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Tom Drake

August 28, 2011

“To other whistleblowers, to others in the government, not to speak up or speak out. Do not tell truth to power. We’ll hammer you”

legal wiretapping – “For two years, Drake was the most important witness for the inspector general. But in the end, the Department of Defense investigation was stamped “classified,” which hid the Trailblazer debacle from public view. As his frustration grew, Drake says he was shocked to learn about something else happening at the agency post 9/11: he learned of a top secret NSA program that became known as “warrantless wiretapping.” “It was no longer necessary to follow the law. A huge Pandora’s Box had been opened up,” Drake said. On orders from the White House, the NSA was listening in on people in the United States, without a warrant from a judge. “And this is where I began to have grave concerns about the decisions that were made to bypass the Constitution, willfully and deliberately, as a result of 9/11. I took my grave concerns up with the general counsel at NSA. I spoke with one of their lead attorneys. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, Tom. It’s all legal,'” Drake told Pelley. “It was legal because the White House said it was legal?” Pelley asked. “Yes,” Drake said.” (The Espionage Act: Why Tom Drake was indicted)

codenamed ThinThread – “Former NSA Director Michael Hayden, in 2002, reportedly urged a congressional staffer who was concerned about the legality of the program to keep quiet about it, telling her that she could “yell and scream” about the program once the inevitable leaks about it occurred. Asked why the NSA didn’t employ privacy protections in its program, Hayden reportedly told the staffer, “We didn’t need them. We had the power,” and admitted the government was not getting warrants for the domestic surveillance. The New Yorker also spoke with a former head of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, or SARC, who invented software codenamed ThinThread that is believed to have been adapted by the NSA for the warrantless surveillance. The program had privacy protections built into it, but the official says he believes the NSA rejiggered the program to remove those protections, so that it could collect data on everyone, including people in the United States. Thomas Drake, the focus of the article, is facing trial next month on charges that he violated the Espionage Act by retaining classified information. Ironically, he’s not being charged for leaking classified information about the warrantless wiretapping program itself. Instead, the charges are based on five documents government investigators found in Drake’s basement and e-mail archive that prosecutors say contain classified information…Drake was a linguist and military crypto expert who had been an NSA contractor when he began a new staff job with the agency on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Directorate. As a contractor, Drake had become familiar with a data-mining program codenamed ThinThread, that had been tested within the NSA and could be deployed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other regions where terrorism was prevalent. After 9/11, the program seemed ideal to address the suddenly urgent need to track down terrorist targets.” (New Yorker Sheds New Light on NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping and Data Mining)

classified information – “Three of the documents that could land Mr Drake in jail were copies of material he had submitted to the inspector-general in a complaint about a surveillance programme described by others as a ” wasteful failure”. The programme in question was abandoned in 2006 after eating up $1.2 billion. (Ms Mayer helpfully notes that the inspector general’s website tells complainants to keep copies of their documents.) One of the other documents under scrutiny is a schedule of meetings marked “unclassified/for official use only”. Prosecutors say the paper should’ve been secret and that Mr Drake should’ve known it should’ve been secret. The final document was declassified three months after Mr Drake’s indictment…Far from being an enemy of the state, Mr Drake appears to be a whistleblower who rubbed some people the wrong way. He complained to the inspector general and he spoke to a Baltimore Sun reporter about waste, mismanagment and illegalities at the NSA. For that he expected to lose his job. But, he maintains, he did not leak classified information, and he is not accused of such. What he did was embarrass the NSA and then fall into the hands of frustrated investigators who couldn’t find their primary target. The man they were looking for is named Thomas Tamm. In 2008 he admitted to leaking the warrantless wiretapping programme to the Times. The Justice Department has said it will not file charges. Something’s wrong with this story.” (Hating the Drake)

Thomas Andrews Drake (born 1957) is a former senior official of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), computer software expert, management and leadership specialist, and whistleblower. In 2010 the government alleged that he ‘mishandled’ documents, one of the few such Espionage Act cases in US history. His defenders claim he is being targeted for having blown the whistle on the NSA’s allegedly privacy-invading, money-wasting Trailblazer Project, as is his right under the Whistleblower Protection Act. He is the 2011 recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling…Drake is one of four individuals in the history of the United States who has been charged specifically with “willfull retention” of “national defense” information under 18 U.S.C. § 793(e). Most prosecutions are for ‘delivery’ of classified information to a third party – something that Mr Drake was not charged with. This particular portion of the Espionage Act was created in 1950 during the Second Red Scare, as part of the McCarran Internal Security Act. Anthony Russo and Daniel Ellsberg were the first to be prosecuted for the ‘retention’ of what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers (which he gave to the New York Times., eventually resulting in another landmark Espionage Act case in 1971, New York Times Co. v. United States). The prosecution of Russo and Ellsberg was dismissed in 1972 because of government misconduct. The second prosecution was of Samuel Loring Morison in 1985, a Navy analyst who sold satellite photographs to Jane’s Defense Weekly; he was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton. The third was the AIPAC case in 2005 (United States v. Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman) (Wikepedia).


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