They Got the Wrong Leaker

For years, we agitated for intelligence officials who leaked classified information to the New York Times and the Washington Post, sometimes in ways that unquestionably damaged our national security, to be criminally prosecuted. Today it was announced that federal authorities have finally charged a former NSA official with a series of felonies:

A former senior executive with the National Security Agency has been indicted on 10 felony charges related to the alleged leaking of classified information to a newspaper reporter in 2006 and 2007, the Justice Department announced Thursday morning. …
The indictment alleges that [Thomas A.] Drake exchanged hundreds of e-mails with the reporter and served as a source for articles about Bush administration intelligence policies and agency management failures between February 2006 and November 2007, U.S. officials said.

Unfortunately, Drake’s leaks don’t appear to be the ones that threatened national security. Rather, they put NSA’s bureaucracy in an unflattering light:

Gorman’s coverage of NSA often placed an unflattering focus on NSA administrators. An August 2006 story quoted intelligence officials as showing that the NSA eavesdropping facilities in Fort Meade were at risk of paralysis because of electrical overload and potential failure of the power supply.

We’re not the only ones who wonder why this should be the Justice Department’s priority:

By comparison, some federal officials have questioned privately why the New York Times’ revelation about domestic wiretapping that bypassed a special surveillance court has not led to any leak prosecutions.

In what must be one more disappointment for Obama supporters, the administration has promised to be “more aggressive” than the Bush administration about going after leakers. Even if, as it appears here, they are the wrong ones.