Before there was Edward Snowden, there was Thomas Drake.
Drake is a former senior executive with the National Security Agency who was indicted on 10 felony charges in 2010 for allegedly leaking classified information about troubles within the agency to a Baltimore newspaper.
He later reached a deal with federal prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of an agency computer and was sentenced to community service.
Drake since has traveled the nation talking about government surveillance efforts and his contention that they violate the U.S. Constitution and the fundamental rights of all Americans.
He has brought his crusade to Tacoma, where he will speak Saturday night at the Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave. The presentation also will include remarks from attorney Jesselyn Radack and will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Radack most recently served as Snowden’s legal adviser in Russia, where he is in exile after revealing the extent of the government’s surveillance of American citizens’ phone calls and other activities.
Admission is free, and the presentation will be live-streamed into an overflow room if the main hall fills up.
The event is sponsored by People for Peace Justice & Healing, the ACLU of Washington, United for Peace of Pierce County, and local chapters of Veterans for Peace and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Drake told The News Tribune on Friday that the presentation is part of an ongoing conversation that has begun about government surveillance and how much the American people are willing to pay in pursuit of security.
“People are beginning to ask a lot of hard questions,” Drake said. “How much more money do we spend? How many more freedoms do we give up?”
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, many people at the highest levels of government have used fear of future terrorist attacks to expand domestic spying and erode “the fundamental principles” on which the nation was founded, Drake said. And they’ve done so in secrecy, he added.
Drake said it doesn’t have to be this way. Americans are intelligent and creative enough to devise surveillance techniques that gather information about its enemies without sacrificing its citizens’ rights.
Unfettered government access to the data of its citizens’ daily lives is not the answer, he contended.
“In doing so, we lose the essence of what it means to be American,” Drake said. “Is it really worth it?”