy is surely going to be abused.

     

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  25.  
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    DS, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:38am

    Re: Re: Anonymous Coward

    You mean the "Collateral Murder" episode were they made wild assumptions, left out CRITICAL amounts of information, and from their comfortable office chairs tried to psychoanalyze the coping methods of someone that was in deep combat?

    That alone mead them lose credibility more than any gov't could.

    Or when they posted up days (weeks) old pictures of corpses as "proof" that tracer fire was used intentionally as a incendiary device. The only thing it proved is that dead people don't look so nice after being left out in a desert climate for a few days.

     

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  26.  
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    DS, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:39am

    Re: There are no coincidences

    Why do I bother?

    You'll never understand.

    But there are plenty of "jakerome" types who take individual elements out of context, and try to make judgment calls based on zero experience, and no concept of coping mechanisms.

     

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  27.  
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    S, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:41am

    Salon's Glenn Greenwald is hardly an unbiased columnist. He did not put up a disclaimer when the article was first published, but when prodded by a commentator admitted that Wikileaks founder Assange had briefed him the background. For reasons best known to himself, Glenn did not quote Assange at all even though they had spoken a number of times for the article. Glenn also later 'clarified' that he was actively helping in getting legal aid for the arrested Intel Analyst Manning. The comments in the Salon article has Glenn admitting to all this. Does Glenn's work seem like an unbiased observor?

    My personal belief is that if there is any evidence of Government corruption or military atrocities, it should be published. But the public needs to understand the spin coming from both Government and pro Wikileaks camps to make up their own minds.

    While Wikileaks and Cryptome are great ideas, we have to accept the fact that Wikileaks was shut down for more than 4 months because the public did not have enough confidence in it to fund it with individual donations. Read Cryptome to see how Wikileaks insiders are complaining about it being run on the wishes of 1 man and only $55 K being used for servers and $200 K for business class travels, hotels and other bills of the men who run Wikileaks. No audit is done and no Wikileaks volunteer is privy to how donations are spent.

    If Wikileaks can earn the public trust, the money would flow in to support its idealistic cause. All of us want to fix the Government, military and other elements of our society. Someone should take a closer look at Wikileaks as well. If Wikileaks has been around for a few years and been profiled in Time, NYT, BBC etc and still shuts down for 4 months because of lack of funds, there is a fundamental problem in lack of trust of the public. Why does Greepeace not have similar funding problems?

    *Sorry for the long rant. Back to my drink and re-run of Family Guy*

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Greenwald

    you forgot "remind Chris Anderson to call me, we are suppose to go karaoke singing next weekend".

     

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  29.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 8:33am

    I'm certainly not buying into any conspiracy theories.

    Gee. a government wish list came true, and:
    a classified report by the US Army Counterintelligence Center suggested one way to discredit Wikileaks (which it viewed as a threat) would be the "Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the government... would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions.

    It gets played out exactly? And your still not sure? "that seems too out there to believe." That is usually the case.

    You are all focused on the relationship when the big issue is it appears to be a covert op by the Gov to "destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions" Which went well for them.



    I love the words conspiracy theorist. Ohhh it is just a conspiracy, cant be true, because you know, they never really happen.

     

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  30.  
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    chris (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 8:54am

    Re: I'm certainly not buying into any conspiracy theories.

    a classified report by the US Army Counterintelligence Center suggested one way to discredit Wikileaks (which it viewed as a threat) would be the "Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the government... would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions.

    It gets played out exactly? And your still not sure? "that seems too out there to believe." That is usually the case.


    one of the ways wiki leaks protects sources is by communicating with them anonymously. IF manning is a source, there is no way for wikileaks to verify that it is true. assange has said he doesn't have the embassy cables that manning claims to have sent him, so it's really manning's and lamo's word against assange's. with manning in DoD custody, there's not much he can do to verify anything either.

     

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  31.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re: I'm certainly not buying into any conspiracy theories.

    one of the ways wiki leaks protects sources is by communicating...

    I understand that, but it is still a bigger issue, that there appeared to be a coordinated effort from a branch of the US Gov, to go after Wikileaks. It just smells of Tyranny.

    "with manning in DoD custody, there's not much he can do to verify anything either."
    Which makes it even worse.

    "would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions."
    Its was a psy-op, designed to instill fear in potential whistle-blowers. It was domestic terrorism.

     

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  32.  
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    user5551 (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:10am

    New Chat Logs Released

    For those keeping a close eye on the case:
    http://bit.ly/nadimlogs

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: jakerome

    It is necessarily so. In fact it's a tautology. Secrecy is by definition hiding information from others. A need for secrecy therefore means having something to hide. Not that that's necessarily inappropriate though. Secrecy without oversight is where the problems happen (IMO).

     

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  34.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Anonymous Coward

    If the murder of innocent civilians (or any other war crime) were covered up by classifying the incident (not referring to anything in particular, just something that could happen), would you believe it's inappropriate for someone in possession of that classified information to reveal it publicly?

     

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  35.  
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    abc gum, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: jakerome

    Typically, when one uses the phrase "have something to hide" they are implying that there was some thing wrong done - as in illegal, immoral or unethical. The comment made simply points out that classification does not necessarily mean that any of the above has transpired. Perhaps there was a difference of interpretation wrt what was meant by the original poster.

     

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  36.  
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    chris (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm certainly not buying into any conspiracy theories.

    Its was a psy-op, designed to instill fear in potential whistle-blowers. It was domestic terrorism.

    perhaps i wasn't explicit enough. the anatomy of a conspiracy theory is three parts unanswered questions and one part usual suspects. until real evidence surfaces (if it ever does) then all anyone has to go on is conspiracy theory. so your theory could be correct, but so could a number of others.

    conspiracy theories are fun, but are not really grounded on evidence. thanks to the sheer volume of unanswered questions in this case, any one of these scenarios could come to pass:

    1) manning came to lamo and lamo simply betrayed him, this particular theory is exacerbated by speculation on a thread at boingboing that manning is transgendered. lamo is a homosexual, so that might be why manning chose lamo and not someone else (the kindred spirit from the article), and if that turns out to be the case, it makes the betrayal even worse in my opinion.

    2) lamo is an informant for some 3 letter agency and betrayed his journalistic and clerical duties to protect mannings confession. this has happened before in past FBI cases, like the various carder busts (shadow crew, carder market, and dark market.) coincidentally, in his hacking days, poulsen was part of a crew with someone named "agent steal" (whose real name escapes me) who worked for the feds in a similar setup and informed on kevin mitnick. lamo might have done this deliberately to blow his cover as an informant via poulson's press coverage.

    3) lamo is nuts and is making this up to get more press coverage, in the past he was busted for breaking into news orgs and using their lexis-nexis accounts to look up articles on himself and other hackers. lamo also spent several days in a mental institution. john markoff's coverage made kevin mitnick a household name, so lamo may be looking for the same buzz.

    4) manning is part of cointel-pro type operation against wikileaks and targeted lamo because lamo is some combination of nuts, gay, and/or a press seeking attention whore and therefore seemed like an easily exploited target by some 3 letter agency.

    thanks to the startling lack of real evidence, any one theory is as likely as any other.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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