Suspect in N.S.A. Leak Case Is Said to Spurn Plea Bargain
By David Stout | June 9, 2011 12:25 pm

Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency official accused of illegally keeping and sharing classified documents, is said to be so confident in his case — and sure of the weakness of the government’s case — that he has twice refused to accept a plea bargain.

With his federal trial set to begin Monday in Baltimore, Drake, 54, rejected the government’s latest offer on Wednesday, even though that offer called for him to plead guilty only to a misdemeanor and get no jail time, The Washington Post reported.

“That prosecutors were willing to let him plead to a misdemeanor reflects the weakness of their case, which has in the past week been significantly weakened,” The Post said it had been told by experts who have followed the case.  If indeed prosecutors were willing to accept a misdemeanor plea with no time behind bars, their stance is a remarkable comedown, as the original charges against Drake could have sent him away for many years upon conviction.

Drake was indicted last year on charges that in 2006 and 2007 he shared classified documents with a Baltimore Sun reporter who was writing about N.S.A. programs that were not working well.

But prosecutors in the District of Maryland have faced some serious disadvantages. As Main Justice reported in March, the government decided to use code language in court to avoid disclosing classified information — an arrangement that did not seem to promise clarity. Then, as we reported this week, the DOJ decided instead to sacrifice some evidence altogether.

The Post said the DOJ declined to comment on the plea-bargaining.


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