: Why Edward Snowden Wouldn't Get a Fair Trial
Bio: Thomas Drake
is a whistleblower who has dedicated his
life to safeguarding his
A ten-year veteran of the Air Force (specializing in intelligence), he served as a CIA analyst and contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) for 12 years before joining the Agency full time in 2001.
When Drake saw mass waste and abuse in the billions of dollars spent on Operation Stellar Wind, he took his concerns to his superiors at NSA, to Congress and to the NSA and Department of Defense Inspectors General (DoD IG).
Retaliation soon followed.
Management took aim at Drake's career by removing his
responsibilities and shifting him to a meaningless position.
was increasingly isolated, singled-out, transferred away from projects, and marginalized.
cooperation with DoD IG, which validated his
became the target of a "leak" investigation related to the infamous NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal-despite the fact that he
had nothing to do with the "leak."
After reaching out to multiple proper oversight bodies, nothing changed.
made legal disclosures of unclassified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter, who wrote a series of award-winning articles that exposed the billion-dollar NSA boondoggle.
Reprisal against Drake
was then ratcheted up to the maximum: criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917.
The government conduced an armed raid of Drake's home, interrogated him for hours, confiscated his
personal notes and computers, and threatened him with spending "the rest of his
natural life behind bars.
The Department of Justice
(DOJ) indicted Drake
under the Espionage Act with improper "retention" - not disclosure - of allegedly classified information, and Drake
faced decades in prison.
Justice Department officials
for hours on several occasions.
had done nothing wrong, Drake
cooperated with the pre-textual "leak" investigation until he
realized that the purpose was to retaliate against him.
The officials pressured Drake
multiple times to take a plea deal, threatening him with spending the "rest of his
natural life behind bars" if he
didn't - but Drake "refused to plea bargain with the truth."
hoped that the new Obama administration - one that had touted the importance of federal whistleblowers during the 2008 campaign - would reverse direction and cease the use of the criminal justice system to go after whistleblowers, but after being under a cloud for two and a half years, the DOJ
finally indicted him in April 2010.
Charged under 10 separate counts, Drake
faced 5 charges under the Espionage Act - a 1917 piece of legislation intended to be used against spies.
was only the fourth case in U.S. history where the government used the Act to go after someone for allegedly mishandling classified materials - Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first.
Despite statements to the press to the contrary, the DOJ
did not charge Drake
with disclosing classified information to a reporter, but, rather, accused him of improper retention of classified information.
Despite years investigating him, the DOJ
had no evidence of improper disclosure of classified materials.
faced the possibility of decades in prison.
Drake Turns To GAP
Though the criminal defense team for Drake
was headed by the federal public defender's office in Maryland, his
case drew the attention of dozens of legal experts and advocates.
Among these was GAP
's National Security & Human Rights team (Jesselyn Radack & Kathleen McClellan) who spoke out against the government's treatment of Drake
in aLos Angeles Times
op-ed, which prompted Drake
to contact and, eventually, retain the services of GAP.
In March 2011, just three months before his
trial was slated to begin, Drake
received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling - widely regarded as the highest honor for an American whistleblower.
harnessed this coverage and started an online petition in support of Drake
GAP's petition targeted the Attorney General and heads of the Congressional Judiciary Committees, demanding to know why the Justice Department
was prosecuting Drake
for protecting Americans and exposing gross waste.
In just a few weeks, nearly 5,000 people signed the online petition, which GAP
delivered to Congress and the Justice Department
The Case Against Drake Collapses
In the face of mounting public support for Drake
, the overwhelming media coverage, and several rulings against the DOJ
in court, the case against Drake
imploded just four days before the trial was set to begin.
agreed to drop the ten-count felony indictment, including all of the Espionage Act charges.
pled guilty to a mere misdemeanor: "exceeding authorized use of a computer.
One month later, Drake
was sentenced to one year of probation and community service, a far cry from the government's goal of putting Drake
in jail for "the rest of his
A few weeks after the sentencing, in a remarkably rare move, former George W. Bush classification czar J. William Leonard filed a complaint against NSA and DOJ
, seeking punishment for the officials who wrongfully classified the documents that Drake
Leonard, who was slated to serve as an expert on Drake's criminal defense team, stated that the documents contained no secrets, and "should never have been classified in the first place."
In the days after his
remained anything but silent.
and Radack penned a Philadelphia Inquirer
op-ed excoriating the Obama
administration for the criminalization of whistleblowing for national security workers.
About a month later, another prominent op-ed appeared, this time in theWashington Post,explaining how his
actions were driven by his
oath to the Constitution.
won the battle for his
freedom, but the war against whistleblowers continues.
: Why Edward Snowden Wouldn't Get a Fair Trial