Thomas Drake Proved To Be Bloody Well Right

Well hello there Wheelhouse members! Marcy is still on the road, but I am back and ready to roll, so there will start being actual content here again! I want to start with a bit of interesting post-mortem news on Thomas Drake.

As you will recall, Tom Drake was belligerently prosecuted by the DOJ on trumped up espionage charges (See: here, here, here and here) and their case fell out from underneath them because they cravenly wanted to hide the facts. As a result, Drake pled guilty to about the piddliest little misdemeanor imaginable, and will be sentenced, undoubtedly, to no incarceration whatsoever, no fine and one year or less of unsupervised probation on July 15, 2011. But the entire Tom Drake matter emanated out of Drake’s attempt to internally, and properly, cooperate with a whistleblowing to the Department of Defense Inspector General.

The report from the DOD IG in this regard has now, conveniently after Drake entered his plea, been publicly released through a long sought FOIA to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), albeit it in heavily redacted form:

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted Drake under the Espionage Act for unauthorized possession of “national defense information.” The prosecution was believed to be an outgrowth of the DOJ’s investigation into disclosures of the NSA warrantless wiretapping to The New York Times and came after Drake blew the whistle on widespread problems with a NSA program called TRAILBLAZER. Most of the Espionage Act charges against Drake dealt with documents associated with his cooperation with this DoD IG audit. However, this month the government’s case against Drake fell apart and prosecutors dropped the felony charges. Instead, Drake pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of exceeding the authorized use of a computer.

The report, which was heavily redacted, found that “the National Security Agency is inefficiently using resources to develop a digital network exploitation system that is not capable of fully exploiting the digital network intelligence available to analysts from the Global Information Network.” The DoD IG also found, in reference to TRAILBLAZER, that “the NSA transformation effort may be developing a less capable long-term digital network exploitation solution that will take longer and cost significantly more to develop.”

Here is a full PDF of the entire redacted public version of the report in two parts because of file size: Part One and Part Two.

The report speaks for itself and I will not go in to deep quotes from it; suffice it to say, the DOD IG report proves that Tom Drake was precisely correct in his initial complaints that the TRAILBLAZER program was a nightmarish fraud on the taxpayers and inherently inefficient compared to the THIN THREAD program originally devised in house. The money quotes, as noted by POGO, are:

…the National Security Agency is inefficiently using resources to develop a digital network exploitation system that is not capable of fully exploiting the digital network intelligence available to analysts from the Global Information Network.


…the NSA transformation effort may be developing a less capable long-term digital network exploitation solution that will take longer and cost significantly more to develop.

So, in sum, thanks to POGO’s FOIA release here, we now know that not only was the persecution of Tom Drake by the DOJ completely bogus and vindictive, Tom Drake was bloody well right about TRAILBLAZER versus THIN THREAD to start with. Who couldda predicted?

52 replies
  1. LittlePig says:

    Who couldda predicted?

    Oh pick me! pick me!

    Even discounting the SAIC pocket-padding, it’s been my sad professional experience that high-level managers tend to be really, REALLY lousy at making technology choices.

    • Garrett says:

      Putting into the program requirements a, well, requirement, that contractor pockets will be padded, this is an overall organizational goal, is one good example of lousy technological choice.

  2. rosalind says:

    As a result, Drake pled guilty to about the piddliest little misdemeanor imaginable, and will be sentenced, undoubtedly, to no incarceration whatsoever, no fine and one year or less of unsupervised probation on July 15, 2011.

    ‘fraid i will retain doubts until the actual sentencing, with the government’s ability to pull off the most craven moves ever to punish those who’ve shown they are indeed bereft of clothing.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    But, but, but what about the billions of taxpayer dollars that enriched and empowered the private intel sector? Wasn’t that a positive feature of this notional “purchasing” decision? My guess is that it was as much an intended feature as developing s/w, if not a more highly prized one. So was the fact that the chosen s/w does not filter out objectively irrelevant private data, but gathers it up like a vacuum.

    Mr. Drake is now a documented criminal, in the government’s eyes, not a whistleblower. Lucky for him this was at the end of a long career; a criminal record would doom his security clearance and much of his employability. How could smart, responsible government employees at the start of their careers follow in Mr. Drake’s footsteps? Preventing them from doing so seems to have been the government’s principal purpose in prosecuting this thin case against an enormously productive and responsible long time public official.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One myth this case should dispel is that government sourcing decisions are in fact primarily concerned with maximizing the return on taxpayer dollars. All but the most modest expenditures are driven by political and personal concerns, not economic ones.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Then there is the Obama administration’s glaring hatred of whistleblowers, and its campaign to stop them, to vilify them, to put them in jail, exemplified in its attacks on Bradley Manning and a more establishment figure, James Risen.

