Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travesty Of Thomas Drake Being Charged With Espionage Making Mainstream News

We already covered the excellent New Yorker piece by Jane Meyer about the government's ridiculous prosecution of whistleblower Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act, and it appears that story is getting much more mainstream attention as well. The Economist picked up the story and over the weekend 60 Minutes did a big piece on it that basically reiterates everything in Mayer's piece. Drake blew the whistle on a ridiculous bit of mismanagement by the NSA, in which they paid billions to defense contractors, rather than using a better, cheaper (and more legal) solution built in-house. His "crime" wasn't revealing any classified info -- because he did not. It was that in keeping the records for the (official and legal) complaint he filed with the Inspector General's office, he kept certain records in his home that were designated as classified. The Economist's summary covers the ridiculousness of charging him over these documents:
Let's go through this trove of secrets. 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.
And that's it. At worst, he mishandled some documents, but even that's in question. It seems abundantly clear that the prosecution of Drake is because he annoyed his bosses at the NSA and embarrassed them by getting press coverage for the fact that they became enamored with the spin from some defense contractors, leading them to waste taxpayer money. And for that he gets charged with espionage, even as President Obama continues to insist that he values whistleblowers within the government. The Thomas Drake affair is shaping up to be yet another example of an executive branch out of control when it comes to abusing the power of its position. This is a problem that all Americans should be worried about, as both major parties seem more than happy to abuse power while in office.

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