Breaking: NSA exec charged with leaking classified info in 2006, 2007

posted at 12:08 pm on April 15, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

When the New York Times published a series of articles on top-secret counterterrorism efforts at the National Security Agency in 2006 and 2007, supporters of the Bush administration reacted with outrage.  Oddly, though, the same people who expressed outrage over the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA analyst never got terribly exercised over these breaches of national security (and to be fair, the same holds true in reverse).  The Bush administration complained loudly about the Times’ decision to expose these programs but never made a public show of a probe to discover the source of the leaks.

Ironically, that effort apparently succeeded in uncovering at least one leaker — and the Obama administration gets the credit for it:

A former senior executive with the National Security Agency has been indicted on 10 felony charges related to the leaking of classified information to a national newspaper in 2006 and 2007, the Justice Department announced Thursday morning.

Thomas A. Drake, 52, headed an office in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate at Fort Meade between 2001 and 2005, and continued to work with the agency as a high-ranking contractor through 2008, U.S. officials said. The indictment alleges that Drake allegedly exchanged hundreds of e-mails with an unidentified reporter for a national newspaper and served as a source for its articles about Bush administration intelligence policies between February 2006 and November 2007, U.S. officials said.

Drake was indicted by a federal grand jury in Maryland, the Justice Department said.

The indictment doesn’t name the paper or identify the subject matter, but it also doesn’t appear too difficult to connect dots in this case.  The Times produced most of the original reporting on these secret programs, including the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) that eventually got retroactive cover in a rewriting of FISA laws.  They also exposed the secret bank-tracking program Swift that turned out to be both completely legal and extraordinarily effective — before the Times blew its cover.

Kudos to the DoJ for pursuing the leaker.  Having the Obama administration press this case makes it even stronger, I believe.  It eliminates any hint of retribution and puts it firmly in the frame of violating our national security.  If Drake is guilty, he had other options than leaking to the Times if he disagreed with the operations at the NSA.   He could have gone to the White House, or failing that, to the leadership of the intelligence committees in Congress, which certainly would have provided him with an audience.  Instead, the leaker (whoever he is) kneecapped our ability to track terrorists and politicized national security unnecessarily.


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Washington Post :

“Mr. Drake loves his country. He’s very disappointed that criminal charges were brought and we were not able to resolve this matter in another way,” Wyda said. “This is a process and we now look forward to the next step in this process and litigating these matters in a public courtroom.”

He thought the agencies need to keep information classified was the same need that was going to protect him from having his identity disclosed to the public? Is this another “Ego” run amok? Like former FBI agent Robert Phillip Hanssen?

in a public courtroom…reads like a threat to me.

Dr Evil on April 15, 2010 at 1:58 PM

You keep concentrating on the good or bad value of the information vis-a-vis Bush’s intended policy direction, and it seems to me that that is irrelevant, particularly wrt the comparison I made relative to Ed’s “to be fair” comparison. A leak, by definition being “not authorized”, is a leak whether it has supportive or deleterious affect on policy.

Dusty on April 15, 2010 at 1:49 PM

If you’re weighing relative outrage, I’d say the size of the leak is extremely relevant. As in, one leak is treasonous, the other, well, wasn’t leaked so much as gossiped about.

tom on April 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM

After all he is being charged with making classified material public, in the first does he think the Government is stupid? Or does he just have a poor attorney, who doesn’t understand how what he states shapes public opinion?

Dr Evil on April 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM

You keep concentrating on the good or bad value of the information vis-a-vis Bush’s intended policy direction, and it seems to me that that is irrelevant, particularly wrt the comparison I made relative to Ed’s “to be fair” comparison.

Dusty on April 15, 2010 at 1:49 PM

That’s not my intention. I simply don’t see that there was any leak, by that I mean he wrote something anyone, even without security clearance could have learned for themselves.

I would even assume that’s why he wasn’t asked to sign anything.

Esthier on April 15, 2010 at 2:05 PM

During the Bush administration, there was a steady drip of leaks from the DOD, NSA and/ or the CIA to the media of information which was either embarassing classified.

The leakers were quite obviously trying to torpedo Bush, Cheney, et al.

Obama is making the same mistakes that JFK and Carter made in either demonizing the military and intelligence communities or cutting back on their resources.

JFK hated the CIA, saying that he would like to rip it into a thousand pieces and throw it to the wind and blaming it for his failure to send adequate air support during the Bay of Pigs operation, and Carter hired Stansfield Turner as CIA Director and had him carry out the firing of 20% of the CIA’s personnel.

As a case in point, consider’s yesterday’s proclamation by our President that “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower….”

Why would anyone not like that fact?

