The Price of Truth

One attendee demanded that hacking veteran Lamo take an internationalist perspective into the world events which led Lamo to turn over one Bradley Manning to the authorities.

Posted by Tyler Bass on August 15, 2010

“You’re free, but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind.” — Janelle Monáe

Adrian Lamo’s critics faced him down at a hacker’s conference. Lamo sat on the stage, placid, blinking pronouncedly as his hecklers continued. They prodded him, asking if he would have been tempted to release the data that a man who contacted him had sworn upon threat of military legal prosecution never to release had Lamo not faced his own prosecution as an accessory. One attendee demanded that hacking veteran Lamo take an internationalist perspective into the world events which led Lamo to turn over one Bradley Manning to the authorities. The hacker beside Lamo cajoled him for not having ignored the initial messaging by Bradley Manning.

Lamo simply replied with his gratitude that he lived in a country where he would not have to take a bullet to the head for attending a hacker’s conference, period. And for this he iteration he received at least one attendee’s applause.

This whole incident called into question to whom and/or to what ultimate philosophical cause exactly one must pledge his or her loyalties. Lamo’s perspective seeks to draw us into a void wherein loyalty to country must rise above that to conscience per se; the lives of foreigners are the objects of guessing games in which the United States must come out the “victor” due to its kindness to Lamo, the citizen, himself.

Adrian had launched into a tribute to the United States and the very freedoms that allowed the hackers’ conference, 2010 The Next HOPE, to have occurred in the first place. Thus questions of national allegiance came into play, in light of the interest of paying tribute to that same society through a defense of the rule of law. Always with the disclaimer that he was “not a jurist” and that he lacked a JD, his explanation for his behavior side-stepped the concern for what his country had done by the notion that his country would allow him to discuss his ideas publicly; and that, because he did not, he said, always agree with his government’s action, it deserved deference.

At the July 26th White House Daily Briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attempted to allay the concerns of a White House Press Corps frenzied by the largest release of classified military documents of all time. Although he would admit that he couldn’t of course find time to personally sift through tens of thousands of bulletins, he said “in terms of broad revelation, there aren’t any that we see in these documents.” To Der Spiegel, The New York Times and The Guardian, Wikileaks had provided exclusive access to these 90,000-some documents, which detail the events of the decade-long Afghanistan conflict.

“[Wikileaks is],” Gibbs said, “not in touch with us. The only — the only effort that I made in discussing — the only effort that I made with The Times — who I will say came to us, I think handled this story in a responsible way. I passed a message through the writers at The New York Times to the head of WikiLeaks to redact information that could — that could harm personnel or threaten operations or security.”

Responding to inquiry by e-mail, Julian Assange told me, “NYTimes confirmed that this request was handed to Gibbs and two others. Wikileaks used ‘direct’ as did [the] pentgon [sic] to try and pretect [sic][.] [T]hey did not get the request (since it was given in an ‘indirect’) manner.”

Shrugging off suggestions of comparison to the Pentagon Papers, Gibbs said that the White House had not conducted a “cloistered evaluation of our policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” adding, “That’s not the way we’ve operated.”

“This isn’t a broad review of aspects of civilian — you know, progress that we have or haven’t made on civilian casualties. It’s just on-the- ground reporting on that.” Yet it’s difficult to know anything else close to a “broad review” of these civilian casualties which contextualize the deaths of around 1,000 Americans and thousands more Afghans, it being safe to say that these casualties are pertinent to the success of ISAF’s stated mission. The relative weight of the publicity the White House and the media have paid to the deaths of American servicepeople is great compared to the attention that the White House, the Defense Department paid to the deaths of Afghan civilians.

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