It’s Been A Good Long Time Since We’ve Had A Nice Internet Fight

Glenn Greenwald:

On June 6, Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter of Wiredreported that a 22-year-old U.S. Army Private in Iraq, Bradley Manning, had been detained after he “boasted” in an Internet chat — with convicted computer hacker Adrian Lamo — of leaking to WikiLeaks the now famous Apache Helicopter attack video, a yet-to-be-published video of a civilian-killing air attack in Afghanistan, and “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records.”  Lamo, who holds himself out as a “journalist” and told Manning he was one, acted instead as government informant, notifying federal authorities of what Manning allegedly told him, and then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning’s detention.

On June 10, former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, writing in The Daily Beast, gave voice to anonymous “American officials” to announce that “Pentagon investigators” were trying “to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks [Julian Assange] for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security.”  Some news outlets used that report to declare that there was a “Pentagon manhunt” underway for Assange — as though he’s some sort of dangerous fugitive.

From the start, this whole story was quite strange for numerous reasons.  In an attempt to obtain greater clarity about what really happened here, I’ve spent the last week reviewing everything I could related to this case and speaking with several of the key participants (including Lamo, with whom I had a one-hour interview last night that can be heard on the recorder below, and Poulsen, with whom I had a lengthy email exchange, which is published in full here).  A definitive understanding of what really happened is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source:  Lamo himself.  Compounding that is the fact that most of what came from Lamo has been filtered through a single journalist — Poulsen — who has a long and strange history with Lamo, who continues to possess but not disclose key evidence, and who has been only marginally transparent about what actually happened here (I say that as someone who admires Poulsen’s work as Editor of Wired‘s Threat Level blog).

[…]

Actually, over the years, Poulsen has served more or less as Lamo’s personal media voice.  Back in 2000, Poulsen would quote Lamo as an expert source on hacking.  That same year, Poulsen — armed with exclusive, inside information from Lamo — began writing about Lamo’s various hacking adventures.  After Lamo’s conviction, Poulsen wrote about his post-detention battles with law enforcement and a leaked documentary featuring Lamo.  As detailed below, Lamo is notorious in the world of hacking for being a low-level, inconsequential hacker with an insatiable need for self-promotion and media attention, and for the past decade, it has been Poulsen who satisfies that need.

On May 20 — a month ago — Poulsen, out of nowhere, despite Lamo’s not having been in the news for years, wrote a long, detailed Wired article describing serious mental health problems Lamo was experiencing.  The story Poulsen wrote goes as follows:  after Lamo’s backpack containing pharmaceutical products was stolen sometime in April (Lamo claims they were prescribed anti-depressants), Lamo called the police, who concluded that he was experiencing such acute psychiatric distress that they had him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for three days.  That 72-hour “involuntary psychiatric hold” was then extended by a court for six more days, after which he was released to his parents’ home.  Lamo claimed he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a somewhat fashionable autism diagnosis which many stars in the computer world have also claimed.  In that article, Poulsen also summarized Lamo’s extensive hacking history.  Lamo told me that, while he was in the mental hospital, he called Poulsen to tell him what happened, and then told Poulsen he could write about it for a Wired article.  So starved was Lamo for some media attention that he was willing to encourage Poulsen to write about his claimed psychiatric problems if it meant an article in Wired that mentioned his name.

It was just over two weeks after writing about Lamo’s Asperger’s, depression and hacking history that Poulsen, along with Kim Zetter, reported that PFC Manning had been detained, after, they said, he had “contacted former hacker Adrian Lamo late last month over instant messenger and e-mail.”  Lamo told me that Manning first emailed him on May 20 and, according to highly edited chat logs released by Wired, had his first online chat with Manning on May 21; in other words, Manning first contacted Lamo the very day that Poulsen’s Wired article on Lamo’s involuntary commitment appeared (the Wired article is time-stamped 5:46 p.m. on May 20).

