Unsolved murder: Did the feds kill the infamous “Homeless Hacker”?
The story of the “homeless hacker” Adrian Lamo is an enigmatic one. Back in the early 2000s, Lamo was perhaps the most famous hacker in the world. Towards the end of his short life, however, Lamo ended up in the last place you’d expect. The notorious hacker had fled to the open fields of Kansas, the state where he would eventually die of possible unsolved murder.
Surprisingly, Adrian Lamo didn’t originally want to keep a low profile. Lamo’s old friend Lorraine Murphy told NPR that “He wanted to be a household name.” Murphy added that “Fame” & “Media” were “what motivated” Lamo. So, how could someone who wanted to be recognized end up hiding off the grid? Let’s dive in to figure out the unsolved murder of Adrian Lamo.
The rise of Adrian Lamo
Born in Boston in 1981, Adrian Lamo came of age in his father’s home near Bogotá, Colombia. Lamo began experimenting with hacking at a young age using a hand-me-down Commodore 64 computer. He started off by hacking into computer games, tapping strangers’ phone lines, and tricking the phone company into making long-distance calls for free.
It wasn’t until Lamo’s family moved to Northern California in the 90s that he really made a name for himself. Back in the early days of the Web, Lamo would chat with other wannabe hackers on programs like AOL Messenger. Lamo was well known within the internet community & would critique the work of those who sought him out.
While most of society was plugging into the ideas of interconnectivity offered on the web, Lamo saw the potential for harm. Adrian emphasized this fragility by hacking into major companies like AOL, Yahoo, and The New York Times. Lamo proved that if someone like him could break into these institutions digitally, then anyone could.
Adrian Lamo never did anything nefarious in these instances. He would simply find gaps in the website’s security & propose to fix them free of charge. If the company did not take his offer, he’d notify the news media in hopes that the publicity would get them to fix the problem. Lamo’s notoriety came to a head in 2010 when he began his correspondence with Chelsea Manning.
Lamo & WikiLeaks
What ended up being Adrian Lamo’s undoing started when he chatted online with a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq. That soldier was Chelsea Manning, who admitted in the chat that she knew someone who had “been penetrating U.S. classified networks.” Manning’s associate would then upload stolen data “to a crazy white haired aussie who can’t seem to stay in one country very long.”
That “crazy white haired aussie” was Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. As a result of the incriminating chat messages, Lamo turned Manning in to the authorities as a whistleblower. After he broke the news, Lamo received multiple death threats. Manning was arrested a few days later, not before she sent Assange a load of classified diplomatic cables.
Julian Assange has been a wanted man since the Manning leaks. The U.S. has been attempting to extradite him for over a decade. Assange also leaked U.S. Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election that showed the party favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Since April 2019, Assange has been held as a prisoner in England.
Despite the U.S. government’s failed attempts to bring Assange to justice, they probably would have used Adrian Lamo as a key witness. However, Lamo died under mysterious circumstances in March 2018. Was Adrian Lamo the victim of an unsolved murder?
Adrian Lamo’s death
There are five categories for classifying the cause of death in Kansas: natural, accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined. Adrian Lamo’s death was categorized as the last one. Scott Kipper, the deputy medical examiner who performed Lamo’s autopsy, said that it’s still unclear exactly how Lamo died. This leaves the possibility of an unsolved murder on the table.
Kipper said, “It’s certainly possible to have a known cause of death but still have an undetermined manner of death.” Despite all of the tests run on Lamo, Kipper wasn’t able to determine “anything that definitively showed a cause of death.” Kipper also hinted at the fact that Adrian Lamo could’ve been murdered without leaving a trace of foul play.
Scott Kipper explained that “There are some things that can be done to a body that leave minimal or no findings at autopsy.” Even though Kansas authorities were unable to pinpoint an exact manner of death, something about Adrian Lamo’s case seemed unusual. For instance, Lamo’s body was found with a sticker on his left thigh.
The sticker read “Adrian Lamo, Assistant Director, ProjectVigilant, 70 Bates Street, NW, Washington, DC.” Kipper had never seen anything like this, and said, “We took the sticker off; there was nothing under it.” Kipper added that there were “no needle marks” underneath the strange sticker. However, Lamo was found with an assortment of pills that could have caused an overdose.
Who would’ve wanted Adrian Lamo dead?
Adrian Lamo was found dead at a senior living facility near Wichita, Kansas on March 14th, 2018. Lamo was living there because anyone with a low income could become a resident. Before his death, Lamo was only declaring less than $1,000 of yearly income. Lamo was found lying on a pile of laundry, surrounded by trash, dirty dishes, and drug paraphernalia.
Sedgwick County chief medical examiner Dr. Timothy Rohrig found many over-the-counter drugs in Lamo’s system. Rohrig claimed that the amount of pharmaceuticals wasn’t enough to cause Lamo to overdose, but enough to sedate him. Could it be that someone drugged Lamo in order to kill him more easily? No one can know for sure.
Perhaps someone at WikiLeaks wanted to off Adrian Lamo. Maybe the feds needed to tie up any loose ends he was threatening to expose. Either way, the unsolved murder of Adrian Lamo still remains a mystery. Do you think Adrian Lamo was murdered? Let us know in the comments.