WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government’s decision to charge former government contractor Edward Snowden with espionage marks the seventh time the Obama administration had attempted to punish those believed responsible for leaking classified information.
The following is a list of the seven cases and details surrounding them.
Snowden, 30, is a former technical employee for Booz Allen Hamilton who was contracted to work for the National Security Agency.
In news media interviews, he has revealed that he was responsible for disclosing documents that showed that the top-secret National Security Agency has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.
Snowden said the government had worked through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gather so-called metadata - such as the time, duration and telephone numbers called - on all calls carried by service providers such as Verizon.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department that was dated June 14 but came to light on Friday, Snowden was accused of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person.
The latter two offenses fall under the U.S. Espionage Act and carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and fines.
Shamai Leibowitz was an FBI translator in 2009 when material that he heard while translating ended up on a blog. He reached an agreement with prosecutors before he was charged, and pleaded guilty in 2009 to one count of disclosing classified information. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Former NSA official Thomas Drake was suspected in 2010 of revealing information about the agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. He was indicted under the Espionage Act but said the only information he leaked was about waste in a NSA program, which he gave to the Baltimore Sun newspaper. The 10 felony counts were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and he received no prison time.
Bradley Manning, an Army private first class, is on trial in a Maryland military court, accused of passing more than 700,000 classified files to WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of secret documents in U.S. history. Manning, who pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges in February, faces 21 additional counts including aiding the enemy and could get life in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to last through the summer.
Stephen Kim, a U.S. State Department contract analyst, divulged to a Fox News reporter information on U.S. intelligence’s assessment of how North Korea would respond to new sanctions. A grand jury indicted him in 2010 for disclosing defense information and making false statements, based in part on Fox News records the government seized without notice. He has pleaded not guilty and a trial date is possible in late 2013 or early 2014.
Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was charged in 2011 with illegally disclosing classified information about Iran to James Risen, a New York Times reporter, for his book “State of War.” The case is pending, as the government has tried unsuccessfully to force Risen to testify about his sources.
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged in 2012 with divulging to journalists secret information about the CIA’s interrogation program, including the identity of a covert officer. In an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He started serving the sentence in February.
Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Simao