Lamo, however, told me that Manning found him not from the Wired article — which Manning never mentioned reading — but from searching the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, which led him to a tweet Lamo had written that included the word “WikiLeaks.” Even if Manning had really found Lamo through a Twitter search for “WikiLeaks,” Lamo could not explain why Manning focused on him, rather than the thousands of other people who have also mentioned the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, including countless people who have done so by expressing support for WikiLeaks.

Although none of the Wired articles ever mention this, the first Lamo-Manning communications were not actually via chat.  Instead, Lamo told me that Manning first sent him a series of encrypted emails which Lamo was unable to decrypt because Manning “encrypted it to an outdated PGP key of mine” [PGP is an encryption program].  After receiving this first set of emails, Lamo says he replied — despite not knowing who these emails were from or what they were about — by inviting the emailer to chat with him on AOL IM, and provided his screen name to do so.  Lamo says that Manning thereafter sent him additional emails encrypted to his current PGP key, but that Lamo never bothered to decrypt them.  Instead, Lamo claims he turned over all those Manning emails to the FBI without ever reading a single one of them.  Thus, the actual initial communications between Manning and Lamo — what preceded and led to their chat — are completely unknown.  Lamo refuses to release the emails or chats other than the small chat snippets published by Wired.

Using the chat logs between Lamo and Manning — which Lamo provided to Poulsen — the Wired writers speculated that the Army Private trusted Lamo because he “sensed a kindred spirit in the ex-hacker.”  Poulsen and Zetter write that Manning confessed to being the leaker of the Apache attack video “very quickly in the exchange,” and then proceeded to boast that, in addition, “he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables” to WikiLeaks.  Very shortly after the first chat, Lamo notified federal agents of what Manning told him, proceeded to speak to Manning for the next several days while consulting with federal agents, and then learned that Manning was detained in Iraq.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Here’s how it worked in the Manning case: Manning first contacted Lamo by IM on May 21st. On May 24th, Lamo called Poulsen to let him know about the potential story, but witheld details. Lamo began working with the feds to nab Manning. On May 26th, Manning was arrested. The day after Lamo learned of Manning’s arrest, he told the whole story to Poulsen, who drove miles to pick up a zip drive with the chat logs, according to the CJR. Poulsen wrote the post and published June 6th.

We see here how Lamo functions essentially as an informal stringer for Poulsen. Lamo told the BBC that he had even told Manning he was a journalist. That Lamo then turned on his source is a pretty blatant violation of journalistic ethics, but never mind; Poulsen gets his story and Lamo gets his name in the papers.

In typical hyperbolic fashion, Wikileaks has been Tweeting allegations that this means Wired was in collusion with Lamo and, thus, the US government. Really, what’s going on doesn’t differ much from any source-journalist relationship.

But Wired’s role is indeed colored by Poulsen’s strong relationship with Lamo—and the fact that Lamo turned Manning into the authorities. When hackers come to the media with, say, evidence of a massive iPad security flaw, they usually demand some sort of anonymity. Manning didn’t have this option, since, technically he wasn’t speaking with a journalist. But the fact that Lamo presumably intended from the beginning to dish to Poulsen complicates things.

The exact role of Wired in this—and the extent to which Lamo misled Manning to think he was a journalist—could presumably be answered by looking at the full chat logs Lamo gave Poulsen. But Poulsen told Greenwald that Wired didn’t release the full transcript because it detailed “personal matters” or sensitive government information. Bullshit. Poulsen and Lamo have been working as an informal hacker-journalist unit for years. It’s time to get some Wikileaks-style transparency on how it all works.

More Greenwald:

Poulsen’s concealment of the chat logs is actively blinding journalists and others who have been attempting to learn what Manning did and did not do. By allowing the world to see only the fraction of the Manning-Lamo chats that he chose to release, Poulsen has created a situation in which his long-time “source,” Adrian Lamo, is the only source of information for what Manning supposedly said beyond those published exceprts.  Journalists thus routinely print Lamo’s assertions about Manning’s statements even though — as a result of Poulsen’s concealment — they are unable to verify whether Lamo is telling the truth.  Due to Poulsen, Lamo is now the one driving many of the media stories about Manning and WikiLeaks even though Lamo (a) is a convicted felon, (b) was (as Poulsen strangely reported at the time) involuntarily hospitalized for severe psychiatric distress a mere three weeks before his chats with Manning, and (c) cannot keep his story straight about anything from one minute to the next.

