Former NSA executive charged in newspaper leak case

Apr. 18, 2010

A former senior executive of the top secret National Security Agency (NSA) who allegedly leaked classified information to a newspaper reporter via email has been indicted on multiple charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Thomas Drake, 52, was charged in a 10-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Maryland, the department said in a statement.

Drake, who served as a high-ranking employee at the NSA between 2001 and 2008, is accused of illegally retaining classified information, obstructing justice and making false statements, it said.

According to the Justice Department, Drake, of Glenwood, Maryland, provided information to a newspaper reporter for a series of articles published between February 2006 and November 2007.

The indictment did not identify the reporter or the newspaper.

It also did not identify the subject of the stories, but said the reporter wrote "articles about the NSA and its intelligence activities, including SIGINT programs."

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, where Drake worked, is the main facility for SIGINT, or Signals Intelligence programs, which involve capturing and processing foreign communications for intelligence purposes.

Drake "served as a source for many of these newspaper articles, including articles that contained SIGINT information," the indictment said.

The Justice Department said Drake left Fort Meade in 2006 to work at the National Defense University in Washington but remained an NSA employee.

It said his security clearance was suspended in November 2007 and he resigned from the NSA in April 2008.

Using Hushmail, a secure email service, Drake exchanged hundreds of emails with the reporter and they met on six occasions in the Washington area, the Justice Department said.

"This defendant used a secret, non-government email account to transmit classified and unclassified information that he was not authorized to possess or disclose," assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said.

"He also later shredded documents and lied about his conduct to federal agents in order to obstruct their investigation," Breuer said.

"Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here -- violating the government's trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information -- be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously."

Drake faces five charges of illegally retaining classified documents, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

He faces one charge of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and four charges of making false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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