I hope that the leakers and others who weren’t working to facilitate the acocmplishment of our national security objectives during the Bush years have a galloping case of buyer’s remorse with respect to our present commander in chief.

molonlabe28 on April 15, 2010 at 2:28 PM

If you’re weighing relative outrage, I’d say the size of the leak is extremely relevant. As in, one leak is treasonous, the other, well, wasn’t leaked so much as gossiped about.

[tom on April 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM]

Oh, I agree about the relative outrage, with Drake’s actions appearing to be much more relevant. My original comment only had to do with the proper comparison of two events, not the substance of the leaks.

Dusty on April 15, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Eh, it’s a little ridiculous to jump to conclusions as say it was the NYTimes… just wait…

http://www.juliansanchez.com/2010/04/15/who-was-nsas-leaker-talking-to/

ninjapirate on April 15, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Didn’t Scooter go to jail for giving false testimony in connection with the Plame thing?
Jimbo3 on April 15, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Yes, he kept getting it mixed up was it Valerie Plame or Valerie Wilson?

But that was in conversations AFTER Plame/ Wilson had been “outed” by her husband Joe.


A month before Bob Novak published Valerie Plame’s name and disclosed that she worked at the CIA in a department that monitored weapons of mass destruction, the gossipy Richard Armitage at the State Department already knew all about her.


When asked how he knew about Plame, Armitage said he knew because Joe Wilson was “calling everybody” and telling them. And by “everybody” Mr. Armitage certainly meant reporters.

With that in mind it is an easy step to suppose that it was Mr. Joseph C. Wilson IV himself who first “outed” his wife as a CIA officer.

And, as Mr. Armitage also suggested, Wilson did so because he didn’t want to be dismissed as some “low-level guy.” He wanted to buttress his wildly outrageous (and we now know fallacious) claims against a then popular President at the height of a then popular war.”

Now why did Mr. Joseph C. Wilson IV change his “story” after signing on with the Kerry

Look up
“When, Why Joe Wilson Outed Valerie Plame”

DSchoen on April 15, 2010 at 2:40 PM

molonlabe28 on April 15, 2010 at 2:28 PM

+1 and Bravo!

Rovin on April 15, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Will some reporters go to jail over this? Please?

theCork on April 15, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Will some reporters go to jail over this? Please?

theCork on April 15, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Reporters, along with entertainers, are almost legally invincible anymore. Suing them – let alone jailing them – is about like trying to win a mud-wrestling contest with a 500-pound hog.

Dark-Star on April 15, 2010 at 2:53 PM

What crime has the reporter committed? What are your criteria for ignoring the First Amendment?
The Race Card on April 15, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Seriously?

“giving them aid or comfort”

By leaking to “how” we were tracking the money it gave “AID” to the enemy allowing them to work around our efforts to track the money.

Some would say “ya but they knew we were tracking the money”.
An analogy to that would be “1944, EVERYBODY KNOWS were going to invade Europe” as an excuse for publishing the

Day June 6th
Time of the invasion.
Along with where the landings would take place.

Everybody knew we were going to invade, but everybody DID NOT know when where and how.

Everybody knew we were tracking the money, but everybody DID NOT know “How” we were tracking the money.

DSchoen on April 15, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Oddly, though, the same people who expressed outrage over the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA analyst never got terribly exercised over these breaches of national security (and to be fair, the same holds true in reverse).

Oddly, though, there was nothing to be outraged about re: Plame, so the lack of outrage on the part of folks who *were* outraged about the *actual* breaches of national security is nothing noteworthy to begin with.

WTF are you talking about?

Midas on April 15, 2010 at 3:04 PM

unclesmrgol on April 15, 2010 at 12:38 PM

The NYT and the reporters need to be tried in the court of public opinion.

“The White House sent a bipartisan team of officials to ask the Times not to print the story:
The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.”

Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, decided knowing that we were tracking the money was not good enough.

Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, decided you, I and the people we are trying to defeat should know exactly how we going about this.

DSchoen on April 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Anyone who doesn’t have a problem with the actions of this guy needs to be whacked right along with him.

thomasaur on April 15, 2010 at 3:20 PM

They shoot horses don’t they?

docflash on April 15, 2010 at 3:21 PM

“Mr. Drake loves his country. He’s very disappointed that criminal charges were brought and we were not able to resolve this matter in another way,” Wyda said. “This is a process and we now look forward to the next step in this process and litigating these matters in a public courtroom.”

He thought because “his side” won the elections that they would drop all charges. A traitor and an idiot, apparently.

funky chicken on April 15, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Ed needs to read Tom McGuire on this

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2010/04/an-nsa-leaker-indicted.html#comments

windansea on April 15, 2010 at 3:55 PM

During the Bush administration, there was a steady drip of leaks from the DOD, NSA and/ or the CIA to the media of information which was either embarassing classified.

