Adrian Lamo, a hacker best known for breaking into the computer networks of The New York Times and other major corporations, and for reporting Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to the authorities, has died, his father and officials said. He was 37.
Lamo was found dead in an apartment in Wichita, Kansas, on Wednesday, The Wichita Eagle reported. His father announced the death in a post on Facebook on Friday.
Kate Flavin, a spokeswoman for Sedgwick County, Kansas, said Saturday that the cause of death was unknown.
Lamo was 22 when federal prosecutors accused him of breaking into The Times’ computer network, creating fake usernames and running up more than $300,000 in data research fees. Lamo also gained access to the computer networks of Yahoo, Microsoft and Cingular Wireless, prosecutors said.
“It’s like someone kicking in your front door while you’re on vacation and running up a $300,000 bill on your phone, and then telling you when you arrive home that he had performed a useful service by demonstrating that your deadbolt wasn’t secure enough,” James Comey, then the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in 2003 of Lamo’s activities.
Lamo pleaded guilty to one count of computer damage, telling a federal judge that he was “genuinely remorseful” for his actions. He was sentenced to house arrest and probation.
Lamo was never a “malicious hacker,” his father, Mario, said in a message, adding, “Everything that he did was out of curiosity.” The younger Lamo told Wired in 2010 that he had Asperger’s syndrome.
In 2010, Manning, an Army private, contacted Lamo via instant message. They chatted for a week about her personal problems in the military. Manning admitted she had leaked classified video of a helicopter attack in Baghdad that left 12 people dead, including two Reuters employees, to WikiLeaks.org, which published the video online under the title “Collateral Murder.”
Lamo said Manning also admitted leaking to WikiLeaks 260,000 classified diplomatic cables and video of a 2009 Afghanistan airstrike that left 96 people dead.
“He was just grabbing information from where he could get it and trying to leak it,” Lamo told The Times in 2010 about Manning, a transgender woman who was then known as Bradley Manning.
Lamo called the authorities and relayed Manning’s admissions. She was arrested and eventually sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 750,000 documents and video, the longest punishment ever imposed for a leak conviction. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January 2017, and she recently filed to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Lamo said he was worried that the leaks provided by Manning would endanger people’s lives.
“I thought to myself, ‘What if somebody dies because this information is leaked?'” he said in 2010.
WikiLeaks and others condemned Lamo for turning Manning in to the federal authorities.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, called Lamo a “serial FBI snitch” on Twitter. On the comments of the Facebook post announcing Lamo’s death, some called him a “real hero” and “true patriot.”
Mario Lamo said his son went through a difficult period after reporting Manning to the authorities.
“He was vilified by many people by his position about the Manning affair,” he said. “I was with him when this happened and understood that he lived by some principles and he stood for them.”
In addition to his father, Lamo is survived by his mother, Mary Atwood, and two siblings.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.