By NICK SCHWELLENBACH
For those that have been following the case of Thomas Drake, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower charged with unauthorized possession of classified information, there may be important new developments. From the Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima today:
According to people following the case, the government may have to drop two Espionage Act counts that relate to information that Drake submitted to the Defense Department inspector general between 2002 and 2004 to buttress colleagues’ complaints about waste, fraud and abuse of a bungled NSA data-sifting program, Trailblazer. He and his former NSA colleagues thought the complaints were confidential.
The evidence for those two counts is contained in Exhibits 42 and 43, according to the sources. Prosecutor William M. Welch II, in a letter Sunday to Bennett, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore, said those exhibits will be withdrawn. The letter was first reported by Politico.
Another exhibit, numbered 41, also consisting of information Drake submitted to the inspector general, is intended to support a third Espionage Act count, which may also be dropped, the sources said. That exhibit will be redacted, the prosecution has said. Two remaining Espionage Act charges relate to information that Drake possessed but that had been published on the NSA’s in-house intranet. Legal experts said Drake could contend that the material was unclassified information that was widely available to tens of thousands of agency employees.
The rest of the charges — one count of obstruction of justice and four counts of making a false statement — are less important, legal experts said.
Nick Schwellenbach is POGO's Director of Investigations.