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Ex-NSA Official Indicted For Leaks To Newspaper 115

Posted by timothy
from the each-whistle-is-coded-to-the-blower dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Baltimore Sun reports that in a rare legal action against a government employee accused of leaking secrets, a grand jury has indicted Thomas A. Drake, a former senior National Security Agency official, on charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007. Federal law prohibits government employees from disclosing classified information which could be 'expected to cause damage to national security.' The indictment (PDF) does not name either the reporter or the newspaper that received the information, but the description applies to articles written by Siobhan Gorman, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, that examined in detail the failings of several major NSA programs, costing billions of dollars, that were plagued with technical flaws and cost overruns. Gorman's stories did not focus on the substance of the electronic intelligence information the agency gathers and analyzes but exposed management and programmatic troubles within the agency." Adds reader metrometro: "Of note: the government says the alleged NSA mole uses Hushmail, which is all the endorsement I need for a security system." Perhaps Mr. Drake was unaware of Hushmail's past cooperation with the US government?
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Ex-NSA Official Indicted For Leaks To Newspaper

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  • by MeNotU (1362683) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:19AM (#31870180)
    "exposed management and programmatic troubles within the agency."! Can't have management look bad!
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:28AM (#31870260) Homepage

    Check out Glenn Greenwald's [salon.com] post on this exact issue. He raises an extremely important point:

    - Illegally wiretapping US citizens, and/or ordering illegal wiretapping of US citizens: No problem, we have to look forwards, not backwards.
    - Exposing illegal and inefficient workings of the NSA: throw the book at 'em.

    Something is very very rotten.

  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:31AM (#31870300)
    The real problem here is that officials use the security system to hide their fuck ups. By making all kinds of crap classified that shouldn't be they clog the system and reduce the efficiency. It's impossible to run a security system when you flood it with tons of info that is only classified because it's embarrassing to the morons in management.
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:32AM (#31870306)

    charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007

    How is it that a guy dumb enough to use e-mail for this was a senior NSA official?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:37AM (#31870356)

    It's what they'd do in Russia.

    Of course, in Soviet Russia, accident would have YOU.

  • by NotOverHere (1526201) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:49AM (#31870486)

    He broke the letter of the law by passing classified information, and therefore should be sent to trial. In the spirit of the law all the nitty-gritty details of his mitigating situation needs to come out on open record.

    An the process continued for any other persons demonstrated as having performing illegal acts. "It's not illegal when the president does it" is not a legal justification for Constitution violations, no matter if you like or dislike the last two president actively caught doing so.

  • by muckracer (1204794) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:49AM (#31870492)

    > > > charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007

    > > How is it that a guy dumb enough to use e-mail for this was a senior NSA official?

    I think you meant it the other way around (the diff is not just cosmetic):

    How is it that a senior NSA official was dumb enough to use e-mail for this?

  • he was exposing government waste

    if he were exposing state secrets, let him rot in jail

    but that's all sound and fury surrounding the real issue of what was actually disclosed, and why

    the substance of his disclosures and what motivated him: wasted tax payer dollars on lame NSA projects

    as far as i am concerned, for his actions, this guy is a hero. we need MORE government employees like this. and his timing is impeccable, government waste is pissing off the country like never before right now: perhaps the tax party can make him some sort of patron saint?

  • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:07AM (#31870652)

    This is about the fact that someone exposed the fact that they are wasting money in a highly incompetent manner.

    Actually the government is quite competent at wasting money!

  • by Syntroxis (564739) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:34AM (#31870944)
    Can anyone say Valerie Plame?
  • Bahahah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:40AM (#31871010) Homepage

    Oh my god. This is the funniest post I've read in years.

    Tell me, which article of the Constitution permits

    1) unreasonable searches and seizures by
    2) agencies under no or very little congressional oversight
    3) which have secret budgets?

    I think you and the tea partiers will be slightly disappointed once you get around to understanding the constitution instead of reading it for selective applications of your own biases.

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:40AM (#31871012) Journal

    That money got wasted in a highly incompetent way is not news.

    That someone is getting in trouble for whistleblowing is not especially news.

    But this kind of whistleblowing is always going to end badly for the whistleblower, because even if a legitimate transparency function is served (calling attention to wasteful and inefficient program administration), the programs themselves are classified. In the public eyes, they're not supposed to even exist. To praise them in public would also be a breach of classification. So, this is the hardest class of whistleblowing on the books: even if 99% of the classification decisions on the program can be written off as cover-up, there's still a critical core of legitimate secrecy which gets violated. Trends and techniques used in espionage get exposed. Adversaries are tipped off. Whole lines of intelligence gathering dry up, fail, or have to be abandoned.

    It's an unpleasant situation.

  • wow, good link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:49AM (#31871952) Homepage Journal

    yeah, again, i utterly fail in the comment qualification department

    anyone who divulges a LACK OF security like this guy should get the congressional medal of honor

    anyone who divulges the OPERATING DETAILS of a genuine security apparatus should get a cold cell

  • Re:Forget Hushmail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zak3056 (69287) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:58AM (#31872104) Journal

    If you need any expectation at all of ACTUAL privacy (the kind that'll keep you out of prison), don't use Hushmail. Someone people actually trust, like maybe the people behind Wikileaks, should start a real anonymous mail network.

    I don't trust Wikileaks--they have an agenda, and it isn't simply informing people about things which are unlawfully/immorally kept hidden. I will grant that they are serving an important function right now, and I am grateful for this... but trust? No way.

  • Re:Forget Hushmail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gknoy (899301) <gknoy@@@anasazisystems...com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:04PM (#31872924)

    In secure, encryption is done in a Java applet.... they do not have access to your keys, because they are never sent. While they would certainly "rat you out" if they don't have the goods, they can cheerfully comply with the law (or the NSA pseudo legal equivalent) without providing much of value: just encrypted emails.

    The NSA is one of the few organizations that I would expect to be able to break the encryption on a mass of encrypted e-mails -- not by brute forcing it, but by awesome cryptanalysis. I'd be surprised if the Java applet didn't have some implementation errors, or the data being encrypted had enough recognizable patterns in it to allow some work with known plaintexts.

    That said, Hushmail giving them a copy of all your (encrypted) e-mail is not a whole lot different than your normal e-mail provider doing the same. About the only significantly different situation (that I can think of) would be if they were to have physical access to your drives... but for that they'd (we assume) need a warrant.

  • Re:Bahahah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:00PM (#31874514) Homepage

    By Wikipedia's own admission, anyone can edit an article at any time, therefore the information in the article can not be trusted at any point in time.

    Unless you check the sources. Are you aware of how research works? How would you treat Wikipedia differently from Encyclopedia Brittanica? I mean, besides prancing around red herrings.

    Maybe you should try researching the federal budget and the budget process.

    At no point is there a clear accounting of money spent on intelligence agencies. This violates the constitution. You're free to pretend otherwise; I imagine it's necessary to fill in the holes that your alternate reality requires.

    Is there any other power center you'd like to shill for? No, I'm serious. I'd love to see how badly you would do for the Pentagon. Maybe you could take a crack at defending extraordinary renditions?

    In other words, your quote actually argues against your point because Drake was breaking the law. The information Drake released did not show any illegal acts, merely failed projects the nature and existence of which were classified. Drake violated the law and was indicted by a grand jury. Your quote does not help your cause in the least.

    Aww boo. Oh wait! Here's one:

    If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so. -Thomas Jefferson

    Score one for reading the founding fathers, and a second point for understanding the empire they were fighting against.

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