Inglorious Snitching: Adrián Lamo, Chelsea Manning, and Patriotism

The hacking community, like poets, tend to be irritable tribesmen and women. Their modus operandi functions on the stab, the enthusiastic penetration of insecure computer systems and mockery. Their role is as much to instruct as it is to disrupt.

To that end, such figures cut different forms. There is the lonesome soul finding solace in being a nuisance, or the idealist intent on revealing a compromised state of affairs (those working for Anonymous, by way of example). It was questionable whether Adrián Lamo was of the latter breed. According to his father, Mario, he lacked malice though not initiative. “Everything he did was out of curiosity.” Lamo’s views of his own activities suggested less a case of hacking than finding “different ways of seeing.”

Dead at 37 at his Kansas apartment on Wednesday in circumstances that barely struck an interest for most scribblers of the monopoly press, Lamo established his initial claim as one who hacked the Old Gray Lady. In breaking into the New York Times network in 2003, Lamo proceeded to run up $300,000 in data research fees by means of fake usernames, essentially adding himself to the paper’s payroll.

Cingular Wireless, Microsoft and Yahoo! were also accessed, the latter being notable for receiving touch-ups and satirical readjustments to news articles. After an 18 month investigation by the FBI, he was subsequently arrested and convicted for computer fraud, spending time in house arrest.

The now notorious…

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