News is breaking that federal prosecutors have agreed to drop all serious (felony) charges against Thomas Drake, the Maryland whistleblower from the National Security Administration (NSA). In a face-saving ploy by the government, prosecutors insisted that Drake plead guilty to a misdemeanor of exceeding authorized use of a government computer. Drake agreed, with the proviso that he will receive no fine and no jail time.
Drake worked for years to get NSA to stop wasting $1.2 billion of taxpayer dollars on the the mismanaged Trailblazer program that sought to have outside contractors sift through torrents of email and phone calls without any warrants. After he exhausted efforts at internal whistleblowing, he raised his concerns with a reporter from the Baltimore Sun. Drake insists that he disclosed no classified information. The Bush administration decided against pressing any criminal case against Drake. The new administration commenced controversial charges under the Espionage Act. Today, those charges are gone. The government’s case was hamstrung by an administration decision to withhold the key information because it would disclose information about how the government receives or reviews information.
We are happy for Drake that the serious charges against him are dismissed. I call on the administration to immediately pardon Drake for the misdemeanor offense. Government employees should not face criminal charges for helping the American people discover waste, fraud and abuse committed with their tax dollars. The managers who wasted the $1.2 billion suffered no consequences. Drake should be rewarded, not punished, for putting his career on the line by raising a concern about integrity.