Whistleblower Daniel Hale Sentenced To 45 Months In Prison For Exposing The Horrors Of US Drone Strike Programs
from the Espionage-Act-just-means-every-good-deed-gets-punished dept
A Tennessee man was sentenced today to 45 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for illegally obtaining classified national defense information and disclosing it to a reporter.
So begins the very dry press release from the Department of Justice. What this is, though, is another successful prosecution of a whistleblower. The “Tennessee man” is Daniel Hale, the whistleblower who exposed the breadth and reach of the United States’ extrajudicial killing programs.
Hale’s leaks followed shortly after Snowden’s string of NSA bombshells. The intel gathered by the NSA’s many programs formed the backbone for the drone strike programs Hale exposed: the “metadata” our government uses to “kill people.”
Hale’s house was raided by the FBI back in 2014, shortly after he was interviewed for the drone warfare documentary “National Bird.” During his interview, Hale remarked on the risk he was taking discussing the program. Documents leaked to The Intercept by Hale resulted in the multi-part “Drone Papers” feature. The documents exposed the lengthy intel gaps that occurred between target acquisition and drone strikes. It also showed the Defense Department and CIA referred to collateral damage (i.e., the killing of nearby civilians) as “combatants killed in action,” with minimal attempt made to tally up the number of people killed simply for existing near the government’s targets.
The prosecution didn’t begin until 2019, leaving Hale in suspended animation for nearly a half-decade. This prosecution under Trump pushed him past Obama for most whistleblowers prosecuted — just another lousy addition to a lousy president’s legacy.
This is the sort of thing Hale exposed and is now being imprisoned for sharing with journalists and US citizens expected to support these activities with their tax dollars.
Daniel knew cell phones could have been passed from presumed terrorists to other people entirely, and innocent people and those around innocent people would then be killed instead.
There was further evidence that when military-age males were murdered in a strike, they were classified as militants, an accounting trick that lowers civilian-death counts, and there was an account of a five-month period in Afghanistan in which U.S. forces hit 19 people who were targets of strikes and 136 who were not the targets. There were admissions that the intelligence on which strikes were based was often bad and that strikes made it difficult to get good information because the people who might have provided that information had just been killed by the strike.
Hale pled guilty to “retention and transmission of national defense information.” This is a charge under the Espionage Act. His plea followed the judge’s declaration that the court would not allow Hale to offer any public interest defense for his actions — something that’s almost always the case in espionage prosecutions. But Hale didn’t hand this information to our nation’s enemies. He handed it to journalists who published reports based on the documents. This wasn’t an attempt to harm our nation. It was an attempt to inform Americans about the atrocities carried out in the name of national security.
For this act of courage, Hale will serve nearly four years in prison. And the war machine will roll on, not even momentarily interrupted by the publication of this supposedly sensitive information.