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The Courts Government News

Judge Blasts Prosecution of Alleged NSA Leaker 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-less-bad dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Judge Richard D. Bennett harshly criticized US prosecutor William M. Welch III for his treatment of a former spy agency official Thomas Drake, who was accused of leaking classified material. Bennett called the delays in the now-closed case 'unconscionable' and compared it to British tyranny in the colonial era. In 2007, FBI agents raided Drake's house, but it took over two years for officials to indict him. 'And then, over a year later, on the eve of trial, in June of 2011, the government says, "Whoops, we dropped the whole case,"' Bennett said. Drake was given a mild penalty for pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of exceeding authorized use of a computer: a year's probation and 240 hours of community service while all 10 felony counts were dropped. 'That's four years of hell that a citizen goes through,' Bennett said. 'It was not proper. It doesn't pass the smell test.' In contrast with his tough words for Welch, Bennett singled out for praise Drake's public defenders, James Wyda and Deborah L. Boardman, saying their work on behalf of Drake was 'at the highest level of professionalism.' Judge Welch said the matter was now closed and addressed Drake: 'I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your life.'"
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Judge Blasts Prosecution of Alleged NSA Leaker

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 01, 2011 @06:39PM (#36953592)

    So... he basically gave him a slap on the wrist. Yeah, that'll teach him.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The U.S. government is EXTREMELY corrupt. Only a very small percentage of the corruption is ever completely revealed.
      • by cvtan (752695) on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:18PM (#36953960)
        Government of Somalia is EXTREMELY corrupt. US government is corrupt, but manages to maintain its amateur status.
        • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:27PM (#36954046)
          A 900 pound amateur corrupt gorilla is much more dangerous for everybody than an extremely corrupt gazelle.
          • by anagama (611277)
            I wish there was an "insightfully funny" mod. That rocks.
          • by niko9 (315647)

            A 900 pound amateur corrupt gorilla is much more dangerous for everybody than an extremely corrupt gazelle.

            Hi! I'm new here!

            Should I say something about gorillas freezing in the winter?

          • by RockDoctor (15477)
            A 200kilo professional corrupt gorilla [Somali governments] a few hundred miles away is much more dangerous to me than a gaggle of 400kilo amateur corrupt gorillas [Western governments] on the other side of the world.

            Rifle practice on the reef at low tide. I hope the rifles don't blow up.

          • by thaig (415462) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @02:40AM (#36956636) Homepage

            If you came from Somalia you wouldn't think it was funny - you'd prefer to live in the US any day as I believe some have managed to do.

        • You can't describe any government on the planet without also including the word corruption somewhere in your description. The US government is no more corrupt than any other international government and in some instances the it is a great deal less corrupt. You want to see real corruption? Try Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mexico, Venezuela, Pakistan, Egypt (and no the new government will not be any less corrupt than the old one), and damn near every country on the African continent. And un
          • by Lumpy (12016)

            The Government of Greenland is very clean. In fact they told the banks to stuff it and let them collapse. This put the country in a better position that the idiot move the USA did to protect the wealth of a few hundred billionaires.

        • Well at least the Tea Party is striving to turn the US in to Somalia...a country with no government.

          • I'm confused as to how the TEA party is turning the US into a bunch of islamic warlord(a type of government) controlled villages. Enlighten me.

            • by GlennC (96879)

              s/islamic/Christian/g

              How's that?

              • by Toonol (1057698)
                The Tea Party isn't a religious movement. I'm an atheist, and I'm extremely sympathetic to their cause. Their battle is primarily over economic freedom.
                • by x6060 (672364)
                  Please stop being informed and providing a reasonable opinion. This is /.
      • The _____(insert government/corporation/church)_____ is EXTREMELY corrupt!

        Ooo, corruption! Let's solve that problem right after we catch all terrorists ever, cure all disease ever, and post to Slashdot about the next 2+2=4 well known matter that we can CAPS RAGE on!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Garridan (597129)
      Actually, contrary to the article, summary, title, etc., the prosecution was not harshly criticized. Both the prosecution and the defense were commended for their professionalism. The judge harshly criticized the executive branch, and complained at length about the fact that he didn't know who was responsible. Apparently, none of the reporters actually read the transcript, or perhaps the original did, and the re-bloggers just took the spin for fact, and spun harder themselves.
    • by icebike (68054)

      So... he basically gave him a slap on the wrist. Yeah, that'll teach him.

