Adrian Lamo: Hacker who turned in Chelsea Manning dies, aged 37

Emily Shugerman
Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker who informed authorities about Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, has died: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker best known for giving up information that lead to Chelsea Manning's arrest, has died at the age of 37.

Mr Lamo, occasionally known as the “homeless hacker” because of his penchant for roaming the US on Greyhound buses, died in Sedgwick County, Kansas on Friday, according to multiple reports. His cause of death has not been confirmed.

An account appearing to belong to his father, Mario Lamo, posted a tribute in a Facebook group called “2600 | The Hacker Quarterly”.

“With great sadness and a broken heart I have to let know all of Adrian's friends and acquittances[sic] that he is dead,” he wrote. “A bright mind and compassionate soul is gone, he was my beloved son…”

Mr Lamo gained notoriety in the early 2000s for hacking into high-profile companies like Microsoft, AOL, and Excite@Home. Perhaps his best-known hack was of the New York Times, when he gained access to a newspaper database and accessed personal information for more than 3,000 contributors to the Times' op-ed page, according to the FBI.

Usually, Mr Lamo would not take any money from the companies he hacked, and would instead give them advice on how to improve their security systems.

His exploits still occasionally got him in trouble with the law, however: He evaded arrest for five days in 2003 while FBI agents staked out his home in California, according to CNET. He eventually turned himself in and was sentenced to six months’ home detention.

Mr Lamo gained worldwide notoriety in 2010, when he gave military investigators evidence that Ms Manning – then an intelligence analyst for a US Army unit in Iraq – had turned over confidential military information to WikiLeaks.

Ms Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013. Her sentence was later commuted by President Barack Obama.

Looking back on his decision to turn in Ms Manning in 2017, Mr Lamo told US News and World Report it was “not [his] most honorable moment”.

But he added that he had learned much from the experience, including that “you can’t really know a person or their motives unless you’ve sat where they sat and seen the situation through their eyes, no matter how much you believe you do”.

“So many people think they know why I did what I did or what I was thinking or why I made my choice,” he added. “And almost without exception they’re wrong.”