To see how odious Poulsen’s concealment of this evidence is, consider this December 15 New York Times article by Charlie Savage, which reports that the DOJ is trying to prosecute WikiLeaks based on the theory that Julian Assange “encouraged or even helped” Manning extract the classified information.  Savage extensively quotes Lamo claiming that Manning told him all sorts of things about WikiLeaks and Assange that are not found in the portions of the chat logs published by Wired:

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.

He said the special server’s purpose was to allow Private Manning’s submissions to “be bumped to the top of the queue for review.” By Mr. Lamo’s account, Private Manning bragged about this “as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.”

Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them. Mr. Lamo described them from memory in an interview with the Times, but he said he could not provide the full chat transcript because the F.B.I. had taken his hard drive, on which it was saved. . . .

It has been known that investigators were looking for evidence that one or more people in Boston served as an intermediary between Private Manning and WikiLeaks, although there is no public sign that they have found any evidence supporting that theory. . . .

“At some point, [Manning] became satisfied that he was actually talking to Assange and not some unknown third party posing as Assange, and based on that he began sending in smaller amounts of data from his computer,” Mr. Lamo said. “Because of the nature of his Internet connection, he wasn’t able to send large data files easily. He was using a satellite connection, so he was limited until he did an actual physical drop-off when he was back in the United States in January of this year.”

Lamo’s claim — that Manning told him that he physically dropped off a disk with classified information to WikiLeaks’ “intermediaries” in Boston — is nowhere to be found in the chat logs released by Poulsen. And while there are a couple of vague references in the chats to Manning’s interactions with Assange, there is also little in the released portions about Assange using an “encrypted Internet conferencing service” to talk to Manning or specially creating a “dedicated server” for Manning to use.  Yet here is Lamo, on the front page of The New York Times, making these incredibly inflammatory accusations about what Manning supposedly told him — accusations that could implicate both WikiLeaks and numerous individuals in the Boston area, including MIT students who (due at least in part to Lamo’s prior accusations) have been the subject of WikiLeaks-related probes by the FBI.

Whether Manning actually said these things to Lamo could be verified in one minute by “journalist” Kevin Poulsen.  He could either say:  (1) yes, the chats contain such statements by Manning, and here are the portions where he said these things, or (2) no, the chats contain no such statements by Manning, which means Lamo is either lying or suffers from a very impaired recollection about what Manning said.  Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.  Any true “journalist” — or any person minimally interested in revealing the truth — would do exactly that in response to Lamo’s claims as published by The New York Times.

But manifestly, those descriptions do not apply to Kevin Poulsen.  It’s been almost two weeks since Savage wrote his story in which he prominently pointed out that Wired has the evidence — but has not released it — which would confirm whether Lamo is telling the truth about these vital matters, and Poulsen has said nothing.  Moreover, I sent Poulsen an e-mail two days ago — here — expressly asking whether or not the chat logs contain what Lamo says they contain about WikiLeaks and Boston-area “intermediaries,” and he has ignored the inquiries.  This is not the behavior of a journalist seeking to inform the public, but of someone eager, for whatever reasons, to hide the truth.

Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen at Wired. Poulsen:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

We took the high ground and ignored Greenwald and Salon the first time they pulled this nonsense. Now it’s time to set the record straight.

If you’re just tuning in, Wired.com was the first to report, last June, on the then-secret arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning. I learned of the arrest from Adrian Lamo, a well-known former hacker on whom I reported extensively from 2000 to 2002. It was Lamo who turned Manning in to the Army and the FBI, after Manning — isolated and despondent — contacted him online and began confiding the most intimate details of his life, including, but by no means limited to, his relationship with WikiLeaks, and the vast databases he claimed to have provided them.