  6. lysias says:

    The insiders had to punish Drake. He was threatening their gravy train.

    Trailblazer Project:

    In 2002 a consortium led by Science Applications International Corporation [SAIC] was chosen by the NSA to produce a technology demonstration platform in a contract worth $280 million. Project participants included Boeing, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Booz Allen Hamilton. The project was overseen by NSA Deputy Director William B. Black, Jr., an NSA worker who had gone to SAIC, and then been re-hired back to NSA by NSA director Michael Hayden in 2000.[5][6][7] SAIC had also hired a former NSA director to its management; Bobby Inman.[8] SAIC also participated in the concept definition phase of Trailblazer.[9][10]


    The company has had as part of its management, and on its Board of Directors, many well known ex-government personnel including Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense in the Nixon administration; William Perry, Secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton; John M. Deutch, President Clinton’s CIA Director; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman who served in various capacities in the NSA and CIA for the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations; and David Kay who led the search for weapons of mass destruction for the U.N. following the 1991 Gulf War and for the Bush Administration following the 2003 Iraq invasion.

    • decora says:

      fun fact: Deutch was once reprimanded for mishandling classified information . . the same verbiage used in the government’s press release against Drake.

      if you dig through the CIA directors, you will find that quite a few of them either mishandle sensitive information or purposely give it to the media to fight a political battle through public relations. (A good starting point being Burn Before Reading by Stansfield Turner)

    • lysias says:

      That base at Szymany in Poland that the CIA used for torturing detainees was a Soviet airfield in the Warsaw Pact days. Did the Soviets use it as a prison or for torture?

  7. fatster says:


    Makers of Generic Drugs Don’t Have to Warn of New Dangers, Supreme Court Rules

    ” The Supreme Court gave the pharmaceutical industry a pair of victories Thursday, shielding the makers of generic drugs from most lawsuits by injured patients and declaring that drug makers had a free-speech right to buy private prescription records to boost their sales pitches to doctors.”


  8. jo6pac says:

    yep, business as usual i’m thank full that I voted for change.

    Everything is on schedule, please move along

    • quake says:

      yep, business as usual I’m thankful that I voted for change.

      You mean change that you could believe in, IIRC,

      • bmaz says:

        Well, not sure I actually believed it, but I was HOPING….

        Instead, that hope proved to be the audacity of a dope.

        • quake says:

          It was obvious when he voted for FISA immunity as a Senator that we were in for some disappointment, but he did appoint Dawn Johnson to OLC but then never followed through…. Kind of makes you wonder if the NSA spooks overhead anything interesting they are using to pressure him (or if he planned this all along, or if he just is a wimp who’s not able to stand up to the spook community or ….).

          • bmaz says:

            I am going with the latter and that he was never a practicing attorney and never really gave a crap about the law and rule of law, as that and the Constitution seem to be rather far down his intellectual totem pole of concern.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Gets my vote. The law was just a way to demonstrate his brilliance and to acquire knowledge of the rules of the game, not to follow them, but like Rove, to use them to his personal advantage and as a weapon against those who do follow them. The usual description for an actor who behaves that way is predator.

                  • watercarrier4diogenes says:

                    Going back a few more years, there’s this take on the subject:

                    “We hang the petty thieves and
                    appoint the great ones to public office.”
                    ~ Aesop

              • bobschacht says:

                I think this may be an unfair reading of the Prez. Remember, for the first 75 years of our Constitution, it was used as a means of oppressing Black people. And now, with our current set of Supremes, it is being used to allow giant corporations to fleece taxpaying citizens. Our Constitution is, basically, a tool. Like, a hammer can be used for building a house– or it can be used to smash someone’s skull.

                Ben Franklin recognized this. We have a Republic– if we can keep it. Unfortunately, in current years, we have not been keeping it very well.

                Bob in AZ

  9. nahant says:

    Who couldda predicted?A

    Dr Zeus??? Sheesh any fool woda known better if the facts were before them…

    • bmaz says:

      Well, just so you know, both Marcy and I wore “Team Blowjob” buttons on our credentials throughout Netroots Nation. They were created by Rosalind for NN last year, but were still quite the fashion this year.

