April 15th, 2010
11:34 AM ET
8 years ago

Spy agency worker accused of leaking documents to reporter

Washington (CNN) - A former employee of the secretive National Security Agency has been indicted in connection with the leak to a reporter of classified information about the agency's electronic intelligence programs, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Thomas Drake has been charged with illegally retaining classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal agents investigating the leak, the Justice Department announced. According to the indictment, Drake was a source for a series of articles about the NSA that were published in 2006 and 2007 by a newspaper that is not named in the charges.

The first of the articles for which Drake is accused of providing classified information ran two months after The New York Times disclosed the existence of the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance program. The disclosure and the stories that followed in other news outlets stirred up a firestorm of criticism of the program, which a federal judge recently declared was conducted illegally.

Drake was a senior NSA employee who held a top-secret security clearance at the time, according to the charges against him. His security clearance was suspended in 2007 and he resigned from the agency in 2008. Efforts to contact his attorney were unsuccessful Thursday.

Drake was introduced to the reporter who wrote those articles by a former congressional aide, the indictment states. Neither the reporter nor the aide were named in the indictment.

Drake exchanged hundreds of e-mails with the reporter using a secure mail service, passed along information he received from "unwitting" NSA employees and used his access to classified computer networks to obtain information for the reporter, the indictment states.

Prosecutors say Drake shredded some documents and deleted others from his e-mail after learning that the leak was being investigated by federal agents.

Congressional hearings into the surveillance program led to revelations about a high-level disputes between the Justice Department and the White House over its legality. The White House at one point tried to convince ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to overrule his top deputy, who as acting attorney general had refused to certify the program was legal.

Ashcroft, who was recovering from gall-bladder surgery at the time, refused during a dramatic standoff among top Bush administration officials in his hospital room.

(This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. ET with additional information)

Filed under: NSA
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Brink

    Read him his rights and then convict him of treason.

    April 15, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    This man helped expose a large electronic surveilance program being used against U.S. citizenz by the U.S. Government.

    He deserves a medal of honor for his patriotism.

    April 15, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. Malcolm in St Louis

    it was an illegal activity. No judge had approved the surveillance.

    April 15, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. steven harnack

    How can it be illegal to expose an illegal operation?What else could be done to expose and prove a criminal action? If an official high up in the gov. murdered someone then made the evidence top secret would it be illegal to expose him?

    April 15, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. MikeH

    Fair is fair, arrest Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for treason for outing a CIA Station Officer involved in fighting terrorism while we were at war with terrorists. Rove and Cheney give aid and comfort to our enemies.

    April 15, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  6. Bob in Pa

    Bo will probably offer him a TZARship any day now.
    I personally think the man should be tried for treason.

    As far as those of you concerned with electronic surveilance from that program, just wait until the progressive democrats thought police come knocking at your door.

    April 15, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. CP

    This man is a true hero. He exposed and slew an evil demon from the NSA den. The sad thing is this nations institutions are full of demons and many who profit from hatching and feeding these demons. How evil is our nation and it's institutions.

    April 15, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. DJK

    why, Brink? Huh? Because he exposed a corrupt government agency engaged in violations of the constitution and crimes against the civil rights of American citizens? What kind of a sorry puppet are you?!?! It's dim bulbs like you that make movements like the Third Reich possible. Keep waving that flag, zombie. Maybe one day they'll give you an "atta boy", which is probably like manna from heaven for you. Unreal. Some people just have the innate nature in them to be other peoples friggin pets. Caio, lapdog.


    April 15, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    This is patriotism, not treason. Those who engaged in the warrantless surveillance are the traitors.

    April 15, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. anon

    This is patriotism, not treason. The warrantless surveillance is the treason. Try everyone who was involved in such surveillance with treason.

    April 15, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. Minnesotan

    Does this fall under some sort of whistle blowers law? This guy deserves some sort of recognition for what he did for the citizens of the USA... exposing how our Republican run govern't secretly spied on its own citizens. I wonder what the attitude of the Tea Baggers would be towards this guy? Probably the same as "Brink" who thinks the guy should be locked up for treason. By that arguement the Tea Baggers should be locked up for treason.

    April 15, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Ken in NC

    He may have shed light on a possible crooked wire tapping set-up and that is good but if he released classified information to do it then he is just as wrong as the crooked wire tapping. Put him and the wire tappers both in prison.

    April 15, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. Limbaugh is a liberal

    This just proves that Obama's administration has made the country less safe since 2006... oh wait. He was NOT the president back then?

    April 15, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  14. D. Bunker

    We need more courageous heroes like this man. The only treason was that committed by our government officials during the Bush reign of error.

    April 15, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |