Thursday, April 15, 2010

Former NSA executive charged with leaking information to newspaper


Former NSA executive charged with leaking information to newspaper

By Spencer S. Hsu
Thursday, April 15, 2010; 1:13 PM

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 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.

A federal grand jury in Maryland indicted Drake on five counts of retaining classified information without authorization, including four e-mails and one document copying classified information. He also was charged on one count of obstructing justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI. The maximum prison terms for those charges range from five to 20 years.

According to the indictment, Drake had access to highly classified documents and information and he provided some of that information to the reporter. The indictment does not name the newspaper. It also does not detail the subject matter of the classified information or the articles that contained the information.

"Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here -- violating the government's trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information -- be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said.

James Wyda, the federal public defender in Baltimore assigned to Drake's case, said he had just received the indictment, and that Drake has been "extraordinarily cooperative with the government."

"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."

NSA Director Keith Alexander, interviewed after his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, said, "We take our mission seriously. Ours is to protect classified information," adding that the agency worked with the FBI and Justice Department to investigate the leak. "It's in their hands now. I can't comment beyond that," Alexander said.



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