      • rosalind says:

        team blowjob!!

        if i’d gone to NN this year, i was going to get a new button – “Domestic Extremist” – ’cause that’s what we ‘rule of law’ purists are, don’t cha know…

  10. newz4all says:

    New “Patriot” Act Controversy: Is Washington Collecting Your Cell-Phone Data?

    US Senate Intelligence Committee is weighing fresh concern about the sweeping nature of domestic spying using one controversial section of the “Patriot” Act. This particular part of that law is notable because it has been divisive for years, and because over that time period President Obama has quietly moved from a Senator skeptical of the provisions to an enthusiastic spy chief whose Administration embraces them.

    Last Tuesday the committee met to consider the worries of some members, mostly Democrats, who say the Justice Department has drafted a breathtakingly broad interpretation of Section 215 of the “Patriot” Act.,8599,2079666,00.html

  11. newz4all says:

    Vermont Attorney General disappointed by health care privacy ruling

    States cannot stop drug manufacturers and data-mining companies from using information about the prescription drugs individual doctors like to prescribe, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said the Vermont law violates the speech rights of the data-mining and pharmaceutical companies.

    The Vermont law prevents the sale of information about individual doctors’ prescribing records without the doctors’ permission.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      In a sane world, patient prescription data would be personal information owned by the patient, to be released only when s/he explicitly agreed to it, for a specific purpose and period of time, subject to competent physical and virtual security protections, subject to patient verification for compliance and the imposition of prompt penalties for violations, in amounts commensurate with the size of the offending organization’s sales and profits and its record of compliance or abuse. A hundred dollar fine for Joe Blow, a million dollar fine for Merck & Co.

      Truly anonymized data on a practitioner’s overall prescription practices would be the practitioner’s data, subject to similar protections, with the emphasis on credible anonymization. Much of what passes for anonymity in the US today can easily be undone, revealing underlying patient data.

      Those aren’t fantasies. With some extrapolation, those are similar to the rules that already pertain in Europe and other developed countries. In the undeveloped US, the data privacy rules are written by data vultures, not by the inhabitants on whom they prey. And here the US Sup.Ct. hands them the pen with which to write. A truly abominable position for the average citizen.

  12. lakeeffectsnow says:

    can we vote for this guy in 2012 ???

    Van Jones on the deficit: ‘We are not stupid. We can do the math.’

    “We keep hearing America – the richest country in the history of the world is broke,” Jones said. “This is a very dangerous lie, because once you believe this a whole lot of other things start to sound acceptable.”

    Jones gave an educational lesson on where American money is going: Wall Street ( $144 Billion in compensation this year, a record high ), the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the loss of revenue from the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and corporate tax loopholes.

    “Tax Wall Street fairly, wind down the wars responsibly, roll back the Bush tax cuts and close corporate loopholes,” Jones said. “We are not stupid. We can do the math.”

    Jones called now a ‘moral moment.’ “The pain point that people are experiencing is unbearable. If you drill one centimeter below where we are economically, it is freefall for tens of millions of Americans and they don’t know what to do, and no one cares.”

    “This is about a very small amount of very greedy people against the United States of America,” he says. “We say no way.”

    we’d follow this guy. where do we sign up??

  13. rosalind says:

    ot: via LATimes – “Auto quality slumps in 2011; imports regain edge”

    A key auto quality study found that new or redesigned 2011 models were less reliable than the previous year’s line, much of it because of new high-tech navigation systems that didn’t work properly. Domestic nameplates, which have been pushing the new technologies, were hurt the most, allowing imports to regain their lead in reliability after losing that distinction for the first time last year, according to the J.D. Power & Associates annual U.S. Initial Quality Study.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, I can only speak as to GM, but I warned of this in relation to the sidlining, then cutting bait with, Bob Lutz. This, in fact was what that whole deal and process was all about. Say what you will about Lutz overall as a person, but when it comes to making cars, there is not, and may never have been, anybody, on the whole spectrum of the auto manufacturing gig, better. I fully admit to being an unrepentant Lutz fanboy. And I think there is very good basis and foundation for just that.

  14. allan says:

    Michael Chertoff is a Big Wheel in `Big Data’:

    LL: Where should the “smart money” be investing when it comes to “Big Data” technology?

