He and his young family were stationed in England during the early 1980s, and moved to Arizona in 1985, where he flew on electronic warfare missions. His service evaluations call Drake an "outstanding airman" with "unlimited potential." He is called "mature and capable," "directly responsible for [his] unit's success," and was selected as an instructor of the year.
A fellow German linguist, who has known Drake for 20 years, said in a letter to the court that Drake was "the straightest arrow I have ever known," who's never even tried marijuana. "He follows the rules," the man wrote.
Drake earned several degrees while enlisted, including a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, Europe. He was honorably discharged in 1989. He and his family moved to the Washington area, where he worked for several consulting firms and defense contractors, primarily dealing with government NSA contracts, and the U.S. Navy Reserves.
In late 2001, Drake began working for the NSA directly as a senior executive in signals intelligence.
"Tom chose to work for the government because he felt that it was the best way he could make a positive difference," a former NSA colleague wrote in a letter to the court.
Drake held a Top Secret security clearance and worked at NSA's Fort Meade location until the summer of 2006, when he took a teaching assignment at the National Defense University. He stayed there until late November 2007, when the NSA suspended his security clearance.
According to the indictment against him, Drake had already reached out to Gorman by then, saying he was referred to her by "someone we both knew" — identified in court documents as former congressional staffer Diane Roark, who once had NSA oversight while working for the House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence.
In a court document filed this week, prosecutors claim that Drake was obsessed with Roark, who retired in 2002, and had been feeding her information since 1999. He agreed to talk to Gorman to impress Roark, they claimed.
Roark could not be reached for comment Friday, and Drake declined to discuss the government's allegations after the sentencing.
The case against him started to unravel in the week before the June 13 trial date, when prosecutors chose to withdraw certain classified exhibits. Drake pleaded guilty to the much lesser charge of unauthorized computer use on June 10.
"What he pled to is really theft," prosecutor William M. Welch II said in court, asking that Drake be forced to pay a $50,000 fine along with probation and community service.
But Judge Bennett said the financial toll has already been severe.
Bennett chastised him for exercising poor judgment and being careless, and ordered Drake to perform his community service at Fort Detrick in Frederick. He commended all attorneys, particularly the public defenders, and again voiced concerns about the duration of the case.
Afterward, Drake said he would have more to say about the ordeal in the months to come.
"I now look forward to getting my life back, so I can live free again knowing that freedom is never free," he said. "It requires eternal vigilance."