Whistleblower, Former Senior Executive of the National Security Agency
A former Senior Executive at the National Security Agency, Thomas Drake faced the gravest charges brought against an American citizen: prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917 which targeted him for exposing waste, fraud and abuse and illegality within the government as a whistleblower. He faced upwards of 35 years in prison. He was a key material witness for two 9/11 Congressional investigations and a Department of Defense Inspector General audit of NSA. Drake was one of several sources for articles written by Siobhan Gorman of the Baltimore Sun, which detailed a $1.2 billion boondoggle program called Trailblazer that the NSA wanted to create as a means of sifting through the vast electronic communications of the Digital Age for national security threats and an alternative program called Thinthread that not only provided superior intelligence, but also designed to fundamentally protect the 4th Amendment rights of US Persons under the Constitution. Drake said the Trailblazer program was inefficient, wasted billions in taxpayer dollars, was full of contractor pork and simply fraudulent compared to the highly innovative and ingenious Thinthread program that only cost $3 million to develop and was ready for use before 9/11. In addition, Drake also exposed the Stellar Wind program, a a super secret warrantless surveillance program approved by the White House that violated Americans’ privacy rights. Drake was never accused of spying but was accused of having allegedly classified documents in his basement for the purpose of disclosure. In a major embarrassment for the Department of Justice, the criminal case against him collapsed in June of 2011 on the eve of his public trial in a minor misdemeanor plea deal, where the government dropped all 10 felony counts against him. Drake was awarded the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize in 2011 and the 2012 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award with Jesselyn Radack from the Government Accountability Project.