In the end, all charges were dropped and he just pleaded guilty of "misusing NSA computers" with a 1 year probation, but only after being bankrupted fighting an opponent with unlimited resources.
Wikipedia has a great summary of his case. Him and four others participated in a study in the early 2000s, which was eventually adopted, that pointed out extreme waste and ineptitude (corruption?) at the agency.
In the mid-2000s, Drake became convinced that NSA was violating The Constitution and the Law,
...he felt the NSA was committing serious crimes against the American people, on a level worse than what president Nixon had done in the 1970s. Drake reviewed the laws regarding disclosure of information, and decided that if he revealed unclassified information to a reporter, then the worst thing that would happen to him was probably that he would be fired.Naturally the government (the Obama Administration) came down on him, along with the other employees that had participated in the expose of waste earlier. Their homes were raided, computers, books and documents were seized. Eventually trumped-up charges were bought (but not breaching of secrecy laws).
In November, 2005, Drake contacted Siobhan Gorman, of The Baltimore Sun newspaper. Drake began communicating with Gorman, sending her emails through Hushmail and discussing various topics. He claims that he was very careful not to give her sensitive or classified information; it was one of the basic ground rules he set out at the beginning of their communication. This communication occurred circa 2006. Gorman wrote several articles about waste, fraud, and abuse at the NSA, including articles on Trailblazer [the expensive failure that he exposed earlier]
Just after a 60 Minutes television appearance, the government suddenly dropped all charges against Drake and the others. The judge in the case was not happy saying:
The presiding judge, Richard D. Bennett of the Federal District Court, issued harsh words for the government, saying that it was "unconscionable" to charge a defendant with a list of serious crimes that could have resulted in 35 years in prison only to drop all of the major charges on the eve of trial. The judge also rejected the government's request for a large fine noting that Drake had been financially devastated, losing his $154,600 job at the NSA and his pension.The moral of the story is never challenge the ineptitude and illegality of the Federal Government. You will be brought down--and brought down hard! You will be subject to raids and untrue accusations, highly paid thugs will point guns at you, and you will be financially ruined. Drake later said
"it's extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong." He adds: "speaking truth to power is now a criminal act."I say repeal the Patriot Act and end all of the warrant-less surveillance programs and end the NSA itself. You cannot trust the strong arm of the Federal Government. No agency or any program out of Washington is being managed well. Literally the entire government is so big, so unaccountable, unmanageable and essentially out of control. There is no budget pressures at all. It MUST be cut down to size.