When Thomas Drake's trial begins next week on June 13th the courtroom should be overflowing because we need people to bear witness to history being made. I urge everyone who does not need to work to attend this critical, historic trial at the Federal District Courthouse in Baltimore. Shout-out to retirees, work-at-home Moms, and the unfortunately unemployed.
I am grateful that Drake's case is finally getting the attention it deserves because it has huge ramifications for both Whistleblowers, the media, and the First Amendment.
While The New Yorker, 60 Minutes, and LA Times have already given the Drake case the attention it deserves, I am surprised and thankful that the more conservative Washington Post editorial board understands that the Espionage Act prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake is overkill.
In today's editorial, titled "A case that could be overkill against a whistleblower," WaPo criticizes the Drake prosecution and hits on the consequences for national security whistleblowers considering speaking out against government waste, fraud, abuse, or illegalities:
Mr. Drake’s prosecution smacks of overkill and could scare others with legitimate concerns about government programs from coming forward.
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In the case of former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake, yesterday the judge issued a powerful "Order Regarding Admissibility of Classified Information." This is significant because Drake is being charged with "retention" of classified information "for the purpose of disclosure" to the media." Drake did not give classified information to a reporter. Drake is not charged with disclosure, only with retention, and now the Court has ordered the government to stipulate that there is no evidence that the reporter in question relied on the documents Drake is accused of retaining! Kafkaesque.
Drake is being prosecuted because he blew the whistle through proper internal channels.
Instead of tips or Tweets, PLEASE sign the petition demanding accountability in the Drake case.
Yesterday, the Court made the following rulings regarding the evidence:
The email is relevant to the defendant's state of mind and when his cooperation with the DOD IG [Department of Defense Inspector General] began.
The email is relevant to the defendant's state of mind, the issue of his retention of documents and his cooperation with the DOD IG.
Paragraphs 2, 6
The e-mail is relevant to the defendant's state of mind and his cooperation with the DOD IG.
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Note: Some may find this diary wandering, overlong, meandering, obtuse, and scatterbrained. I agree. However one person has expressed a like for it, so I reckon I'll post it anyways.
I am not the sharpest tack in the box. I'm not trained in national security, law, or much of anything really. Like most people, I first heard about the NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake case back in mid 2010. I didn't, at first, think he was a whistleblower. I thought he was just some guy who had been caught doing something dumb. Some of the news stories quote anonymous sources, saying that it was "hubris" or "corporate IT politics" that Drake had gotten caught up in. I believed that. Part of the problem was that I couldn't understand the basic facts of the case. It was like swimming through algae. I looked at the news stories; many were titled something like 'leak case' or 'leaker', and they had this 'tsk tsk' vibe and they were short on details. Most of them didn't even list the actual specific charges against him; they just said 'leaking'. I don't think any of the headlines said 'Whistleblower'. Now, looking back, I have to wonder; how can the word 'leaker' meet journalistic ethics rules for neutrality, but not the word 'whistleblower'?
Something about those words "Espionage" or "Leaking" seem to switch off the logic center of my brain. Maybe I just don't wan't to support anything that might "harm the troops"; maybe I want to be patriotic. When the government says things, I'm inclined to believe them. In the Drake case, I believed what the indictment said... that he shredded documents, that he copy-pasted classified info, that he gave classified information to a reporter, and that he lied about all of it. I was totally, completely, one hundred percent wrong. And now I'm ashamed of myself.
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The NSA makes up one third of the total U.S. intelligence budget
Jane Mayer's recent New Yorker piece on the criminal prosecution of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake reveals a sliver of the intelligence industrial complex costing Americans' their money and their freedom.
Drake blew the whistle on the NSA wasting billions and sacrificing Americans' privacy on what The New Yorker describes as a "$1.2 billion flop." The program, Trailblazer, though intended to collect and analyze massive amounts of data, was a funding vehicle with "nothing to show for [itself] other than mounting bills." NSA management rebuffed and retaliated against Drake and other public servants who pointed to a cheaper, ready-to-deploy program that contained privacy protections for Americans.
Trailblazer's failure is a prime example of the endemic revolving-door intelligence spending policy that wastes taxpayer dollars by the billions. Mayer's article describes the problem:
As the [Trailblazer] system stalled at the level of schematic drawings, top executives kept shuttling between jobs at the agency and jobs with the high-paying contractors. For a time, both [former NSA Director] Hayden's deputy director and his chief of signals-intelligence programs worked at SAIC, a company that won several hundred million dollars in Trailblazer contracts.
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I was just on Democracy Now! discussing the prosecution of whistleblower Thomas Drake, who used to be a senior executive at the National Security Agency (NSA). I'm glad people are finally paying attention to this case, thanks to Jane Mayer's explosive cover story in the New Yorker, which Glenn Greenwald referred to as the "must-read article of the month."