Co-writer Kim Zetter and I followed up the story four days later with a piece examining Manning’s motives. The Washington Post had just run a fine story about Manning’s state-of-mind: At the time of his discussions with Lamo, he’d been through a bad breakup and had other personal conflicts. But I felt — and still do feel — that it’s a mistake to automatically ascribe Manning’s actions to his feeling depressed. (For one thing, his breakup occurred after the leaking.) There’s an implicit political judgment in that conclusion: that leaking is an aberrant act, a symptom of a psychological disorder. Manning expressed clear and rational reasons for doing what he did, whether one agrees with those reasons or not.

So we went into the logs of the chats Manning held with Lamo — which Lamo had provided Wired and The Washington Post — and pieced together a picture of why Manning took his historic actions, based on his own words (“Suspected Wikileaks Source Described Crisis of Conscience Leading to Leaks“). As a sidebar to the article, we published excerpts from those chat logs.

We’ve had several more scoops since then, reporting new information on Manning’s history in the Army, and revealing the internal conflict his alleged disclosures triggered within WikiLeaks.

But those first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking. We’ve led the coverage on this story, and we would gain nothing by letting another scoop simmer unreported on our hard drives.

The debate, if it can be described as that, centers on the remainder of Manning’s conversations with Lamo. Greenwald argues that Wired.com has a journalistic obligation to publish the entirety of Manning’s communications. As with other things that Greenwald writes, the truth is the opposite. (See the statement above by Wired’s editor-in-chief.)

Greenwald’s incomplete understanding of basic journalistic standards was first displayed in his earlier piece on this subject, last June, titled “The Strange and Consequential Case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks.” This is where he first claimed that Lamo and I have “long and strange history together.”

That “history” began in 2000, when, while reporting for the computer security news site SecurityFocus.com, I contacted Lamo to use him as an expert on security issues at AOL. I sought him out because he’d been quoted in a similar capacity in a Salon.com article the year before.

Later, Lamo began sharing with me the details of some of his hacking. Lamo was nearly unique among hackers of that period, in that he had no evident fear of discussing his unlawful access, regardless of the inevitable legal consequences. He cracked everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo, and from MCI to Excite@Home. And he freely discussed how he did it, and sometimes helped the victim companies close their security holes afterward.

This came at a time, prior to the passage of California’s SB1386, when companies had no legal obligation to reveal security breaches, and hackers, facing tough criminal sanctions, had a strong disincentive to reveal it themselves. Lamo’s transparency provided an invaluable window on the poor state of computer security.

Using little more than a web browser, he was able to gain sensitive information on critical infrastructure, and private data like Social Security numbers. He changed a news story on Yahoo — at the time the most-trafficked news source on the web — undetected. In the intrusion that finally resulted in his arrest, he cracked The New York Times intranet and added himself to the paper’s internal database of op-ed contributors.

Some people regarded him as a hacker hero — Kevin Spacey narrated a documentary about him. Others argued he was a villain. At his sentencing, Lamo’s prosecutors argued he was responsible for “a great deal of psychological injury” to his victims.

To Greenwald, all this makes Lamo “a low-level, inconsequential hacker.” This conclusion is critical to his thesis that Lamo and I have something more than a source-journalist relationship. Greenwald’s theory is that Lamo’s hacks were not newsworthy. But, this line of thought goes, in exchange for the chance to break the non-news of his intrusions, I reported them — getting Lamo attention among the readers of SecurityFocus.com.

What he fails to report is that those same breaches were also covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, Wired magazine (well before my tenure at Wired.com), cable news networks, every tech news outlet and several national newspapers, and that Lamo spoke freely to all of them.

Greenwald:

Last night, Wired posted a two-part response to my criticisms of its conduct in reporting on the arrest of PFC Bradley Manning and the key role played in that arrest by Adrian Lamo.  I wrote about this topic twice — first back in June and then again on Monday.  The first part of Wired‘s response was from Wired.com Editor-in-Chief Evan Hansen, and the second is from its Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  Both predictably hurl all sorts of invective at me as a means of distracting attention from the central issue, the only issue that matters:  their refusal to release or even comment on what is the central evidence in what is easily one of the most consequential political stories of this year, at least.

