Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NSA Whistleblower: Government Wants To Send 'Chilling Message' On Leaks

TPM Muckraker

Thomas Drake, who was charged with crimes related to allegedly leaking classified information to reporter, said in his first television interview on 60 Minutes Sunday that his prosecution is meant to send a "chilling message" to potential government whistleblowers.

The government is telling whistleblowers "do not tell truth to power, we'll hammer you," Drake told CBS. His on-camera interview followed an article in the New Yorker on his prosecution by the Obama administration's Justice Department. The trial is set to begin next month.

Drake is being prosecuted not for talking with a reporter but for taking home classified documents. But thanks to a mistake by the prosecutor handling the case (he sent the defense team an earlier draft of the indictment against Drake), the former NSA official's lawyers can see how greatly the scope of the indictment was reduced.

He was no longer charged with leaking classified documents or being part of a conspiracy -- rather he was charged with the "willful retention" of five documents. Even with those reduced charges, Drake still faces up to thirty-five years in prison because he is still accused of violating the World War II era Espionage Act. Writes the New Yorker's Jane Mayer:

Drake's case also raises questions about double standards. In recent years, several top officials accused of similar misdeeds have not faced such serious charges. John Deutch, the former C.I.A. director, and Alberto Gonzales, the former Attorney General, both faced much less stringent punishment after taking classified documents home without authorization. In 2003, Sandy Berger, Clinton's national-security adviser, smuggled classified documents out of a federal building, reportedly by hiding them in his pants. It was treated as a misdemeanor. His defense lawyer was Lanny Breuer--the official overseeing the prosecution of Drake.

Drake's criminal prosecution is being handled by William Welsh, the former head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity unit. He is due in court on June 13.
Watch the 60 Minutes interview below.

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