Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Obama DOJ Indicts Bush Administration Official

Not for starting an illegal war or three, or for racketeering in the newly annexed imperial provinces, or showing Gitmo snuff porn tapes in the White House to Junior, though.

For leaking information about the Bu$hCo NSA's wireless wiretapping of all electronic communication in the country to reporters, naturally:

...the description applies to articles written by Siobhan Gorman, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, that examined in detail the failings of several major N.S.A. programs, costing billions of dollars, using computers to collect and sort electronic intelligence. The efforts were plagued with technical flaws and cost overruns.

Only a small number of prosecutions have been brought against government officials in recent decades for improperly disclosing information. Such cases often provoke a public debate over the tradeoff between protecting government secrets and covering up government wrongdoing or incompetence.

The indictment suggests the Obama administration may be no less aggressive than the Bush administration in pursuing whistleblowers and reporters’ sources who disclose government secrets. In a little-noticed case last December, a former contract linguist for the F.B.I., Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, pleaded guilty to leaking five classified documents to a blogger.

In the Bush administration, the Justice Department spent several years investigating The New York Times’s sources for a 2005 article that revealed the existence of the N.S.A. program of eavesdropping without warrants. No one has been charged in that case.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a press advocacy group, called the indictment of Mr. Drake unfortunate. “The whole point of the prosecution is to have a chilling effect on reporters and sources, and it will,” Ms. Dalglish said.

Mr. Drake, who began working as an N.S.A. contractor in 1991 and was a high-ranking agency employee from 2001 to 2008, is charged with 10 counts, including retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The retention counts each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment asserts that Mr. Drake, a computer software expert, contacted the reporter at the urging of a friend and set up a secure e-mail account, through a company called Hushmail, that allowed him to send anonymous e-mail to the reporter. He later met the reporter and turned over classified documents with the classification markings removed, the court document said.

James Wyda, a federal public defender representing Mr. Drake, said his client has been “extraordinarily cooperative” with investigators and was “very disappointed that the process ended in criminal charges.”

“Mr. Drake loves his country,” Mr. Wyda said. “We look forward to addressing these matters in a public courtroom.”

Ms. Gorman, who now works for The Wall Street Journal, has not been accused of wrongdoing. A spokeswoman for The Journal, Ashley S. Huston, said Ms. Gorman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for The Baltimore Sun also declined to comment.

In addition to describing the technical programs, the Sun articles disclosed a crisis in meeting N.S.A.’s demands for electrical power and to describe how the agency had rejected a program that had the promise of collecting communications while protecting Americans’ privacy.

The articles, though, did not focus on the most highly protected N.S.A. secrets — whose communications it collects, exactly how it collects them and what countries’ codes it has broken.

That may make a prosecution more feasible, from the point of view of protecting secrets during a trial. But because the articles in question documented government failures and weaknesses, the decision to prosecute could raise questions about whether the government is merely moving to protect itself from legitimate public scrutiny...

Questions? Does anyone really question that?

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