That’s how these disputes often work by design:  the party whose conduct is in question (here, Wired) attacks the critic in order to create the impression that it’s all just some sort of screeching personality feud devoid of substance.  That, in turn, causes some bystanders to cheer for whichever side they already like and boo the side they already dislike, as though it’s some sort of entertaining wrestling match, while everyone else dismisses it all as some sort of trivial Internet catfight not worth sorting out.  That, ironically, is what WikiLeaks critics (and The New York Times‘ John Burns) did with the release of the Iraq War documents showing all sorts of atrocities in which the U.S. was complicit:  they tried to put the focus on the personality quirks of Julian Assange to distract attention away from the horrifying substance of those disclosures.  That, manifestly, is the same tactic Wired is using here:  trying to put the focus on me to obscure their own ongoing conduct in concealing the key evidence shining light on these events.

In a separate post, I fully address every accusation Hansen and Poulsen make about me as well as the alleged inaccuracies in what I wrote.  But I’m going to do everything possible here to ensure that the focus remains on what matters:  the way in which Wired, with no justification, continues to conceal this evidence and, worse, refuses even to comment on its content, thus blinding journalists and others trying to find out what really happened here, while enabling gross distortions of the truth by Poulsen’s long-time confidant and source, the government informant Adrian Lamo.

The bottom line from Hansen and Poulsen is that they still refuse to release any further chat excerpts or, more inexcusably, to comment at all on — to verify or deny — Lamo’s public statements about what Manning said to him that do not appear in those excerpts.  They thus continue to conceal from the public 75% of the Manning-Lamo chats.  They refuse to say whether Lamo’s numerous serious accusations about what Manning told him are actually found anywhere in the chat logs.  Nor will they provide the evidence to resolve the glaring inconsistencies in Lamo’s many public tales about the critical issues:  how he came to speak to Manning, what Lamo did to induce these disclosures, and what Manning said about his relationship to WikiLeaks and his own actions.  Every insult Wired spouts about me could be 100% true and none of it changes the core fact:  Wired is hiding the key evidence about what took place here, thus allowing Lamo to spout all sorts of serious claims without any check and thus drive much of the reporting about WikiLeaks.

To defend this concealment, Hansen claims that they “have already published substantial excerpts from the logs.”  But the parts they are concealing are far more substantial:  75% by their own account, and critically, the person who played a key role in hand-picking which parts to publish and which parts to conceal is the person whom BBC News accurately describes as “Mr Lamo’s long-term associate Kevin Poulsen.”  Poulsen claims he “either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking,” but that begs the key question:  is everything — or anything — that Lamo has been claiming about Manning’s statements found in the chat logs or not?  Why won’t Wired answer that question?  Below, I set forth what Lamo has claimed that is not in the chat logs and why it is so vital to know if it’s there.

Hansen’s defense principally relies on a total strawman:  that I’m calling for the full, unedited release of the chat logs.  Hansen insists that Wired cannot do this because of privacy concerns for Manning.  He titles his response “The Case for Privacy,” and claims “that the logs include sensitive personal information with no bearing on Wikileaks.”

But neither I nor anyone else I’ve read has called on Wired to indiscriminately dump the chat logs without any redactions or regard for Manning’s privacy.  Back in June — once Poulsen’s claims that they were withholding only private information and national security secrets was proven false by TheWashington Post‘s subsequent publication of chat excerpts that fell into neither category — this is what I called on Wired to do:

Wired should either publish all of the chat logs, or be far more diligent about withholding only those parts which truly pertain only to Manning’s private and personal matters and/or which would reveal national security secrets. Or they should have a respected third party review the parts they have concealed to determine if there is any justification for that. At least if one believes Lamo’s claims, there are clearly relevant parts of those chats which Wired continues to conceal.

Then, on Sunday, I noted several important events that transpired since I wrote that June article: most prominently the fact that Wired‘s source, Lamo, had spent six months making all sorts of public claims about what Manning told him that are nowhere in the chat excerpts published by Wired. Moreover, the disclosures by WikiLeaks gut Poulsen’s excuse that Wired‘s concealments are necessary to protect national security secrets (an excuse Hansen did not even raise).  As a result of those developments, this is what I wrote on Sunday that Wired should do:

What they ought to do, at the absolute minimum, is post the portions of the chat logs about which Lamo had made public statements or make clear that they do not exist. . . . Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.

