National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake appearing on CBS 60 Minutes May 22 in his first television interview


U.S. National Security Agency

Thomas Drake, who disclosed evidence of multi-billion dollar corruption and mismanagement in the NSA and illegal domestic surveillance, faces retaliatory prosecution under the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers. He will be appearing on a special two-hour episode of 60 Minutes to discuss these critical issues.

Climate Science Watch is a sponsored project of the Government Accountability Project,  the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. Sometimes we  turn our attention from the climate change problem when it is necessary to take a hard line in support of legitimate government and corporate whistleblowers on other urgent issues — especially when they are unjustly attacked and prosecuted for inconveniencing the powerful and the status quo instead of being recognized as essential public servants.    

The program starts at 7:00 pm Eastern; the piece on Thomas Drake is slated to begin at 8:00 pm, but scheduling specifics on 60 Minutes are subject to alteration.

Thomas Drake

From the 60 Minutes website:

U.S. v. Drake (8 p.m. ET/PT) – Tom Drake, a former National Security Agency senior executive indicted last year for espionage after leaking to the media allegations that the nation’s largest intelligence organization had committed fraud, waste and abuse will appear in his first television interview. Scott Pelley reports. Glenn Silber and Graham Messick are the producers.

Drake and the U.S. security-surveillance state apparatus also is the subject of a must-read article in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer: “The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?” (May 23 online)

Jesselyn Radack, Director of the Homeland Security Program at the Government Accountability Project, writes in the Huffington Post, May 19:

“Why Thomas Drake Is Not an Enemy of the State”

Former National Security Agency (NSA) senior official Thomas Drake is a whistleblower. Through legal and proper channels, Drake disclosed massive corruption, gross waste and mismanagement to tune of billions of taxpayer dollars, and, worse, widespread illegal domestic surveillance at the NSA.

When President Obama first took office, he applauded whistleblowers as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” He said that “such acts of courage and patriotism… should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

Given these remarks, Thomas Drake is exactly the type of whistleblower that the Obama administration should protect. However, under President Obama’s leadership, the Justice Department has labeled Drake an enemy of the state, and charged him with violating the Espionage Act — an archaic law intended to prosecute spies, not whistleblowers. Drake’s prosecution is selective and retaliatory.

Drake discovered that the NSA was illegally spying on Americans, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a failed surveillance program, and had rejected alternatives that provided valuable intelligence to protect national security while protecting Americans’ privacy. Rather than remain silent and complicit, Drake disclosed the wrongdoing to his superiors, the Department of Defense Inspector General, and the Congressional Intelligence Committees. …

[Read the rest of the full post here].

Inside Obama’s “Orwellian World” Where Whistleblowing Has Become Espionage – The Case of Thomas Drake (Democracy Now, May 18)

Summary: This segment on President Obama’s attack on intelligence whistleblowers focuses on the case of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, featuring an interview with GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack alongside clips of Thomas Drake and Thomas Tamm.

“Hating the Drake” (The Economist, May 18)

The article contextualizes the Drake case and attempts to “put Mr. Drake’s actions in relative terms” by highlighting the hypocrisy and selectivity inherent in the Department of Justice “leak” prosecutions.

Drake’s case also was discussed in National Public Radio’s interview with Jane Mayer and in The Atlantic (“What’s Worse, Illegally Spying on Americans or Talking About It?”).

Background on Thomas Drake

Prior to joining the NSA in 2001 as a full-time employee, Mr. Drake served for ten years in the U.S. Air Force, completed a stint as a CIA analyst, and worked as an NSA contractor. During his work with the NSA, he became familiar with ThinThread — a data collection program that could efficiently and cost-effectively sift through massive amounts of public data for patterns useful to analysts. The agency dropped ThinThread in favor of a different data collection proposal: Trailblazer. Trailblazer was more expensive, undeveloped, and lacked critical protections needed to safeguard Americans’ privacy.

Drake was most concerned that the decision to implement the Trailblazer program, which cost over $1 billion, amounted to gross fraud and waste of taxpayer monies, and that the NSA had deliberately begun domestic surveillance that was illegal and unconstitutional. In 2005, a reporter from the Baltimore Sun published a series of articles about waste, fraud, and abuse at the NSA — including the Trailblazer program. While Drake confirms that he did communicate with the reporter, he did not reveal any classified information to the media.

Instead, Drake raised these concerns through official channels, in conjunction with three former NSA officials (Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis), and a former staffer on the House Intelligence Committee (Diane Roark). In response to their courageous disclosures, however, the NSA ignored their concerns, raided their homes with terrorizing swat teams with guns drawn and in numerous other ways retaliated against them. In April 2010, Drake was indicted by the Justice Department under the Espionage Act for retaining (not leaking) five obscure and questionably classified documents. He is now facing 35 years in prison and needs our support at once.