      I'm pretty unimpressed with Judges giving meaningless tongue lashing to paid flack lawyers as if it will matter.

      Cite them in contempt. (personally, no part of which can be paid by the government,) and fine the DOJ huge contempt fees as well.

      Nothing else matters. I guarantee you this lawyer and his staff are laughing over martinis about this.

    • by sjames (1099)

      I was wondering that myself. It's well and good that he tongue lashed the prosecution, but why not then make the sentence for the misdemeanor be time served? He did acknowledge that the process of prosecution itself was a punishment and that it was unjustly harsh, so why heap more on the guy even if it is "just" probation and community service?

      Besides, based on that $10,000 prize, it sounds like the community feels he has already served it.

  • Wouldn't it be nice? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mat catastrophe (105256) on Monday August 01, 2011 @06:39PM (#36953598) Homepage

    If judges could pass summary judgment for civil damages in a case like this?

    Or, better, when someone's released from a 20 year stint in prison after the DNA proves they didn't do it?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:01PM (#36953804)

      Prosecutors have immunity. Even when they knowingly break the law when trying to prosecute.
      If we want crap like this to end, there need to be standards to revoke that immunity; either on a case-by-case basis or a blanket repeal thereof.

      • Tim McVeigh revoked some immunity. Just sayin'.

        • by thrich81 (1357561)
          Who in hell modded this up? Some guy gets a hard time from some prosecutor so now it's "revoking immunity" to kill 168 people (who had nothing to do with McVeigh's crazed gripe with the feds) including a bunch of kids? Here in Austin we had the nut who flew into the side of the building housing some IRS offices, killing some innocent guy there just doing his job. If you want the US to become a real police state just let a couple of more incidents like this occur. I'll take the police over deranged, self
          • by sjames (1099)

            I certainly do not even remotely approve of McVeigh's actions, but if we don't reign in power tripping prosecutors and others in the judicial system, we're likely to see a lot more people try some variant on his methods.

            All the metal detectors and x-rays to enter a court building speaks volumes to me. They see the enemy in each and every citizen and treat us accordingly.

            • You think the metal detectors and x-ray scanners are at the entrances to court buildings because they think every citizen is an enemy? Did it occur to you it's perhaps because of the very real threats involved when a building is in the business of confining and pronouncing sentences upon a set of people which includes large numbers of vicious criminals with vicious criminal friends on the outside?

              If you want to complain about "treating everyone like a criminal" bullshit, start with the Transportation "Sa
              • by sjames (1099)

                We somehow got by for the first 200 years without scanners and x-rays at the doors of the courthouse, even years after the technology became available. There has always been a pair of guards, which I presume was because of the reasons you mentioned.

          • I don't really look at your choices as the only two logical choices. Since the likelihood of a police state is getting higher day by day already, I prefer to take my chances on the one random nutjob. I think the odds are more in my favor that I'll be untouched by that route than giving us more cops and more government power.

      • by swillden (191260)

        Prosecutors have immunity. Even when they knowingly break the law when trying to prosecute. If we want crap like this to end, there need to be standards to revoke that immunity; either on a case-by-case basis or a blanket repeal thereof.

        Can't the judge censure the offender? I thought judges could hand down fines and even jail time to attorneys who piss them off enough.

    • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:07PM (#36953854)
      I think the government is immune from most retaliations. The Supreme Court recently ruled that a state prosecutor could essentially act with impunity (see http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-571.pdf [supremecourt.gov]), and the California Supreme Court upheld similar coverage by a 1992 anti-SLAPP statute (see http://www.yeelaw.com/1.pdf [yeelaw.com]). Like it or not, these people are not to be crossed. Pity the poor fools who happen to get in their way.
  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Monday August 01, 2011 @06:45PM (#36953650)

    I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your life...