For anyone who wants to defend Wired here, I’d really like to know:  what possible excuse is there for their refusal to do this?  Even if you trust Poulsen — despite his very close and long relationship to Lamo — to conceal some parts of the chats on privacy grounds, what justification is there for Wired‘s refusal to state that either (a) Lamo’s claims about what Manning told him are supported by the chat logs (and then publish those portions), or (b) Lamo’s claims are not found in the chat logs, thus proving that Lamo is either lying or has an unreliable recollection?  While Adrian Lamo runs around spouting all sorts of serious accusations about what Manning supposedly told him that are not found in Wired‘s excerpts — claims which end up in the world’s largest news outlets — and while he issues one contradictory claim after the next about these events, how can anyone claiming to be a journalist not inform the public about whether those stories are true?  For Wired defenders: what justifies that obfuscatory behavior, that refusal to say whether Lamo’s claims are true or false based on the chat logs?

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Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

I love a good blog fight as much as anyone, but after reading several thousand words of accusations and counter accusations being slung between Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald and Wired‘s Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen, I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out what, exactly, this particular dispute is all about.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, first of all: congratulations. Second, here’s a quick synopsis: On June 6, Poulsen and his colleague Kim Zetter broke the sensational story that a young Army intelligence officer, Bradley Manning, had been arrested for disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a video showing a U.S. helicopter gunship killing three civilians in Iraq and more than 250,000 State Department cables. Wired‘s main source was Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who says he turned Manning in to U.S. authorities after the latter confessed to the deed in a Web chat. As Lamo explained his motivation: “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger.”

Four days later, Poulsen and Zetter published a new article on Manning, as well as an incomplete transcript of Lamo and Manning’s chats, which had begun on May 21 and continued for a few days. “The excerpts represent about 25 percent of the logs,” they wrote. “Portions of the chats that discuss deeply personal information about Manning or that reveal apparently sensitive military information are not included.”

That same day, the Washington Post published its own article on Manning’s arrest, quoting from the logs, which the paper said it had received from Lamo. Some of the quotes do not appear in Wired‘s excerpts. Wired also continued to follow the story.

On June 18, Greenwald wrote a long blog post raising questions about Poulsen’s scoop and about Lamo. He said he found the story “quite strange,” called Lamo an “extremely untrustworthy source,” and accused Poulsen of being “only marginally transparent about what actually happened here.”

What was curious about Greenwald’s post was that he didn’t challenge any specific facts in Wired‘s reporting; he just pointed to what he saw as inconsistencies in the story, as well as Lamo’s account, and condemned the ex-hacker’s actions as “despicable.” He didn’t suggest outright that Manning had not actually confessed to Lamo. He didn’t try to argue that Manning hadn’t broken the law. He didn’t say the log excerpts were fabricated. He did, however, complain that Lamo had told him about conversations with Manning that were not in the chat-log excerpts published by Wired, and called on the magazine to release them. Poulsen said he wouldn’t be doing so, telling Greenwald: “The remainder is either Manning discussing personal matters that aren’t clearly related to his arrest, or apparently sensitive government information that I’m not throwing up without vetting first.”

Still with me?

Then, on Monday, several weeks after the cables had begun trickling out, Greenwald again returned to the issue. In a torqued-up post titled “The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired,” he excoriated the magazine and Poulsen for refusing to release the full logs, calling Poulsen’s behavior “odious” and “concealment” of “key evidence.” Greenwald appears to have been motivated to weigh in anew by Firedoglake — a left-leaning website whose members had been obsessively trolling the Web for stories about Lamo and Manning, and even pulled together a handy, color-coded expanded transcript from the logs — as well as by a flawedNew York Timesarticle reporting that the Justice Department was trying to build a conspiracy case against WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange. Presumably, the logs would be an important part of the prosecution’s argument.