    MC: I don’t think there will be just one technology. When you analyze how companies should tackle “Big Data” there are a lot of different solutions for different parts of the problem in how all this information should be managed and monitored…

    Another set of solutions is monitoring the traffic and seeing where the flow is, detecting anomalies, integrating that data with signature data and based on that information, determine if you have any threats going on.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The many billions made by analyzing such data flows – largely unbeknownst to the subjects of that data – is a gold mine, but it’s found money, not dug out and refined. It is a principal reason the US has and will fight tooth and nail NOT to adopt EU-style data protection and data privacy rules. Those generally identify the data subject as the owner of the data. Everyone else uses it by his or her leave, only for a specific, disclosed purpose and length of time, and subject requirements for its physical and virtual security, for its verification and correction.

      The last item, in particular, would make US banks and credit reporting agencies cringe in fear over their Cuban cigars and XXX cognacs, given the inaccuracies and leaks in their systems, their propensity to sell the data to the first willing buyer for any purpose, and their explicit drive to use and process the data for any purpose they can imagine.

      In effect, by deeming no one an “owner” of the data, the Supremes and Congress deem the first person to grab and commercialize it the owner – to the absolute detriment of those about whom the information pertains. It isn’t law the Supremes are reciting, it is the law of the jungle.

  15. fatster says:

    [UK] Intelligence officers could face court for “aiding and abetting torture” despite new guidelines
    Intelligence officers could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting torture overseas because new guidelines are not clear enough, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has cl


  16. fatster says:

    Gen. David H. Petraeus suggests interrogation policy for emergencies
    The would-be CIA director tells the Senate Intelligence Committee that the U.S. should consider a policy for using special interrogation techniques when information is needed right away to save lives. John McCain, a fellow opponent of recent ‘enhanced’ methods, agrees


  17. newz4all says:

    The US Senate Intelligence Committee is reviewing whether the CIA and the Bush White House may have tried to smear Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes a popular blog on Middle Eastern issues.

    “Depending on what we find, we may take further action,” US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who heads the committee, said in a statement.

    A U-M senior official said in a statement that “the university will be closely watching developments in this case” and has a commitment to the “principle of academic freedom.”

    “Professor Cole is a renowned Middle East scholar and popular teacher,” Phil Hanlon, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs said last week. “He is a longtime valued member of the university community.”

  18. newz4all says:

    A selection of Professor Juan Cole’s contributions to Salon in 2005 and 2006 deemed concerning enough for the Bush establishment to invite CIA surveillance.

    Evidently, with a voice as influential as Professor Cole’s, calling the focal point of an administration’s foreign policy “a colossal misadventure” makes waves; the White House and the CIA may not have taken heed of his writing, but – if recent reports are to be believed – it certainly caught their attention.

  19. lakeeffectsnow says:

    Mind your step if you are out hiking in the woods in West Michigan this weekend

    Deep in the woods of the Manistee National Forest, three men dressed in camouflage were setting up camp Friday, preparing for a weekend of survival exercises, first-aid instruction — and gun training.

    They were expecting 20 or so more of their colleagues with the West Michigan Volunteer Militia to join them for their monthly training session in the forest.

  20. decora says:

    the report also talks about the house intelligence committee investigating NSA in 2001.

    one of the people on that committee was IIRC Diane Roark, the same from Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article who was raided by armed FBI agents in 2007, and was basically slandered in Obama’s DOJ Indictment of Drake (which said she got sensitive info from him after she left congress)

    somehow i feel like this is deeper than any of us realize right now.

    the complainants that generated that IG report were supposed to be anonymous. How, then, did Bush’s DOJ track them down? The only reason it went after Drake, from the public knowledge that I have read of the case, is that they were looking for Tamm, but instead stumbled on the Baltimore Sun Gorman articles from 06 …

    how did they work their way from 2006 Baltimore Sun articles back to a Congressional staffer who was involved in the thing circa 2001? and to her anonymous associates who were part of an IG complaint?

  21. radiofreewill says:

    Speculation: Would the Neocons do it?

    – GOP Impeaches Obama over Libya

    – GOP forces Default on the Debt

    – Obama orders Treasury to continue Selling Bonds

    – “Betting on the Default” CDS short-sellers sue Obama

    – Bought and Paid For Senate tries Obama on Libya and Treasury Bond order

    – Red States secede from Union based on Bankrupt Federal Gov’t and Disgraced Executive

    Could it happen?

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I think Mr. Obama’s career path demonstrates that it is a fair reading. Like Clinton, he never practiced; he always intended the law as a pathway to political office. Except when making vacuous electoral promises, he dismisses the law’s potential as a curb on excessive power and uses it to maximize the power of those who already have it.

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