MacBride is also leading the prosecution of Megaupload, which was one of the Web’s most popular file-sharing sites. It was shut down by federal authorities in January on charges that it engaged in a different kind of piracy — illegally sharing movies, television shows and e-books.
Megaupload is based in Hong Kong, and several of the defendants live in New Zealand, including owner Kim Dotcom. But MacBride said he was able to indict one of the department’s largest criminal copyright cases because the company leased server space from an Internet service provider in Northern Virginia.
Proximity to the CIA means high-profile cases involving leaks of classified information to reporters are also prosecuted by MacBride. He charged former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling under the Espionage Act for revealing government secrets to a New York Times reporter. In a separate case, Kiriakou pleaded guilty in October to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by telling an ABC News reporter the name of a covert CIA officer involved in the interrogation of detainees abroad.
Federal prosecutors working for MacBride are also handling a critical aspect of the biggest leak case in U.S. history. The investigation is focused on whether the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, violated U.S. laws in posting hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic cables on the group’s Web site and sharing them with mainstream news organizations.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is charged with leaking the documents and he faces a military trial. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since June, but if he is ever charged in this country, it would happen in Alexandria.
Another factor that draws cases to Alexandria’s courthouse is that trials move fast there. The court is known as the “rocket docket” because its judges follow procedural rules that move cases through much more quickly than other courts, said MacBride, who clerked in the district as a young lawyer.
Some of the highest-profile cases of homegrown extremists have landed on the rocket docket. A Virginia man, Amine El-Khalifi, was sentenced in September to 30 years for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing on the U.S. Capitol; Yonathan Melaku, a former Marine Corps reservist, admitted to shooting at the Pentagon two years ago; and Farooque Ahmed, a Pakistani-born Virginian. admitted plotting to blow up Metro stations.
After the sentencing of Gen. Santoyo, his defense lawyers walked out to a phalanx of television cameras and Spanish-speaking reporters who were eager to hear the fate of a man who was once one of Colombia’s highest-ranking law enforcement officials.
“Criminals today aren’t confined by borders, and neither are we,” MacBride said. “A criminal organization is as much a threat to us from across the ocean as it is across the street. That’s why we made the strategic decision to go after networks and their leadership wherever they are found.”