Obama and leakers: Who are the eight charged under the Espionage Act?

Obama has prosecuted more people under the 100-year-old act than any other president

Edward Snowden
Human Rights Watch/Handout/REUTERS

President Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge of expanded government transparency, yet his administration has charged more Americans with violating the Espionage Act by leaking classified information than all previous administrations combined.

Eight Americans have faced charges since 2008 under the nearly 100-year-old act.

"Leaks related to national security can put people at risk," Obama said earlier this year. "I make no apologies and I don't think the American people will expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or get them killed."

Here's a look at the people charged during Obama's administration with leaking information under the Espionage Act:

Thomas Drake
Allison Shelley/Getty Images


A former senior National Security Agency official, Drake was indicted in April 2010 for allegedly retaining classified information about the NSA's program of wiretapping without warrants. The FBI investigated him as the supposed source for a December 2005 New York Times story that revealed the program. The 10 felony counts against him were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling government information. 

Shamai Leibowitz
Peter Dejong/AP


A former FBI contract Hebrew-English translator, Leibowitz was charged for "knowingly and willfully disclosing to an unauthorized person five FBI documents classified at the 'secret' level that contained classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States." Leibowitz argues on his blog that he discovered the FBI "was committing illegal acts, which caused me to reveal these acts to a journalist/blogger." He was sentenced in May 2010 to 20 months in prison by a U.S. district court judge who said he didn't know what kind of information Leibowitz had actually disclosed. 

Stephen Jin-Woo Kim
Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust


A former State Department contractor, Kim was charged in August 2010 with "illegally disclosing national defense information to someone in the media," eventually identified as Fox News reporter James Rosen. The information concerned North Korea's nuclear program. Kim is awaiting trial, which is not expected to occur before 2014. 

Chelsea Manning
Mark Wilson/Getty Images


Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was charged in July 2010 with multiple violations of the Espionage Act, including disclosing U.S. government information to WikiLeaks. A military judge in July found Manning not guilty of "aiding the enemy," the most serious charge, but convicted her of other charges under the Espionage Act including stealing government property. 


A former CIA employee, Sterling allegedly disclosed information about Iran's nuclear program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Speaking to a journalism class in June this year, Sterling maintained his innocence and claimed he was never the source of information for the Times report. His trial is on hold while courts deliberate whether Risen can be forced to testify in the case. Sterling faces six charges under the Espionage Act that carry a maximum of 10 years each in prison. Four other charges include penalties of a possible 20-year sentence and fines up to $250,000.

John Kiriakou
Jacquelyn Martin/AP


The former CIA officer was sentenced in January to 30 months in prison for sharing with a freelance writer the name of an undercover CIA agent who was working at the time in the CIA’s interrogation program. Kiriakou says he believed the CIA agent had retired. 


A former Navy linguist contractor, Hitselberger was charged with retaining classified information and shipping it back to Stanford University, which maintains a collection there in his name. One report said the classified documents contained "sensitive information about troop positions, gaps in U.S. intelligence and commanders' travel plans." He is being detained without bail. The court overseeing his case recently allowed him to visit the Library of Congress "to conduct research in aid of his defense, and for no other purpose." His trial date has not been set. 

Edward Snowden
The Guardian / Reuters


The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor disclosed the existence of U.S. government surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, and possibly more if additional charges are made. Snowden revealed his identity in June shortly after the publication of the newspaper articles. 

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