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Federal Judge Investigates Destruction of Evidence in Whistleblower Case

Earlier this month a federal judge launched an investigation into allegations that the U.S. government may have illegally destroyed documents related to the leak investigation of whistleblower Thomas Drake.

Drake is a former senior executive with the National Security Agency. Beginning in 2010 he was the focus of an investigation for allegedly leaking documents to the media. Drake, however, believed he was being targeted for speaking out against the Trailblazer and ThinThread programs, which he said were violating the privacy of innocent people.

The veteran of military and government then decided to pursue the standard channels for filing complaints. He complained to his bosses, including the NSA Inspector General, the Defense Department Inspector General, and both the House and Senate Congressional intelligence committees. Eventually Drake would work with journalists to get the story out and in 2007 his house was raided by the FBI.

Although Drake would eventually be cleared of all 10 original charges and charged with a single misdemeanor, the court found that Drake was not being targeted by the government. However, In early June 2015, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher launched an investigation into claims made by Drake’s lawyers. His defense says that the Pentagon inspector general’s office destroyed evidence during the criminal prosecution.

McClatchy first reported:

“In a May 13 letter, Gallagher told Justice Department lawyers that the judge who had presided over the case asked her to evaluate the allegations from Drake’s lawyers “for further investigation and to make recommendations
as to whether any action by the court is warranted or appropriate.”

The allegations raise new questions about a prosecution that had been excoriated by the presiding judge after the Justice Department’s case against Drake unraveled and resulted in the former senior NSA official pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.”

Despite rejecting Drake’s claims of retaliation by the government, the inspector general’s office only looked at two of the 10 years of alleged retaliation.

Jesselyn Radack, national security director with the Government Accountability Project and Drake’s current lawyer, told McClatchy her client is “grateful that the court sees this as serious enough to look into. The fact that there is a court-ordered investigation is a partial vindication.”

The Justice Department claims that documents that were destroyed were done so “pursuant to a standard document destruction policy.”

Radack wrote to the judge regarding the alleged document destruction policy, stating, “I investigated the destruction of documents and learned that the (the Pentagon inspector general’s office) does not have a document destruction policy. Rather, (the inspector general’s office) has a Records Management Program, which dictated that the documents should have been retained.”