Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Former NSA Executive May Pay High Price For Media Leak

Ellen Nakashima writes in The Washington Post:

For seven years, Thomas A. Drake was a senior executive at the nation's largest intelligence organization with an ambition to change its insular culture. He had access to classified programs that purported to help the National Security Agency tackle its toughest challenges: exploiting the digital data revolution and countering terrorism.

Today, he wears a blue T-shirt and answers questions about iPhones at an Apple store in the Washington area. He is awaiting trial in a criminal media leak case that could send him to prison for 35 years. In his years at the NSA, Drake grew disillusioned, then indignant, about what he saw as waste, mismanagement and a willingness to compromise Americans' privacy without enhancing security.

He first tried the sanctioned methods -- going to his superiors, inspectors general, Congress. Finally, in frustration, he turned to the "nuclear option": leaking to the media.

Drake, 53, may pay a high price for going nuclear. In April he was indicted, accused of mishandling classified information and obstructing justice. His supporters consider him a patriotic whistleblower targeted by an Obama administration bent on sealing leaks and on having something to show for an investigation that spans two presidencies. Many in the intelligence community, by contrast, view Drake as the overzealous one, an official who disregarded his oath to protect classified information so he could punish the agency for scrapping a program he favored.

It's classic Washington: disgruntled officials sharing inside information with a reporter and an administration seeking to rein that practice in. Drake's attorney maintains he broke no laws.

More here.


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