21 March 2012 — Democracy Now!
We speak with Thomas Drake, who was targeted after challenging waste, mismanagement and possible constitutional violations at the National Security Agency, but the case against him later collapsed. Drake was one of several sources for a Baltimore Sun article about a $1.2 billion NSA experimental program called “Trailblazer” to sift through electronic communications for national security threats.
“My first day on the job was 9/11. And it was shortly after 9/11 that I was exposed to the Pandora’s box of illegality and government wrongdoing on a very significant scale,” Drake says. He alleged that the program was inefficient compared to a rival program called “ThinThread” and also violated Americans’ privacy rights. As a result, he faced 35 years in prison for charges under the Espionage Act, but was not ever actually accused of spying. Instead, he was accused of holding on to classified documents in his basement that he says he did not even know were classified.
In a major embarrassment for the Department of Justice, his case ended last year in a misdemeanor plea deal. Now the former top spokesman for the Justice Department, Matthew Miller, seems to be reversing his stance on the prosecution of Drake, saying the case may have been an “ill-considered choice for prosecution.”
All of this comes amidst the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on whisteblowers. “It’s a way to create terrible precedent to go after journalists and a backdoor way to create an Official Secrets Act, which we have managed to live without in this country for more than 200 years. And I think it’s being done on the backs of whistleblowers,” says Drake’s attorney, Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics adviser to the Justice Department. She is currently the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Her new book is called “TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the ‘American Taliban.'” [includes rush transcript]
Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. He’s the winner of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award.
Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice. She is currently the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Her new book is called TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the “American Taliban“.