What the Prosecution of NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake is Really About,” by Jesselyn Radack, GAP

I’m glad people are finally paying attention to this case, thanks to Jane Mayer’s explosive cover story in the New Yorker, which Glenn Greenwald referred to as the “must-read article of the month.”

The government would have you believe that this is a case involving the disclosure of classified information to a journalist.  It is not.  It’s a “retention” case about 5 innocuous pieces of information that Drake allegedly took home, if at all, by mistake. His real crime? Committing the truth by revealing gross waste, mismanagement and illegality at NSA.Let’s get down to brass tacks.  Drake never leaked classified information to a reporter, or anyone, and is not CHARGED with “leaking” classified information.  So, what is he charged with?:

Count 1 – a “Regular Meetings” document that appeared on NSA’s intranet marked as UNCLASSIFIED;

Count 2 – a self-congratulatory “What a Success” document that appeared on NSA’s intranet, which was declassified in July 2010 (but the prosecution didn’t tell Drake this for 8 months);

Counts 3-5 – information that in whole or in part formed the basis of some of Drake’s protected communication to the Department of Defense Inspector General as part of their investigation into NSA’s gross waste, mismanagement and illegality related to a secret surveillance program;

Count 6 – obstruction of justice for allegedly impeding the Justice Department’s pretextual “leak” investigation into the sources for the New York Times Pulitzer prize-winning article on warrantless wiretapping;

Count 7 – alleged “false statements” for telling the truth, namely, that he never gave the reporter classified information;

Count 8 – alleged “false statements” for telling the truth, namely, that Drake didn’t bring any classified documents home;

Count 9 – alleged “false statements” for telling the truth, namely, that he only removed unclassified information from classified documents; and

Count 10 – alleged “false statements” for telling the truth, namely, that he never took handwritten notes that contained classified information.

“That’s it??” I hear you saying as you scratch your head.


These charges should be easy to defeat, right?  Unfortunately, Thomas Drake has to do that in a trial where the government has tried to preclude mention of “whistleblowing,” “overclassification” and published newspaper articles!  (Thankfully, the judge overruled the government on all three.)  But now he has to contend with the government wanting to use a “silent witness rule” through which the judge and jury would use a special code to discuss the evidence but the public would have no clue what’s happening, and wait for it . . . the government wants to use classification substitutions for information that is not classified.

Every step of the way this has been an uphill battle.  As the target of a federal criminal “leak investigation” (now closed) myself,  I know what a David vs. Goliath struggle it is to fight the government.  Drake blew the whistle on government illegality and now he’s the one being prosecuted.  It’s that simple.

Support Thomas Drake by demanding congressional scrutiny of his prosecution.  Click here to sign the petition (“Demand Accountability for the Selective Prosecution of NSA Whistleblower Tom Drake”).  

Earlier CSW posts:

Thomas Drake, 2011 recipient of The Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize

Video and transcript of Thomas Drake’s Ridenhour acceptance speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Good luck to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, named as the new anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News

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3 Responses to National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake appearing on CBS 60 Minutes May 22 in his first television interview

  1. Anna Haynes says:

    “An enemy of the state”?
    I think they got the sign wrong…
    (arithmetically speaking)

  2. John Thomas Shay, U.S. Customs Port Director, Retired says:

    I took the very same Oath of Office as Mr. Drake. I served in multiple capacities and with all levels of ‘security clearances,’ to include Leg Fellow assignment with the U.S. Senate Chairman for the Select Committee for Intellegence. In that capacity I saw the inept handling, lazy and truly sanctioned criminal waste Billions of tax payers money. To those very few Brave individuals like Mr Drake, who stand against that tide of ‘go along to get along,’ goof-ternment at its worst philosophy deserve National/International Praise/Acclaim!

    If Mr. Drake is a ‘criminal,’ I would willing give back all my Honors, awards, Praise and I would proudly join Mr. Drake in one of those Un-Constitutional ‘Secret’ Prisons.

    Dear God, the true Shame cries out from the Authors of Our Most Sacred National Documents. We will surely fall on the pointed end of the Military Industrial Complex and their papered over ‘Secrets’/Failures. HOLD ALL THESE NATIONAL FAILURES UP TO THE LIGHT OF ACCOUNTIBILITY, leave good consciencious citizens alone.

  3. Anne says:

    The piece was excellent, even by 60-Minutes standards. A must-see for all, should be a training video for all government employees and high school civics students. The invaluable work of the Government Accountability Project,, was barely acknowledged, in just a short mention, and needs to be underscored here — especially the tireless efforts of Jesselyn Radack, herself a government whistleblower who endured lengthy persecution as a result of simple but noble truth-telling. Ms. Radack deserves much credit for raising the profile of the Thomas Drake story, a tragedy-in-the-making. Want to do your part to support brave upholders of the Constitution like Drake? Send contributions to GAP, and take the time to thank them.

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