NSA case unlikely to deter Obama's take on leakers

June 11, 2011 - 10:45 AM
Classified Leak Trial

Former senior executive with the National Security Agency Thomas Drake leaves the US Courthouse in Baltimore on Friday, June 10, 2011 with one of his attorneys, Jesslyn Radack, director of National Security and Human Rights with the Government Accountablity Project. A federal judge dismissed Espionage Act charges against Drake, accused of leaking classified documents. Drake pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and the government dropped 10 felony counts against him. (AP Photo/Timothy Jacobsen)

WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, criminal defendants as different as Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North and terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui have tried to insert government secrets into their defense.

The hope is that prosecutors will pass up a trial — or at least drop some charges — rather than expose sensitive information in court.

This defense strategy worked perfectly in the leak case against a former National Security Agency official, Thomas Drake.

He pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Baltimore to a single misdemeanor. Drake's deal with prosecutors ended the government case accusing him of passing classified material to a Baltimore Sun reporter.

Civil libertarians doubt the setback for prosecutors will halt the Obama administration's vigorous legal attack on leakers. The Justice Department shows no sign of backing off other pending leak cases.