National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake appeared with me on Russian Television's The Alyona Show yesterday, his first TV appearance since the Espionage Act case against him completely imploded days before trial and the Judge slammed the Justice Department at sentencing.
Drake describes how he blew the whistle internally - and NSA completely ignored the multi-billion dollar waste - before even considering going to the Baltimore Sun with unclassified information. Drake said in the interview that even though he endured years of retaliation and persecution at the hands of the government, he would have blown the whistle again: the billion-dollar waste and illegal surveillance are too important to remain secret.
Drake isn't the only one speaking out about the Obama administration's conduct in his case. Former classification czar under the George W. Bush administration, J. William Leonard, filed a complaint with his former office (the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)) asking that the Justice Department and NSA officials who overclassified the information used against Drake be held accountable. He explained his reasoning in an L.A. Times op-ed earlier this week:
Currently, the strong impulse within the U.S. government is to overclassify. The administration needs to begin sanctioning those who inappropriately classify information, and it needs to take far greater care in what it decides to label secret. Otherwise, it will continue to find itself prosecuting cases it can't win and denying the public access to information it should possess.
For his part, serving as a defense expert in the Drake case, Leonard believes that the information Drake was accused of illegally retaining was not a national security secret:
Every 6-year-old knows what a secret is. But apparently our nation's national security establishment does not. . . . But in my opinion, the classified information Drake was charged with having possessed illegally . . . never should have been classified in the first place.
The fact that Leonard believes the information Drake supposedly retained illegally should not have been classified is more evidence of the government's retaliatory motive. Drake was not charged under the Espionage Act because he retained secret information. He was charged under the Espionage Act because he blew the whistle through proper internal channels on multi-billion dollar waste, fraud, abuse, and illegal surveillance and embarrassed the NSA by exercising his First Amendment right to talk to the press about unclassified information.