Bloomberg News

Former NSA Worker Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor in Leak Case

June 10, 2011

(Updates with comment from Assistant U.S. Attorney General in eighth paragraph.)

June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Thomas A. Drake, a former employee at the U.S. National Security Agency accused of leaking government secrets to a reporter, pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of an agency computer.

The violation, a misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to a plea agreement filed yesterday in Baltimore federal court. Prosecutors won’t oppose a sentence that involves no jail time and agreed to dismiss the indictment at the time of sentencing, according to court documents.

Drake, who worked at the intelligence-gathering agency for seven years, was indicted in April 2010 on charges of retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a government agent. Prosecutors said he gave classified information to the newspaper reporter, who isn’t named in court papers. The information included details alleging fraud and abuse at the NSA regarding a program called Trailblazer, according to court documents.

“We are pleased that the government has agreed to dismiss the indictment,” James Wyda, an attorney for Drake with the federal public defender’s office, said today in an e-mail. “Tom Drake never should have been charged under the Espionage Act. Tom never intended to harm his country. And he didn’t.”

Drake, who served as a witness for an investigation into the Trailblazer program, exchanged encrypted e-mails with the reporter on a secure network in Canada rather than his home computer, prosecutors said in court papers.

NSA Articles

The reporter used the information for a series of articles about the NSA, according to court documents. In his role as a source, Drake printed both classified and non-classified documents and stored copies at his residence in Glenwood, Maryland, prosecutors said.

The plea deal comes after U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled that some classified information could appear in exhibits at trial without substitution, according to court documents. Prosecutors determined that such disclosure would harm national security, according to court papers filed today.

“As today’s guilty plea shows, in cases involving classified information, we must always strike a careful balance between holding accountable those who break our laws, while not disclosing highly sensitive information that our intelligence agencies conclude would be harmful to our nation’s security if used at trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in an e-mailed statement.

Drake is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15.

The case is U.S. v. Drake, 10-00181, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Baltimore).

--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Glenn Holdcraft

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Wilmington, Delaware, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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