Today's Washington Post has a 2000-word profile on former senior NSA official Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on (in the article's antiseptic description) NSA's "willingness to compromise Americans' privacy without enhancing security"--something that we here at Kos used to call "secret domestic surveillance."
The article states that Drake is "awaiting trial in a criminal media leak case." He is actually indicted under the Espionage Act--a law under which the Russian spies were not even charged--and is only the fourth American in history to be charged under this law for (mis)handling classified information (the first was Penatgon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg).
While this article is one of the fuller portraits on Drake to date, I will add critical information below that for space limitations, editing, or whatever reason, didn't make it into the piece.
First, look at the sub-headline:
Thomas A. Drake blazed his own trail at the NSA, one that may ultimately lead to prison.
What's wrong with this picture? A whole bunch of officials at NSA "blazed their own trail"--committing felonies by eavesdropping on Americans without warrants required by law--during the Bush years. But as to those crimes,punishable by a 5-year prison term and a $10,000 fine for each offense, the Obama administration insists on "looking forward, not backward." Yet according to theWashington Post, in Mr. Drake's case, the Obama administration is bent of
having something to show for an investigation that spans two presidencies.
Really? What about the investigations into torture, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo "suicides," missing CIA videotapes, and vanished White House e-mails?
Before the trolls start making their straw-man arguments about "we can't have rogue disgruntled employees carelessly giving classified information to the press," let me pierce those arguments so we don't waste a lot of our live-blog conversation on them:
- Years before going to the media, Drake first made his complaints internally to his bosses, to the NSA's Inspector General, to the Defense Department's Inspector General, and to the House and Senate intelligence committees--completely in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.
- Drake NEVER gave classified information to a reporter;
- Drake is NOT being charged with "leaking" or "unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
- Drake wasn't some lone, rogue, "overzealous" employee. (I wish more NSA employees had been zealous about complying with the law during the Bush years). As this article and an earlier on in the New York Times elucidates,there were at least three other career NSA employees, and a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, who shared Drake's apoplecticy.
- This story is not about a disgruntled employee in a pissing contest over the fact that NSA chose one intrusive secret surveillance program over a better program that had privacy protections. It's about the integrity of our Constitution--something a small handful of employees were so worried about they tried to contact then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist when their complaints fell on deaf ears in the Executive Branch and Congress.
The reversals of truth in the Drake case are almost too numerous to count, but I'll give a small sampling. Drake is essentially being accused of "spying" on our own country by revealing its unconstitutional conduct. He is being treated as a criminal for revealing illegal conduct, which Congress had to retroactively immunize, by our government. And my favorite: According to the Washington Post,
many in the intelligence community view Drake as . . . an official who disregarded his oath to protect classified information . . .
What never gets mentioned is thatDrake took different, and I would argue, far more serious oath (given the vast and improper over-classification that ballooned during the Bush years) four timesin his lengthy career in the military and government:
5 U.S.C. 3331--I, Thomas Andrews Drake, do solemnly swear thatI will support and defend the Constitutionof the United Statesagainst all enemies,foreign anddomestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Drake is guilty of defending the Constitution against the ravages of the Bush administration. I think he's a hero. If you agree, please contact Attorney General Holder at (202) 514-2001 and urge him to frop this misguided, retaliatory prosecution. Also, please "like" the Save Tom Drake Facebook page.