The wires are reporting that former senior NSA executive Thomas Drake has been indicted for leaking classified material to a reporter at a national paper. The paper and reporter are unnamed, but we get a date range for the articles published using Drake’s information: late February 2006 through November 2007. I can’t help but notice that this lines up pretty neatly with the formidable Siobhan Gorman’s tenure at the Baltimore Sun. On February 26, 2006, the Sun published Gorman’s story “Computer Ills Hinder NSA,” including this:
A former NSA employee put it more bluntly, as he explained why he was speaking to a reporter for the first time, though on the condition of anonymity: “What I am fearful of is: Because of all this, we will have a 9/11 Part II.” […] Reporting for this article was based on interviews with 10 former NSA officials and intelligence experts. Most were granted anonymity because elements of these programs are classified, and those who work for the agency or its contractors risk losing their security credentials.
If the quoted source there is Drake, “former” may be somewhat misleading: According to the indictment, Drake had taken a teaching gig at the National Defense University a few months before this story appeared, but formally remained an NSA employee, with access to NSA information, for years afterward. Before moving to NDU, Drake had been a technical leader in NSA’s Directorate of Engineering, whose “duties and responsibilities focused primarily on process improvement and improving efficiency within NSA, not actual signals intelligence work.” So he’d be ideally situated to talk about the subject of the Gorman article, which concerns problems with in-house software systems geared precisely toward “process improvement and improving efficiency.”
So a new source at NSA speaking to a reporter for an article published at the end of February 2006 is a match. The other bookend is November 2007, when Gorman wrote “Targeting Internet terror,” building on an earlier Sun exclusive about a classified NSA cyber-security initiative. Shortly thereafter, Gorman moved to the Wall Street Journal—where she continues to do absolutely groundbreaking national security reporting. I note that in both cases, the stories involve classified information about NSA activities, but not sensitive and compartmentalized interception programs, which Drake would have been unlikely to have access to. The stories that match the indictment timeline, in other words, are also stories on which Drake makes sense as a source. No doubt we’ll find out for certain soon enough.
Update: I see that Scott Shane at the New York Times came to the same conclusion I did; his article pretty much takes for granted that the articles referenced are from Gorman’s stint at the Sun.