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A World-Famous Hacker Died in Senior Living Facility at 37

NPR traces the strange life and death of Adrian Lamo
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2019 8:21 AM CDT
Updated Sep 28, 2019 2:00 PM CDT
Adrian Lamo, center, walks out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, after testifying at a military hearing for Chelsea Manning, then known as Bradley Manning.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – He was, writes Dina Temple-Raston of NPR, once one of the most famous hackers in all the world. That was back in the early 2000s when Adrian Lamo made a name for himself hacking into corporate websites—not for financial gain but to expose weaknesses. He even ended up with a felony conviction after infiltrating the New York Times' computers. But Lamo truly became famous as the person who turned in Chelsea Manning to government authorities. He went from being hailed as a hero among hackers to vilified as a snitch. His life went into a downward spiral, culminating in his death last year at 37 in, of all places, a senior living facility in Kansas. The cause of death remains officially undetermined, adding only more mystery (and conspiracy theories) to Lamo's story. Temple-Raston unpacks all this and takes an educated guess at what happened.

By 2018, Lamo had been using drugs heavily. He was in the senior living facility because the parents of a friend got him in there; as it turns out, anyone with a low income qualified, and Lamo had no job. Hours before he died, Lamo left a voice note to himself speaking of "agonizing pain" because he had twisted his leg. Temple-Raston's theory: "After spending some time on the computer and having dinner he took something to help him relax and maybe ease some of that muscle pain," she writes. "He went into the bedroom, lay down on the clothes, curled up, and just stopped breathing. It wasn't natural, suicide, homicide or completely undetermined—it was an accident." The story notes that Manning says she holds no "ill will" toward Lamo, and it digs into the mysterious sticker found on Lamo's leg referring to "ProjectVigilant." Read it in full here. (Read more Adrian Lamo stories.)

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