A former high-ranking National Security Agency (NSA) official allegedly leaked information about secret government documents using the Hushmail encrypted e-mail service.
Thomas Drake, who worked for the NSA as a contractor, and later as employee, between 1991 and 2008, has been charged in a Maryland court with retaining classified information, obstruction of justice, and making false statements.
The journalist published a series of articles about the NSA that contained signals intelligence information, which is the interception and analysis of foreign communications.
Drake allegedly accessed classified documents on NSA networks to copy and paste information into word processing files to remove classification markings.
These documents were then printed, scanned and e-mailed to the reporter using "a secret, non-government e-mail account to transmit classified and unclassified information that he was not authorised to possess or disclose," said assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer in a statement.
The maximum penalties for the charges are ten years in prison for retention of classified documents, 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice, and five years in prison for making false statements. Each of the ten charged counts carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
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