Last year Adrian Lamo, the ethical hacker who would turn-in Bradley Manning, did something contrary to his nature. He and Kevin Poulsen of Wired News published an article and Adrian knowingly included falsifications in his story. The article I am referring to is "Ex-Hacker Adrian Lamo Institutionalized for Asperger’s" published May 20, the day before Manning allegedly first contacted Adrian via email. This particular article would get a lot of attention the following month after the public learned about Bradley Manning and after Adrian let it be known that he was responsible for identifying Manning as the source of the leaks. It was odd that the primary witness against Manning had only weeks before been involuntarily hospitalized for apparent psychiatric reasons.
Conspiracy theories were born. Was Adrian extorted by US Intelligence officials to incriminate Manning? Why was the theft of Adrian’s backpack and laptop included in the story? What was on that laptop? Why would officers hospitalize someone with Asperger’s syndrome, and why would Lamo almost seem ready to thank them?
To put an end to wild speculation I decided to try to obtain a police report. I got in contact with Adrian (@6) on twitter and eventually had a short phone call with him about the incident. He provided me with very little and stalled when pressed about what led officers to authorize his detainment under a involuntary psychiatric hold law. He also dumbfounded me with circular logic on twitter when explaining why he didn’t remember the events leading up to his forcible hospitalization. Adrian was willing to give me the location and the sheriffs office to contact for further information – so I did.
Lauren: His family was so worried they called the paramedics/firefighters to where they knew he was hanging out, since he decided to choose the highway when they asked him, adrian please let us help you with your medications. or we will not give them to you to administer on your own.
Lauren: so he filled a final rx he had money for at the rite-aid pharmacy and was found just taking them like candy.
I contacted the public records office of the Sacramento Sheriffs office and they were able to confirm that they had a record of the incident I described, however they were not able to release the police report due to HIPAA privacy laws. After some research online I had found enough evidence to convince me that HIPAA applicability to police reports were questionable at best so I contacted the Public Information Officer at the Sheriff’s Office and outlined my case.
At the same time, I downloaded dispatch from Police and criminal logs from the Sheriff and the Police Dept, imported them in to a sqlite database, and began looking, unsuccessfully, for any incident which might match Adrian’s account on May 27th near the Safeway on 4040 Manzanita Avenue.
Dispatch logs from April 27, 2010 near Manzanita AveAfter much back and forth with the PIO over the course of a few weeks, he was able to find reports for the incident and offer me some details over the phone. I have asked for any kind of publishable documentation, he informed me that he’d speak to his boss and get back to me. I will gladly help any individual who would like to verify the Sheriffs account (@bailey_carlson), but I’m not going to publish the phone number here. A request under the California Public Records act will likely reveal more information and I am considering that possibility if there is continued doubt about this incident.
ReportDate OccurenceLocation PrimaryViolation From Sheriff 4/27/2010 04:24 Manzanita Ave & Cypress Ave PC 496D(A) Poss Stolen Veh/Ves/Etc 4/27/2010 23:21 5700 Block of Manzanita Ave PC 653M Harassment By Telephone From Police 4/27/2010 4:34:59 MANZANITA AVE / AUBURN BLVD ALL UNITS BROADCAST
The Sacramento Sheriff PIO told me that on April 27, 2010 at 3:40pm the Sheriff’s Office received a call from Adrian’s father who notified officers that his son had been over-medicating on his prescription medications and that Adrian had threatened to phone the police if his father were to take his meds away. He told the officers that Adrian was at the Safeway on 4040 Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael, CA just blocks from his home, and had been slurring his words and acting erratically. The officers were dispatched and looked for Adrian near the Safeway, however they did not find him and instead Adrian was picked up at 4:09pm by an ambulance belonging to American Medical Response. It is likely he was detained under Section 5150 of California Law which allows psychiatric hold for 72 hours, although it is unclear who authorized it and what happened after it expired and apparently Adrian was transferred to another psychiatric hospital. Sacramento Country Sheriffs office did not authorize a 5150 and can’t verify that that was the reason he was hospitalized. Paramedics and the fire department were also likely involved and could have made the decision.
Adrian was released from care on May 7th, the same day Bradley Manning was found emotionally distraught in a closet and later was reprimanded for allegedly striking a female soldier in Iraq. Adrian, however, assured me that he had no knowledge of Bradley Manning the day of his hospitalization.
Coincidently, like Manning, Adrian is also implicated by chat logs between his former-friend Nadim Kobeissi (@kaepora) and Adrian’s former wife. In them his ex-wife describes how Adrian’s family called paramedics to where he was and recounts Adrian filling his prescription and swallowing his meds “like candy”. She also describes trying to wake him from a comatose-like state.
There is no record that Adrian had his backpack, laptop, or meds stolen, nor did he phone the police himself. He told me he phoned the Sacramento Sheriff and they responded to the scene, but the only record the Sacramento Sheriff has is of a phone call with Adrian’s father and looking for Adrian at the Safeway. Someone else authorized a 5150 and transported him to the hospital.
In addition, it appears that Kevin Poulsen of Wired has been shown enough information to be aware of these falsehoods in his original story and has yet to add corrections to it. In an email thread between Kevin and a Manning supporter Kevin claims he verified Adrian’s account of the story with Adrian’s father and claims his article is accurate from start to finish. It is unclear if Kevin has naively been misled by his friend Adrian, or if he is willfully propagating Adrian’s lies.
Adrian lied – but why does it matter? Most importantly it is important to have accurate information to stop conspiracy theories in this volatile political climate, but it is also important to know that Adrian has been intentionally trying to mislead the public in their pursuit of truth directly linked to Bradley Manning. Not only that, but the primary witness against Bradley Manning has documented psychiatric issues related to drug abuse which should raise legitimate concern about his reliability as a witness in a case where the only known evidence against Manning are digital records that are legally perplexing to a prosecution who bears the burden of proof.
Why did Adrian lie? His ex-wife states in the logs that he is “VERY private about his personal [life]”. It could be that he just has a healthy sense of privacy. It could also be the case that he was coached to minimize the political impact of hospitalization in such close chronological proximity to the worlds biggest leak of classified information. In affect the original Wired article served to prevent any additional investigation in to the incident because it has already been neatly explained as another hacker with Asperger’s syndrome – the incident apparently had little to do with Asperger’s other than he was professionally diagnosed as a result.
At the end of my call with Adrian, I lectured him about being at the center of this controversy. In light of the thorough scouring of Manning and Assange’s private lives in recent media coverage, I told Adrian he should expect no different — that there are legitimately two sides to the Wikileaks debate. I encouraged him to publish his own full account of what happened that day to stop the speculation. I don’t believe he has any intention to do so.