"I Will Never Plea-Bargain With The Truth."
May 16, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an Enemy of the State?

For seven years, Thomas A. Drake was a senior executive at the nation's largest intelligence organization with an ambition to change its insular culture. He had access to classified programs that purported to help the National Security Agency tackle its toughest challenges: exploiting the digital data revolution and countering terrorism. Today, he wears a blue T-shirt and answers questions about iPhones at an Apple store in the Washington area. He is awaiting trial in a criminal media leak case that could send him to prison for 35 years. In his years at the NSA, Drake grew disillusioned, then indignant, about what he saw as waste, mismanagement and a willingness to compromise Americans' privacy without enhancing security. He first tried the sanctioned methods -- going to his superiors, inspectors general, Congress. Finally, in frustration, he turned to the "nuclear option": leaking to the media.
FAS.org has selected case files on the Drake case.

Some of Siobhan Gorman's articles in the Baltimore Sun about the NSA's mishandling of "the highly sensitive, very expensive" Trailblazer collection program can be seen in their archive, including: "Management Shortcomings at the NSA" and "Costly NSA initiative has a shaky takeoff". Also see: "NSA Killed System That Sifted Phone Data Legally." In 2006 Ms. Gorman received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for that coverage from the Society of Professional Journalists. A single page text dump of all the articles can be read at DOD Leaks. She now works for the Wall Street Journal.

US Department of Justice (DOJ) press release on Mr. Drake's 10-count indictment.
posted by zarq (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
NPR: Case against Wikileaks part of a broader campaign

From the main article:
"When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as 'often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.' But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined.

The "five instances" mentioned most likely refers to recent and pending Espionage Act cases for Stephen Kim, Bradley Manning (Previously on MeFi), Shamai Leibowitz and Jeffrey Sterling.

Glenn Greenwald: What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ

ProPublica: Watch Out, Whistleblowers: Congress and Courts Move to Curtail Leaks
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone is in favor of transparency. Other people's transparency.
posted by tommasz at 7:50 AM on May 16, 2011

Mod note: A few comments removed, let's avoid the sarcastro all-caps derail stuff please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seems to me the system is just too far gone now for anyone to effect meaningful change.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seems to me the system is just too far gone now for anyone to effect meaningful change.

One programmer who understands P2P, SSL certs, effective reputation systems, the works of Bernayes/Freud/Munsberg/others and a few angles I'm sure I can't even see could put themselves between a bullet and a target and create a reputation based P2P system for passing files so the most 'interesting' files would bubble to the top. The general programmable computer AND the Internet are powerful tools and it is possible one person could stand upon the shoulders of others and smith some tool which could create 'meaningful change'. But someone 'having that itch' and THEN 'scratching it' AND have the background knowledge for a good execution....not so much.

A P2P wikileaks would be amusing just to watch Assange deflate.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

In another case, they recently dropped charges against NSA leaker Thomas Tamm: Feds Drop Probe of NSA Wiretapping Whistle Blower
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

There isn't currently much need for such a P2P app right now, simply encrypt the leak, post it leak to a bitlocker or freenet, and distribute the url & key to good "spreaders", ala anonymous. You should obviously use tor from an internet cafe without running any other software like MTAs and keeping your phone's battery out. If that works, well great, but..

Initially even Assange & Wikileaks had essentially your perspective, i.e. post it and discuss it, but they found it didn't work well. First, all their stories got kinda ignored by the mainstream press who weren't really interested non-exclusive stories. Second, all their stories got ignored by the bloggers who didn't have the time to analyze them. Third, people yelled at them for not redacting powerless people's name.

There are of course numerous opportunities for "west coast code" to change the world, even when unsupported by a corporate entity. Two examples are BitTorrent and BitCoin. In broader strokes, you can simply take any big name website and ask yourself : How can I provide this service using a p2p network that improves security through anonymity, encryption, etc. Two obvious p2p projects that might revolutionize the world :

(1) A social networking & file sharing application that let's people securely share & discuss their photos, music, and videos.

(2) A market application for trading goods, services, and financial instruments anonymously, while actually fulfilling the contracts.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:55 AM on May 16, 2011

....and create a reputation based P2P system for passing files so the most 'interesting' files would bubble to the top.