Wired responded to Greenwald Tuesday night with twin posts by Hansen, the magazine’s editor in chief, and Poulsen. Greenwald fired back with two angry posts of his own today (1, 2). Long story short: Wired reiterated its refusal to release the logs (Poulsen: “[T]hose first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking”), Greenwald rejected that explanation, and both sides traded some nasty barbs about each other and made competing claims about the nature of Poulsen’s relationship with Lamo.

What still remains a mystery to me is what, exactly, Greenwald thinks is being covered up here. What is he accusing Wired of doing, and why? Does he think that the full transcript of the logs would somehow exonerate Manning, or prove Lamo a liar? And if he catches Lamo telling a journalist something that wasn’t in the logs, what then?

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

8:20 For a good running twitter debate on Greenwald vs. Wired (see below), check out @felixsalmon and @penenberg.   And Jeff Jarvis tweets:  “Now I need a journalist (& FDL) to cut through personal, professional invective among @ evanatwired, @ kpoulson, @ ggreenwald to answer Qs.”

Karl at Patterico’s:

More to the point, Wired gets even in a two-part article by EIC Evan Hansen and Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  The latter writes:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

That’s the tip of an iceberg that includes an undisclosed conflict of interest and more than one major factual error.  But is it breathtaking?  Perhaps the folks at Wired never noticed until now that inaccuracy, sophistryhypocrisy, free-floating rage and undisclosed conflicts are Greenwald features, not bugs.

Significantly, Hansen and Poulsen include Salon in their critique.  Granted, if Salon was serious about maintaining some minimum level of integrity, they wouldn’t have brought Greenwald on board in February 2007, as he had already been exposed as a egomaniacal sock-puppeteer.  It is nevertheless a timely reminder of that lack of standards on the part of both Greenwald and Salon.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Over the past few days, FDL readers have worked hard to transcribe every available recorded interview with Adrian Lamo, and their work has made manifestly clear that Lamo consistently makes contradictory claims for what appears in the chat logs. Further, Lamo has made statements that contradict Wired’s own reporting on the matter.

I’m proud of the citizen journalism here at FDL that was used by Glenn Greenwald to meticulously document many of the inconsistencies in the Wired narrative, and which will no doubt continue to be used as the Lamo-Manning story evolves over time.  I hope at the very least it has put an end to outlets like the New York Times using Lamo as a source for front page stories without going back and looking at what Lamo has said (or hasn’t said) in the past, because there is no excuse now.

Here are the chat logs, here are the previous Lamo interviews, and here is a timeline of events.  Any journalist writing on the subject can easily make themselves familiar with the history of what has been said and written, and they should be responsible for making sure that anything they produce is contextualized within that.

I’m not sure why Hansen thinks transcribing interviews and logging articles qualifies as “discrediting Lamo.”  Lamo’s own words and actions are responsible for any indictment being made in the press, and Wired’s decision to sit on the chat logs makes them an active participant in whatever claims Lamo makes about their contents.

If Hansen doesn’t think the credibility of the key source for Wired’s reporting on this story can hold up when simply compared to his own words, I’d say they’ve got bigger problems than Glenn Greenwald.

John Cole:

What is particularly odd is that this is an online journal that should know better about this sort of thing- the logs will eventually come out. Maybe some of you were right about Wired, that it is basically People magazine for the online set, and I should find better sources in the future. At any rate, all we can do for now is keep the pressure up and refuse to visit Wired or any affiliates until they come clean. Hit em in the statcounter, I guess.

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2 Comments

Filed under New Media, Technology

2 responses to “It’s Been A Good Long Time Since We’ve Had A Nice Internet Fight

  1. Great post! I’m just starting out in community management/marketing media and trying to learn how to do it well – resources like this article are incredibly helpful. As our company is based in the US, it’s all a bit new to us. The example above is something that I worry about as well, how to show your own genuine enthusiasm and share the fact that your product is useful in that case. Thanks 🙂

  2. ace

    Internet could averything people couldn’t do in the real world. A person like Assange should be protected to keep the truth goes to the public.

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