    ... as it will probably be brief.

    • by Alyred (667815)
      Taking a page from the Onion... I hope that you aren't suggesting that leaking classified material can get you assassinated by the government, because that's the kind of thing that can get you assassinated by the government...
      • Taking a page from the Onion...

        I hope that you aren't suggesting that leaking classified material can get you assassinated by the government, because that's the kind of thing that can get you assassinated by the government...

        But doesn't that put you at risk for assassination too?

        • I seem to recall reading a study that included some statistics that show an increased risk of assassination when you've been assassinated by the government.

  • by decora (1710862) on Monday August 01, 2011 @06:45PM (#36953658) Journal

    the charge against him was 5 counts of 'retaining information related to the national defense', Espionage Act 18 USC 793(e)

    thats because there is no crime called 'leaking', never has been and probably never will be. it doesnt even have a set definition.

    and its not illegal to give out classified material , only certain types of classified material in certain situations to certain people.

    and Thomas Drake didnt give out any classified material - the judge even said basically this (the emails the DOJ said had classified material, well, they didnt).

    Drake was actually an expert in handling classified material, he was an intelligence analyst for many years in the military and NSA. He specifically avoided giving out any classified info to the reporter.

    thats one of the scariest things about the case. they decided a bunch of stuff they seized from him was 'classified', after they sezied it. and then they also even argued that material marked UNCLASSIFIED in big bold letters was really classified.

    yes 'accused' is perhaps correct, in a technical sense, since the government's indictment said he did it. but when it came to actual criminal charges, there werent any, because there arent any laws about "leaking classified material".

    because the biggest leakers? Congress and the President, going back all the way to Eisenhower, at least, and then even back farther, you can even find some of the founding fathers 'leaking' sensitive info. and none of them got 35 years in prison for it. (which is what the government wanted to do to Drake)

    • forgot to mention that!!!! oops

    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      "This is information retrieval not information dispersal".

    • by TWX (665546)

      because the biggest leakers? Congress and the President, going back all the way to Eisenhower, at least, and then even back farther, you can even find some of the founding fathers 'leaking' sensitive info. and none of them got 35 years in prison for it. (which is what the government wanted to do to Drake)

      I would amend "the President" to "the executive branch", but essentially that's correct. I'm getting tired of news articles citing an unnameable, anonymous, or confidential source when the information leak

    • by anagama (611277)

      What is truly disconcerting was that the Bush administration didn't really pursue this. It was only once Obama took office that Drake's nightmare began.

      Glen Greenwald's analysis on this topic is quite interesting: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/07/30/whistleblowers/index.html [salon.com]

      • I for one am glad Obama is taking horrible legal positions along the lines Bush did -- in some cases better because he is moving legally where Bush would delay treading. Its more likely for Obama to lose these cases and establish the law against this stuff than for some conservative judge to rubber stamp it. I do believe the liberal judges are less likely to distort their rulings in Obama's favor while I think they were more likely to do so for Bush.... however, since the corporations are at the heart of n

        • by anagama (611277)
          With respect to the State Secrets Doctrine, Obama has been using that successfully to prevent court cases dealing with torture and the complicity of American companies (FN1). As for the State Secrets Doctrine getting overturned, it's hardly likely even now that we know for a fact that the Supreme Court case which cemented its position was based solely on a government lie to avoid paying compensation to some engineers who died in a plane crash (FN2) yet knowing this, has in no way has diminished its power.
        • however, since the corporations are at the heart of nearly everything it may not matter which party is doing what.

          Now we're getting to the heart of things, aren't we?

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      yes 'accused' is perhaps correct, in a technical sense, since the government's indictment said he did it.
      but when it came to actual criminal charges, there werent any, because there arent any laws about "leaking classified material".

