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Washington Post: Ex-NSA Official Thomas Drake to Plead Guilty to Misdemeanor
In front page news, GAP client and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake agreed last night to a plea bargain arrangement on the charges brought against him by the federal government. The Justice Department accused Drake of 10 felony counts and sought to put him in jail for 35 years; instead, this settlement agreement stipulates no jail time or fines shall be imposed on him. In return, Drake will plead guilty this morning to a mere misdemeanor – exceeding authorized use of a government computer.
The plea deal is consistent with what Tom Drake told the government all through his five year-long ordeal – that he never disclosed classified information to a reporter. Drake turned down earlier plea deals because he did not want to “plea bargain with the truth.”
Today’s news is an absolute victory for whistleblowers, and a blow to the Obama Administration's attempts to use the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers. Thank you for all of your support, and a special thanks to all those who lent their voices to stand up for Drake by signing our petition.
Key Quotes: The New York Times: But Jesselyn A. Radack, a lawyer for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project who had rallied support for Mr. Drake, hailed the outcome. “This is a victory for national security whistle-blowers and against corruption inside the intelligence agencies, she said. “No public servant should face 35 years in prison for telling the truth.”
The Justice Department's case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake was a case built on sand that collapsed under the weight of the truth.
Bravo Tom Drake, for refusing to compromise on the truth, standing firm for our Constitution, and responding to government's outrageous allegations with poise and honesty.
The Justice Department sought to put Drake in jail for 35 years and accused him of violating the Espionage Act. Instead, Drake will plead this morning (just days before he was to begin trial) to a minor misdemeanor, exceeding authorized use of a government computer, with the government agreeing to no jail time and no fine. This is an unambiguous victory for Drake, who has endured the most severe form of whistleblower retaliation I have ever seen. The Justice Department's decision to prosecute Drake was pure retribution for his blowing the whistle on massive NSA waste and illegality, and the government's glaring defeat is a victory for whistleblowers who refuse to let government agencies hide wrongdoing behind secrecy and threats of retaliation.
The experts weighed in on the plea deal:
"It's a pale shadow of the original indictment," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who works on government secrecy issues and has been following the Drake case. "The defendant was facing decades in prison, and all of the sudden the government says never mind. It's a pretty big reversal of course."
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GAP has learned that client Thomas Drake has agreed to a plea bargain arrangement on the charges brought against him by the federal government. While Drake was facing 10 felony counts and 35 years in jail, this settlement agreement stipulates no jail time or fines shall be imposed on him. In return, Drake will plead guilty to a mere misdemeanor. Drake appears publicly in court tomorrow to enter his plea.
The action taken against Drake by the Department of Justice was widely seen as a bellwether case for the current crop of the Obama administration's prosecutions under the Espionage Act against national security and intelligence whistleblowers. Today's news is an absolute victory for whistleblowers.
GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack commented, "This is a victory for national security whistleblowers and against corruption inside our intelligence agencies. The prosecution's case was built on sand and crumbled under the weight of the truth.
"Tom Drake went through all proper and legal channels. His experience proves that, presently, there is no safe way to draw attention to wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. The intelligence community cannot keep using a broken classification system to escape responsibility for its internal corruption and lawbreaking."
GAP represents Drake on whistleblower issues. He has a separate criminal defense team.
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Washington Post: Case Against Ex-NSA Manager Accused of Mishandling Classified Files Narrows
As the trial for NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake approaches, federal prosecutors will withdraw key pieces of evidence from their case, the Washington Post reported today. Experts believe that this decision will force the prosecution to drop some of the charges against Drake. It signifies a general weakening of the government’s case against him.
The trial begins on June 13th, and GAP is urging everyone who can to attend this critical, historic trial at the Federal District Courthouse in Baltimore — even just for one day of it. Click here for more information.
Click here to read GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack’s analysis of the article.
Key Quote: “Obama is prosecuting whistleblowers who made the kinds of disclosures that he said he wants — contractors bilking the government of billions of dollars,” said Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department whistleblower and director of national security at the Government Accountability Project. “That’s what Drake did.”
Associated Press: FDA Says Some Chicken Meat May Contain Small Amounts of Arsenic, But Consumers Shouldn't Worry
Pfizer Inc. announced Wednesday that it will take a drug used in chicken feed off the shelves after a new FDA study showed that arsenic in the product may end up in chicken meat.
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UPDATE: WaPo and The New Yorker are reporting that the prosecutors have offered NSA whistleblower Tom Drake a plea to reduced charges, but that Drake is refusing. Jane Mayer reports that
the government has been scrambling to find a way to avoid the trial
Drake is refusing, so far, to plead guilty to any wrongdoing, arguing that it is a lie, and he won’t compromise the truth.
As Mayer articulates, this latest development is more evidence the prosecution's case is imploding:
The government’s willingness to bargain down the charges from ten felony counts to a single misdemeanor suggests that the case is teetering.
Today's front page article from The Washington Post reveals that the prosecution's Espionage Act case against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake is unraveling.
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IDB building in Washington, DC; Photo courtesy of flickr user wallyg
Over the course of the past year, GAP has received a succession of complaints about unethical practices at the Office of Institutional Integrity (OII) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). OII is the unit responsible for investigating allegations of corruption, waste and fraud at the IDB, and Brígida Benítez has served as OII Chief since January 2010. In each case, the complaints sent to us were first circulated internally at the IDB.
Soon after she took her position, Benítez’s lack of experience in fraud investigations became a source of concern. As a former partner at Wilmer Hale, her previous responsibilities had focused primarily on litigation and commercial trade disputes. Even as she serves as OII Chief, her extra-curricular work continues in this field: during the past academic semester, she taught a course in transnational litigation at American University (AU).
It should be emphasized that not only does investigation require a different skill set than litigation, but in many ways the two approaches to a set of facts are diametrically opposed. While an investigator examines facts impartially, a litigator uses facts to construct a narrative favorable to his/her client. The selection of a litigator, rather than an investigator, to head the IDB’s investigative unit, therefore, raises doubts about the Banks’ commitment to an impartial OII.
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As reported today by the NYT, the complete Pentagon Papers are set to (finally) be released, about 40 years after making headline news. The whistleblower in that case, Daniel Ellsberg, has been recognized widely by the 'good government' community as the "patron saint" of whistleblowing. At a time when the negative connotations involved with whistleblowers were enormous and all too commonplace, he put his professional career, reputation, and the overall well-being of his family on the line to speak the truth about the Vietnam War. Ellsberg, who has graciously appeared with GAP on several occasions to promote our work and the importance of the phenomenon, was on the right side of history.
This announcement comes at an interesting time, because there's another prominent whistleblower who's about to go to trial -- who's also on the right side of history. Former NSA employee Tom Drake is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for retaining, not leaking, classified information about a data collection program that was amazingly expensive, threatening to Americans' privacy rights, and wholly undeveloped, despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that respected Americans' privacy.
Drake (a GAP client) did what he was supposed to do, raising concerns through official channels first -- including senior NSA management, the Defense Department's inspector general, and Congress. You would like to think that the progress made by the American government with regards to the whistleblower system, since Ellsberg's disclosures, would have never allowed for Drake's allegations to be sat on, and done nothing with. This, unfortunately, is not the case. His concerns were ignored.