updated 4/15/2010 4:00:52 PM ET 2010-04-15T20:00:52

A former senior executive at the National Security Agency was charged Thursday with lying and obstruction of justice in an investigation of leaks of classified information to a newspaper.

Federal prosecutors said Thomas Drake, 52, served as a source for many articles about the NSA in an unidentified newspaper, including articles that contained classified information.

A federal indictment filed in Maryland charges that Drake used a non-government e-mail account to transmit classified and unclassified information. Authorities also charge that Drake lied to federal agents about what he'd done.

The indictment does not identify the reporter, the newspaper, or the subject matter of the stories. It says the stories were published between February 2006 and November 2007.

"Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here — violating the government's trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information — be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously," said the Justice Department's assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer.

Drake faces five counts of willfully retaining documents related to national defense. He is also charged with obstruction of justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.

The most serious charge in the 10-count indictment carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Drake exchanged hundreds of e-mails with the reporter, researched stories for the reporter by asking other NSA employees questions and accessing classified documents, and sent the reporter copies of classified and unclassified documents.

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