BY JIM KOURI – What is commonly viewed as one of the worst intelligence leaks in warfighting history, the blogger at Wikileaks.org, Julian Assange, received more than 90,000 classified documents about U.S. actions in Afghanistan from someone believed to be either a military or intelligence source.
According to reports, Assange gave the documents to three newspapers and were published today. The documents include unreported civilian casualties and also claim that the Pakistani government is aiding the Taliban insurgency across its border.
Unfortunately, no matter what the outcome of this disturbing story of behavior bordering on treason, this is not the first time this year that serious security breaches occurred.
For example, last April the Law Enforcement Examiner noted that a National Security Agency senior executive was charged with the willful retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements, according to a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Government Liaison Committee.
According to the indictment, the 52-year old Thomas A. Drake, a high-ranking NSA employee from 2001 through 2008, had access to highly classified documents and information. The 10-count indictment alleges that between approximately February 2006 and November 2007, a newspaper reporter published a series of articles about the NSA.
(The Washington Post said that the reporter was Siobhan Gorman, an intelligence correspondent for The Baltimore Sun at the time and subsequently at the Wall Street Journal.)
Drake is suspected of having served as the source for many of those articles, including articles that contained classified information. The indictment, handed down by a grand jury in the District of Maryland, also alleges that Drake took a series of steps to facilitate the provision of this information to the reporter, including:
— researching stories for the reporter to write in the future by e-mailing unwitting NSA employees and accessing classified and unclassified documents on classified NSA networks;
— copying and pasting classified and unclassified information from NSA documents into untitled word processing documents which, when printed, had the classification markings removed;
— printing both classified and unclassified documents, bringing them to his home, and retaining them there without authority;
— scanning and emailing electronic copies of classified and unclassified documents to the reporter from his home computer; and
— reviewing, commenting on, and editing drafts of the reporter’s articles.
“As alleged, this defendant used a secret, non-government e-mail account to transmit classified and unclassified information that he was not authorized to possess or disclose. As if those allegations are not serious enough, he also later allegedly shredded documents and lied about his conduct to federal agents in order to obstruct their investigation,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer.
“The FBI takes very seriously allegations involving government employees who willfully retain or disclose classified information they are not authorized to possess. Working with prosecutors, we will continue to investigate and pursue charges against these individuals whose actions cannot be justified or tolerated,” said Arthur M. Cummings II, FBI Executive Assistant Director, National Security Branch.
The indictment alleges that in approximately November 2005, a former congressional staffer asked Drake to speak with a reporter. Between November 2005 and February 2006, according to the indictment, Drake signed up for a free account and then paid for a premium account with an e-mail service that enabled its users to exchange secure e-mails without disclosing the sender or recipient’s identity.
Using an alias, Drake allegedly then contacted the reporter and volunteered to disclose information about the NSA. The indictment alleges that Drake directed the reporter to create the reporter’s own secure e-mail account. After the reporter created such an account, Drake also allegedly required the reporter to agree to certain conditions, including never revealing Drake’s identity; attributing information gathered from Drake to a “senior intelligence official”; never using Drake as a single source for information; never telling Drake who the reporter’s other sources were; and not commenting on what people, to whom Drake recommended the reporter speak.
Drake allegedly attempted to conceal his relationship with the reporter and prevent the discovery of evidence linking Drake to his retention of classified documents after the FBI began a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information. Specifically, Drake allegedly shredded classified and unclassified documents, including his handwritten notes that he had removed from the NSA; deleted classified and unclassified information on his home computer; and made false statements to FBI agents.
The indictment charges Drake with five counts of willfully retaining documents that relate to the national defense. These include four classified e-mails and an additional classified document. In addition, the indictment charges Drake with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying and deleting documents with the intent to impede and obstruct the federal investigation into alleged disclosures of classified information. The indictment also charges Drake with four counts of making false statements to FBI agents.
Willful retention of classified documents carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The charge of making a false statement carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Each of the charged counts carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
This case continues to be investigated by the FBI and the NSA Office of Security & Counterintelligence.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Write to him at COPmagazine@aol.com