News in Brief: National Security Agency Whistleblower Thomas Drake Reaches Plea Deal, and More …

National Security Agency Whistleblower Thomas Drake Reaches Plea Deal

Thomas Drake has reached a plea deal that will put an end to his highly criticized and public prosecution for leaking information about waste and mismanagement at the National Security Agency (NSA) to the Baltimore Sun. Drake was a high-level analyst and his leak led to an investigation that also showed the agency's failure to maintain its large records of domestic spy data, reported Democracy Now!. He had originally faced 35 years in prison, not for espionage, but for leaking classified documents in his basement – he has instead agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a computer.

The Oscar-nominated director of a film about the Pentagon Papers leak during Vietnam, Judith Ehrlich, has called President Obama the worst president for whistleblowers, due to his attacks on Bradley Manning and Drake, reported The Guardian UK.

Libyan War Costs Soar as Gates Criticizes NATO

The cost of the war in Libya has soared; it is now 50 percent more than originally projected. In a Pentagon memo obtained by the Financial Times, the real cost of the war was put at hundreds of millions more than was publicly stated in March, which put the cost at $40 million a month, reported the Digital Journal. This investigation is revealed as The New York Times reported that the nations intervening in Libya have pledged $1 billion in support for the Libyan rebels fighting Qaddafi.

Meanwhile, Robert Gates, US defense secretary, said that the United States' military alliance with Europe faces a “dim, if not dismal” future. During his final policy speech at the Pentagon, Gates said NATO's penny-pinching and weak political will could damage the alliance, reported Yahoo! News. Gates' frustration with the bureaucracy and the restrictions that European countries place on NATO's military participation in the Afghanistan war has been a sore point for years.

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Report: Raising the Minimum Wage by 50 Cents Could Create 50,000 Jobs

A new report by the Center for American Progress calculates that raising the minimum wage by 50 cents on the hour could create 50,000 jobs by encouraging spending, investment and economic growth. The difference this wage change could make in the lives of American workers who earn minimum wage, especially women who are 60 percent of minimum wage earners, could be significant, says Helen Neuborne, director of the Quality Employment Unit of the Ford Foundation.

Crisis Continues in Syria as Refugees Flee to Turkey

Syrian refugees in Turkey have fled fighting on the border near Turkey and Syria as the battles between protesters and government forces continue to escalate. Several thousands refugees have crossed the border into Turkey before an expected full-scale assault on the town of Jisr al-Shughour. Abu Majid, a Syrian refugee interviewed by The Guardian UK, says he is convinced that despite the continued fighting, the four-decade rule of President Bashar al-Assad is crumbling.

Mexican Caravan Against the Drug War Nears Its Final Stop

The peace caravan led by poet Javier Sicilia and other victims of the Mexican drug war is nearing its final stop in the violent border town of Ciudad Juarez. The caravan has traveled nearly the entire length of the country and made numerous stops to bring attention to personal tragedies in the 40,000 killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his war on drugs in 2006. Sicilia's son was killed in March – his body was found in an abandoned car with six others, and the public pressure around his case led to the capture of a drug trafficker who allegedly ordered the killings. This type of justice is rare in Mexico's drug war. The protesters are calling for the government to tackle the poverty that helps gangs recruit and grow instead of its militarized strategy for targeting the violence.