What The Thomas Drake Case Says About Whistleblowing And Federal Agents

by Christopher Paul on June 10, 2011

If you haven’t ben following the NSA Whistleblower case, you might want to. I actually think the sheer decision to bring charges against Thomas Drake was rather audacious and sends the wrong message to both whistleblowers (which Obama said he supported) and security agents who have access to sensitive information.

On the one hand, you have the Whitehouse who, despite saying otherwise, has been pretty aggressive in stoping free information. From Wikileaks to sketchy domain seizures without due process to, in this case, stretching poorly written and overly broad laws beyond something reasonable. If says to the world, we say one thing about free speech but do something very different when pressed.

The other hand are the CIA, NSA, and FBI agents who have access to secret information who now must fear prosecution if they expose bad budgets or, as the settlement would suggest, taking work home with you. Yes, data might be classified in some special way but there is now a new burden that did not exist before.

In this particular case, the defendant turned down multiple plea deals and the government’s case was pretty weak. Both parties settled and he took plea for a misdemeanor that probably won’t include jail time versus the 35 years Drake was facing before.

Lots of news organizations and blogs have been covering and commenting on the case but, again, I turn to Mike Masnick of TechDirt for a very succinct summary of what to learn from it (my emphasis added):

“In the end, the only way to look at this is that Drake stood up to the government and won. The feds won’t get the precedent they wanted for using the Espionage Act against a whistleblower, and plenty of people learned about the ridiculous vindictive prosecution by the federal government.

According to Wired, Drake has only been able to work at a local Apple Store while this thing was being worked on in court which, on a less serious note, should prove this guy can keep a secret.

NSA Whistleblower to Plead Guilty to Misdemeanor – Wired

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