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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Mike Levine

Washington, DC

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Feds: Ex-NSA Official Leaked Sensitive Info

April 15, 2010 - 5:41 PM | by: Mike Levine

A former high-ranking National Security Agency official has been accused of sharing classified information with a newspaper reporter.

In an indictment unsealed Thursday, federal prosecutors said 52-year-old Thomas Drake illegally retained classified information, passed some of that classified information to a reporter with the The Baltimore Sun, who was identified only as “Reporter A,” and then tried to cover up his actions.

“Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here – violating the government’s trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information – be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement.

Fox News has learned that “Reporter A” is Siobhan Gorman, who now works for The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the same company that owns Fox News.

According to the indictment, one of Drake’s ”close” friends put him in touch with “Reporter A” in late 2005. Over the next several months, all three set up a series of email accounts intended to hide their true identities, according to the indictment.

Drake and “Reporter A” then exchanged hundreds of emails, after Gorman agreed to a series of conditions, including a vow to refer to Drake in her articles only as a “senior intelligence official,” the indictment said.

Between February 2006 and November 2007, “Reporter A” published a series of articles about the NSA, some which contained classified information, according to prosecutors.

Several of Gorman’s articles during that time dealt with the emerging threat of cyberattacks and NSA efforts to keep up with developing technologies.

“Drake served as a source for many of these newspaper articles,” the indictment said.

In fact, the indictment said, he “reviewed, commented on, and edited drafts, near final and final drafts of Reporter A’s articles.”

In a March 2007 article about an internal NSA document, Gorman quotes an NSA spokesman as declining to comment due to the document’s “classified” nature.
 
“The information is essentially embedded in a classified, privileged communication meant solely for the consumption of cleared NSA personnel,” spokesman Ken White was quoted as saying. “Communications detailing the agency’s classified internal preparations to modernize our cryptologic enterprise are strictly limited to the properly authorized venues afforded by our congressional oversight committees.”

After the stories were published in The Baltimore Sun, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information.

According to the indictment, Drake knew about this investigation and subsequently shredded documents he had removed from NSA and deleted relevant information from his home computer.

He did so “in part to conceal his relationship with Reporter A and prevent the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s discovery of evidence that would have linked defendant Drake to the retention of classified documents for the purpose of supplying information to Reporter A,” according to the indictment.

This was not the first time Drake allegedly shared classified information with someone not qualified to receive it, according to the indictment.

Before the “close” friend put Drake in touch with “Reporter A,” Drake allegedly shared classified information with the “close” friend, who worked as a congressional staffer at the time, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Drake described his relationship with the congressional staffer as a “close, emotional friendship” and a “different and special” bond.

Drake joined NSA in August 2001, eventually obtaining “Top Secret” security clearance. In 2006 he became a teacher at the National Defense University in Washington, maintaing his access to sensitive information.

But Drake left the school in November 2007, after NSA suspended his security clearance. He resigned from NSA in 2008.

A federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted Drake on five counts of “willful retention of national defense information,” one count of obstruction of justice, and four counts of making false statements to federal investigators.

Each count carries a maximum of five to 20 years in prison.

Drake is not currently in federal custody, but he is expected to appear in federal court sometime next week.

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