Hacker Adrian Lamo has died at age 37, according to ZDNet and a Facebook post from his father. The circumstances of Lamo’s death are unknown, but a coroner in Sedgwick County, Kansas, reportedly confirmed the news.
Lamo was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1981. In the mid-1990s, he volunteered for PlanetOut, a public media company that catered to the LGBTQ community. In 1998, he was appointed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth Task Force by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Lamo first gained notoriety online in the early 2000s for hacking companies like Yahoo! and AOL, as well as The New York Times. In 2004, after accepting a plea bargain, Lamo was sentenced for hacking the newspaper, where he had added his name to an internal list of op-ed writers and racked up $300,000 in charges using the organization’s subscription to Lexis-Nexis, a pay-per-use search tool.
He spent almost six months on home detention and studied journalism before becoming a threat analyst.
When former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning) read about his hacking profile in Wired magazine, Manning contacted him, and the pair started exchanging messages online.
Manning found Adrian a “kindred spirit” and told him about his role as an informer for WikiLeaks and how he leaked the most controversial combat video footage of a helicopter shooting unarmed Iraqi civilians and 260,000 classified diplomatic cables to the whistleblowing website.
However, Adrian then decided to report him and informed the US military of the breach. In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, Adrian defended his decision to turn Chelsea over to the FBI and said:
“There were no right choices that day, only less wrong ones. It was cold, it was needful, and it was no one’s to make except mine. I couldn’t just do anything, knowing lives were in danger, it’s classified information, and when you play Russian roulette, how do you know there’s not a bullet in the next chamber?”
“Choosing to interdict a man’s freedom knowing it could mean his life, is something that’s easy to judge but can only really be understood by living it.”
Manning was arrested in May 2010 and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents, though her sentence was later reduced by President Barack Obama, and she was set free last year.