A former high-ranking US intelligence official who was accused of passing classified information from the secretive National Security Agency (NSA) to a reporter was sentenced Friday to a year's probation.
The sentence handed down by a US federal judge against Thomas Drake, 54, a former executive at the NSA, was for a misdemeanor charge of "exceeding authorized use of a government computer" to gain access to information from a US federal agency.
Drake had been looking at spending decades in prison after he was indicted last year under the Espionage Act on 10 counts, including retaining classified documents, obstructing an FBI investigation, and lying about whether the documents he accessed were classified.
But last month, the charges against him were dropped and he struck a plea deal under which he admitted only to the misdemeanor offense of unauthorized access to a government computer.
"In pleading guilty, Mr Drake has admitted that he accessed information on the NSA computer system for the purpose of providing that information to a person not authorized to receive it," his lawyers said in a document filed with the district court in Baltimore on Monday.
"The crime does not involve the handling or mishandling of classified information. Rather, it relates to Mr Drake's decision to communicate with a Baltimore Sun reporter about his belief that NSA was engaged in waste, fraud, and abuse," the document said.
A high-ranking employee at the NSA between 2001 and 2008, Drake was accused of providing classified information, allegedly concerning the Signals Intelligence programs, which capture and process foreign communications, to the Sun reporter, who remained unidentified.
The Sun published a series of articles between February 2006 and November 2007 about the NSA and its activities.
The government's case against Drake collapsed in part after it was found that the documents he leaked were not classified.