Feds Ridiculous Prosecution Of Whistleblower Thomas Drake Falling Apart

from the stay-strong dept

We've written a few times about the federal government's ridiculous and vindictive attempt to convict Thomas Drake of violating the Espionage Act and put him in jail for 35-years, all because he blew the whistle on some massively wasteful NSA spending.

If you haven't followed the case, Drake was part of a team that helped to develop a system that the NSA could use for its warantless wiretapping program. To prevent the system from being used to wiretap Americans (something the NSA is not supposed to do), the team also built in some protections to block out such taps on Americans. However, after 9/11, the NSA upper management decided to spend billions on a brand new system that would more broadly wiretap pretty much everyone without a warrant and without any such protections. That system was something of a failure and Drake and some others were upset that so much was wasted on such a bad system, when the NSA had a system that worked within the law. As part of being upset, he provided some info to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun concerning the financial failure of the system (but not anything classified about the warrantless wiretapping program itself).

As investigators were seeking to find out a source for a different report (to the NY Times), which did reveal the warrantless wiretapping, they investigated Drake and claimed to have found four "classified" documents that he had mishandled. Even that's misleading. Drake (and a few others) had (properly) filed a complaint with the Inspector General about NSA waste, and were told to keep copies of the report themselves, which included those files. One of the "classified" documents was even stamped "unclassified", but the government argues Drake should have known it was really classified. Other documents were declassified anyway months later. Drake's case is a clear example of a vindictive administration trying to hit back at whistleblowers by abusing the Espionage Act.

And now that case may be falling apart.

Earlier in the week, it was reported that, to avoid revealing secrets at the trial scheduled to begin next week, the government would use a code based on boxes and arrows to try to obfuscate any classified info, leading to complaints from Drake's team that the government seemed to want to hide important information that would help clear Drake. However, the government instead decided not to use that evidence at all, and people are beginning to realize that the entire case is crumbling. In fact, the feds are apparently now desperate to avoid actually going to trial and are offering up all sorts of plea bargains, including the latest: rather than face 10 felonies, Drake could agree to a misdemeanor and get no time in jail.

For someone facing potentially 35 years in jail, I can see how tempting that can be. But Drake has declared that he won't "plea bargain with the truth." It would be nice if he continues to stick up for what he believes is right, but I don't think anyone can rightly complain if he ends up accepting such a plea bargain. Unless you've been on the wrong end of a criminal lawsuit that could put you in jail for 35-years, it's difficult to complain about a guy taking a plea bargain that keeps him out of jail. Still, that doesn't mean we can't hope that he continues to fight this clear abuse of federal power against whistleblowers.

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  1. identicon
    Anthony Biedenkapp, 9 Jun 2011 @ 1:08pm

    Drake has a lot of testicular fortitude.

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