The leakers were quite obviously trying to torpedo Bush, Cheney, et al.

molonlabe28 on April 15, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Shadow Wars

Domino on April 15, 2010 at 3:58 PM

During the Bush administration, there was a steady drip of leaks from the DOD, NSA and/ or the CIA to the media of information which was either embarassing classified.

The leakers were quite obviously trying to torpedo Bush, Cheney, et al.

molonlabe28 on April 15, 2010 at 2:28 PM

These groups have been infiltrated by the enemies of the USA for years. After the Soviet Union fell they had to sell the secrets to the press who slowly became the enemy.

thomasaur on April 15, 2010 at 4:18 PM

As a veteran of the Vietnam-era Army Security Agency (the Army version of the NSA) I find what Drake did to be absolutely nothing short of treason.

This dirty SOB deserves to be executed.

bannedbyhuffpo on April 15, 2010 at 5:07 PM

The Times is speculating it was a Baltimore Sun reporter..

PaCadle on April 15, 2010 at 5:16 PM

I really hope they throw the book at this Thomas A. Drake. This guy really hurt America’s security and helped the terrorists.

SoulGlo on April 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

I think I just spotted Obama’s first pardon.

abobo on April 15, 2010 at 6:42 PM

If Drake is guilty, he had other options than leaking to the Times if he disagreed with the operations at the NSA. He could have gone to the White House, or failing that, to the leadership of the intelligence committees in Congress, which certainly would have provided him with an audience.

Yep: that’s right. The ultimate leverage is the Speech or Debate clause. If Drake had spoken to a Democrat on the intelligence committee in either the House or Senate (who would have the kind of security clearance to discuss almost anything), it would have forced an investigation. The reason is that if Bush refused to investigate, the Democrat could lawfully take to the floor of the House or Senate and reveal the classified information without penalty under the Speech or Debate clause.

Outlander on April 15, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Leaking classified material at a time when combat troops are in the field, engaged in war with the enemy, is called treason, and if found guilty, the perpetrator should face the death penalty.

I know that’s never going to happen in this political climate, where bowing to the enemy on a regular basis is part of foreign policy, but treason is treason is treason.

Tennman on April 15, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Can I get on the jury for that one?

fluffy on April 15, 2010 at 7:32 PM

The Post story in the linked article says this is related to a series of Baltimore Sun investigations into the NSA, not the NYT anti-Bush efforts:

The indictment does not name the reporter, but The Washington Post has learned that she was Siobhan Gorman, a prize-winning intelligence correspondent for the Baltimore Sun at the time and subsequently at the Wall Street Journal. Gorman published a string of articles that spotlighted poor management of NSA facilities and its failure to set priorities.

It would be nice if someone got yo the bottom of the Time’s BS though…

Dawnsblood on April 15, 2010 at 7:44 PM

This won’t stop until the US starts putting leakers of classified information in jail.

landlines on April 15, 2010 at 8:21 PM

I think I just spotted Obama’s first pardon.

abobo on April 15, 2010 at 6:42 PM

Thread winner. Plus you’re probably right.

Wellsy on April 15, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Like to hear stuff leaked from the Clinton governorship and the Clinton presidency, even after the fact. But, I’m a realist and know that’s not how it works.

On the other hand, these bureaucrats under any administration should not be doing anything shady or downright illegal or immoral. This “in the interest of national security” stuff is really wearing thin. Who was looking out for our national security around 9-11?

Even many hardcore conservatives are tired of America being the worlds’ police, doing regime changes, and basically forcing our democracy (God forbid) on other peoples.

I say the hell with them. They don’t appreciate it, the Commies and moderates over here bitch and moan, a bunch of our good military people get killed or crippled and it costs a ton of money and in effect we end up propping up both Socialist and terrorist regimes alike.

This country used to stay out of things until it directly affected us…of course, we’d have to go back to maybe the Mexican War on that one. Forestalling Communism with blood and treasure hasn’t worked—they’re taking over here anyway, or at least are getting damn close.

These countries the Liberals feel sorry for we ally ourselves with and they always screw us over, and those that would be our best allies we abandon and eventually go under.

Dr. ZhivBlago on April 16, 2010 at 12:09 AM

Treason.

RD on April 16, 2010 at 7:40 AM

“Do you have any last words?…”

Akzed on April 16, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Ed:

How on earth did you come up with the idea that the Obama Administration was pursuing the leaks to the NYTImes? The Wapo is talking about a guy reporting on “budget woes at the NSA!”

JM Hanes on April 16, 2010 at 9:19 AM

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