How would you prevent groups of bad actors gaming the system, like the Digg "patriots"? Just seed a torrent with something juicy sounding like "Chamber of Commerce Secrets" filled with bullshit public releases and watch as everyone wastes their time and effort and interest wanes over time. There are too many bad faith actors to fully crowdsource this; a gatekeeper of some sort is probably required.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

How would you prevent groups of bad actors gaming the system

I'm guessing that is a PHD thesis right there. And anyone who had such insights would be hard pressed to not follow the money to become more aligned with the 'bad actors' as they sure seem to have more money.

a gatekeeper of some sort is probably required.

That is the possible economic opportunity. But the paranoid claim Microsoft works with the NSA, that John Young works with the CIA, Wikileaks is a Chinese (or) Israeli (or) DoD operation, that NetBSD had weakened code via FBI payoffs - so even if the gatekeeper was a 100% honest broker that would not believed by some due to the history of bad actors on the field so who's gonna pay how much?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2011

State secrets are handy things to have.

The Supreme Court refused Monday to review a ruling that blocked a lawsuit alleging a Boeing Co. subsidiary helped the Central Intelligence Agency seize terrorism suspects abroad and secretly transfer them to other countries for torture interrogation. ... The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the lawsuit must be dismissed because there was no feasible way to try the case without the risk of divulging state secrets.
posted by Trurl at 10:18 AM on May 16, 2011

Making a reputation system that cannot be gamed would be like creating an ecosystem immune to parasites. It's not going to happen.
posted by acb at 10:24 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This "technical" discussion is all well and good, but, once all this stuff is leaked, how do you go about building a critical mass of sustained public outrage to make change happen?

Jesus, most Americans couldn't tell you who Julian Assange or Bradley Manning ARE, much less why they should care.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:32 AM on May 16, 2011

A P2P wikileaks would be amusing just to watch Assange deflate.

Here's the scene I imagine.

Julian Assange is meeting with the new p2p PeerLeaks creator, "A million leaks isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion leaks. Hey, nice couch you have here."
posted by formless at 10:35 AM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

There isn't much reason for reputation in the leaks business, merely organizations with the resources & willpower to analyze & profit from the leaks. You want both reputation and escrow agents for p2p trade however.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2011

Here's the scene I imagine.
Julian Assange is meeting with the new p2p PeerLeaks creator

Naw - more like this
Dressed like these paid booth babes :
Cept with the brains of:
posted by rough ashlar at 10:41 AM on May 16, 2011

I think Seinfeld summed it up best.

George: I don't even like Drake.

Jerry: You don't like the Drake?

George: Hate the Drake.

Elaine: I love the Drake.

Jerry: How could you not like the Drake?

George: Who's the Drake?

Elaine: "Who's the Drake"?

Jerry: The Drake is good!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:45 AM on May 16, 2011

The problem we have is the very people who have interest in bloated budgets are those who not only control the implementation of these programs, but those who handle appeals, in this regard.

It's like arguing over the ref about a call he made. Unless there's instant reply, and a rule allowing such, you have no "objective" oversight, and I could see how Drake would get frustrated.

However, if there's something we could fault this guy for, it would be for his ignorance of the very group he was in charge of: the freakin' NSA. If you know there are massive data mining operations, most of which aren't on the up and up, anything short of a direct meeting, on the moon, in a soundproof room, with all details hashed out verbally, there's going to be data on it somewhere. You work for the very goons that get billions upon billions of dollars to do so. Expect to get caught, and don't bother with HushMail or whatever.

His best bet would be an accidental Reply-All and an "oops, oh m'gosh, I didn't mean to send that to the nice lady..."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:44 PM on May 16, 2011

From page 8 of the article:

Binney recalls an agent responding that such brazen spying didn’t happen in America. Looking over the rims of his owlish glasses, Binney replied, “Oh, really?”

The NSA is data mining our memes!
posted by Mr Mister at 2:10 PM on May 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Of pretty much everything political / governmental happening in my world today, this ranks highest in my "matters to me / feel powerless to do anything" ratio.
posted by meinvt at 3:19 PM on May 16, 2011

The Whistle-Blowers of 1777
posted by homunculus at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2011

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