Former ISOO Director Seeks to Challenge Secrecy of Drake Document

07.29.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Although the indictment of Thomas Drake on charges of mishandling classified information has been dismissed, the case continues to generate significant new ripples.

Today, the Drake defense team filed a motion (pdf) to remove the court-imposed restrictions on one of the documents that Mr. Drake was accused of unlawfully possessing so that the purported classification of the document could be formally challenged by one of the defense’s expert witnesses — who is none other than the former head of the organization that oversees the entire classification system.

“The defense respectfully requests an Order of the Court that permits defense expert witness, J. William Leonard, the former Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), to file a formal letter of complaint to the current Director of ISOO, John P. Fitzpatrick, regarding the government’s decision to classify and its reasons for classification of the document charged in Count One of the Indictment, entitled ‘What a Success’.”

Subsequent to the April 2010 indictment of Mr. Drake, the document was declassified (but not disclosed) in July 2010.  But the defense position is that it was never properly classified.

“If this case had gone to trial, Mr. Leonard was prepared to testify that the ‘What a Success’ document did not contain classified information and never should have been classified,” the defense motion said.

Therefore, “the defense is seeking an Order of the Court allowing him to disclose the unclassified information for the purpose of filing a complaint with ISOO and to discuss the issues raised in his complaint with any investigating authorities.”

None of this can really help or hurt Mr. Drake, whose case is concluded.  But the latest defense motion could lead to the correction of an error in the classification system.  It might even help to catalyze a broader reconsideration of classification policy at the NSA and elsewhere in government.