The government would have you believe that this is a case involving the disclosure of classified information to a journalist. It is not. It's a "retention" case about 5 innocuous pieces of information that Drake allegedly took home, if at all, by mistake. His real crime? Committing the truth by revealing gross waste, mismanagement and illegality at NSA.Let's get down to brass tacks. Drake never leaked classified information to a reporter, or anyone, and is not CHARGED with "leaking" classified information. So, what is he charged with?:
Count 1 - a "Regular Meetings" document that appeared on NSA's intranet marked as UNCLASSIFIED;
Count 2 - a self-congratulatory "What a Success" document that appeared on NSA's intranet, which was declassified in July 2010 (but the prosecution didn't tell Drake this for 8 months);
Counts 3-5 - information that in whole or in part formed the basis of some of Drake's protected communication to the Department of Defense Inspector General as part of their investigation into NSA's gross waste, mismanagement and illegality related to a secret surveillance program;
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This week, GAP client Thomas Drake is prominently featured in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker magazine, in an explosive article on widespread corruption and wrongdoing within the National Security Agency (NSA). The piece, “The Secret Sharer,” highlights Drake’s legal and proper attempts to expose massive NSA waste, mismanagement, and illegality regarding the agency’s use of a data collection program that was more costly, more threatening to American citizens’ privacy rights, and less effective than a legal alternative.
The New Yorker article can be read here.
The article describes several areas of widespread gross waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality at the NSA, including: the implementation of a warrantless, domestic surveillance and datamining system; the agency’s attempt to hide information about the surveillance from Congress and the Supreme Court; the squandering of billions of taxpayer dollars on an undeveloped data collection program that violated American privacy rights; the NSA’s failure to give other intelligence agencies critical information it had obtained prior to 9/11; and the overreaching prosecution of Drake.
GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack commented, “It is abhorrent that the Obama administration, which routinely pledges openness and transparency, is prosecuting brave federal employees who stand up against wrongdoing inside government agencies. Tom Drake went through all of the appropriate channels for bringing information to Congress and the Defense Department Inspector General. Drake did not leak classified information to the media and, tellingly, is not charged with disclosing classified information to the media."
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Former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake faces trial under the Espionage Act for allegedly "retaining" classified information. Thankfully, The New Yorker has put this case under a miscroscope and revealed this criminalization of whistleblowing to be the government covering up for its own sins of secret domestic surveillance.
The article details domestic datamining, former NSA director Michael Hayden projecting votes by the Supreme Court if it eventually weighed in on NSA lawbreaking, and NSA proclaiming itself to be the executive agent for the White House. It explains how NSA used the Trailblazer program, "a 1.2-billion flop," as a funding vehicle, despite an inexpensibe, effective, legal alternative (Thin Thread) that could have picked up actionable intelligence such as 9/11 hijackers renting a hotel room miles from NSA's headquarters.
Six times government officials declined to comment on specifics, or anything at all. Tom Drake, who goes on trial June 13th, gave his first public interview on the case, explaining:
This was a violation of everything I knew and believed as an American. We were making the Nixon Administration look like pikers.
Although the government trots out the usual fear-mongering hyperbole that,
This is not an issue of benign documents . . . when individuals [leak,] our soldier in the field gets harmed . . .
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In the case of former NSA official Thomas Drake, who is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for retention (not disclosure) of allegedly classified information, the government now asserts that under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), the government should be able to provide "substitutions" for unclassified information.
The through-the-looking glass nature of this case just gets more bizarre as it speeds along.
Normally, the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) allows the Court to create "substitution" for classified information -- such as redacted versions or summaries -- so that both sides can use the information.
But now in a huge leap, the government is arguing that CIPA substitutions should be applicable to "protected" information, which includes "information relating to the activities of NSA" and unclassified information available on the Internet.
This is absurd.
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GAP recently warned with other good government groups (in a joint letter to the Senate) that a broadly-crafted provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act, if passed, would undermine Congress' ability to ensure proper checks on the Intelligence Community (IC), and afford IC agency heads sweeping new power to retaliate against national security whistleblowers.
Sec. 403 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2011 (S. 719) grants the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and IC chiefs the unprecedented authority to penalize active and former IC employees – at a minimum taking away their pensions – based simply on the Director's subjective "determination" that an employee knowingly disclosed classified information to an unauthorized party. The legislation has no controls on the Director's exercise of this discretion. There are no mandatory internal or independent appeal rights for due process challenges to the Director's personal judgment call. No proof is required. If the DNI says it is, then it is.
While the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) passed this legislation with an overwhelming 12-3 vote, Senator Wyden (D-OR) zeroed in on Sec. 403, which by relying on management's good faith could undermine the whole legislation and discourage would-be whistleblowers from working within agency channels. In committee report remarks, Wyden stated:
Thomas Tamm and Thomas Drake have much in common. They both blew the whistle on massive malfeasance and illegality at the National Security Agency (NSA). They were both targets of a years-long investigation into the sources for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times article revealing George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Tamm and Drake were both recipients of the Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling. They even share a first name.
Yet, despite these commonalities, the differences between Tamm and Drake have never been more significant. Namely, Drake is still facing 35 years in prison for charges brought under the Espionage Act, while Tamm is no longer the target of criminal inquiry.
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While Tamm has maintained, including on Democracy Now yesterday, that he never broke the law, Tamm has publicly admitted that he (bravely) served as a source of the New York Times.
In contrast, there is no evidence Drake was ever a source for the Times, and Drake never revealed a secret program. Despite that the indictment brought against Drake alleges extensive [First Amendment-protected] contact with a reporter, Drake never gave classified information to a reporter and, tellingly, is not charged with disclosing classified information to reporter.