      The criminal charges were dropped because the NSA didn't want to allow their classified information to be introduced into evidence.
      http://www.wjla.com/articles/2011/06/plea-deal-for-thomas-drake-former-nsa-official-in-classified-leaks-case-62032.html [wjla.com]

      Problems in bringing the case to trial stemmed from a decision by US. District Judge Richard Bennett rejecting the government's efforts to mask references to "NSA's targeting of a specific telecommunications technology" in six documents entered into evidence, according to a June 5 letter from prosecutors. As a result, the prosecution said, it was withdrawing four of them and would eliminate any reference to the technology in two others.

      After that, the criminal charges could not be supported with the remaining evidence.

    • the law. It was petty retribution for pointing out they were spying on all Americans and in the process wasting a Billion $ with a contractor that was incompetent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Andrews_Drake [wikipedia.org] and http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer [newyorker.com]

  • I sold a small company to a F500 firm and they later sued and we spent 5 years bickering while they attempted to run me out of business.

    Eventually I found them stealing the equipment I make from our customers and suddenly they dropped the case.

    That didn't get me back the $650,000 I spent on lawyers.

    Just the way it is.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:08PM (#36953866) Homepage Journal

    Will he direct another prosecutor to bring charges? If not, he's guilty as well, assuming the law doesn't preclude it.

  • in the colonial era.'

    Yes, much of the government's behavior of late is very reminiscent of British Tyranny in the colonial era. I seem to recall there was a very sharp, distinct response to it from Americans then. I wonder what the response will be now?

    Sic semper tyrannis...

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "I seem to recall there was a very sharp, distinct response to it from Americans then. I wonder what the response will be now?"

      Not a damn thing. 98% of Americans are happy with their Cable TV and this makes them very complacent. Honestly we could invoke martial law and have tanks and soldiers in the streets asking for papers at checkpoints and 90% of Americans will tolerate it without a whimper.

      50% will praise it. Especially if it's sold as "protecting freedom" bullshit they have been pulling since 9/11

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday August 01, 2011 @07:44PM (#36954194)
    File a complaint and try and have the prosecutor disbarred. Use the judges rebuke as evidence. File against all the lawyers on the prosecution side and at least one level above them in the chain of command.

    It is extremely unlikely that they will be disbarred. The best outcome would be some form of censure, which could have an effect on their carer. Even so, having to go through the process of defending themselves from professional criticism will be some payback for "four years of hell that a citizen goes through", to quote the ruling. I doubt that the bar will do anything at all. Sadly, complaining to the bar is likely the only payback the victim will get.

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      He plead guilty. Doesn't matter that it was a misdemeanor completely unrelated to the original crime, in the eyes of the bar and the courts he's a guilty man. He's got no recourse.

      • by metacell (523607)

        Yeah, guilty to a small formal error. The NSA threw everything they could at him in retaliation for criticising them, and the only thing they could make stick was keeping a few insignificant documents he shouldn't have on his home computer (together with all the other work-related documents which he was allowed to have on it).

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        With enough time and bars of soap in socks I can make you plead guilty to most anything.

        And the nice part is soap in a sock does not leave marks... and oh that camera there was offline at the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A ludicrous government brought you 4 years of hell and dragged your name through the mud in ways that will probably never completely wash off.

    But don't worry--a judge who didn't actually do anything got REALLY MAD about it. So you've got that going for you. Which is nice.

  • Having read the court's statement, the prosecutors were *not* blasted. The judge spoke very critically about the executive branch, but commended the prosecution for their professionalism. Poor reporting all around.
  • The specific prosecutors were not rebuked, however the judge did have some very hash words for the executive branch.

    I'd suggest reading the entire transcript of the court's decision, and drawing your own conclusions. By comparison, that article in the post is far less interesting to read.
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/jud/drake/071511-transcript.pdf [fas.org]

    One very important point that the Judge made: he blames the government (executive branch) as a whole, not the specific prosecutors who handled the case in the latter sta

  • The project this guy worked on dealt with the NSA data collection algorithms implemented to basically trap and filter damn near all the Internet traffic in the world. At one time this system was trapping the electronic equivalent of 6 Congressional Libraries every 6 hours and storing it on 1000's of servers located across the country. This guy complained that the data being collected included data from US sources which is precisely what the government said they would not do. The head engineer had even inclu
  • this is where YOUR money is going

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