from the criminalizing-government-accountability dept
Because our government enjoys punishing people far more than it enjoys accountability, the DOJ is prosecuting another whistleblower. A former language analyst for the Air Force and NSA has been charged with espionage for leaking documents detailing the government’s drone assassination program to The Intercept.
31-year-old David Hale is the whistleblower at the center of the DOJ’s latest prosecution. This now puts the Trump Administration at the top of the list for most journalist sources prosecuted for espionage, according to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
President Trump’s Justice Department has arrested and charged former intelligence analyst Daniel Everette Hale for allegedly sharing classified national security information with a reporter. Hale is at least the sixth alleged journalistic source charged by the Trump administration in just over two years in office. The Justice Department has previously indicated dozens more leak investigations are ongoing.
The documents Hale allegedly handed to The Intercept provided the basis for the site’s multi-part “Drone Papers” report. The Drone Papers exposed the breadth of the United States’ program for extrajudicial, extraterritorial killings. This included operations in Yemen and Somalia where targeted killings were carried out despite lengthy gaps in intelligence and surveillance. The papers also showed the military referred to collateral damage from drone strikes as “enemies killed in action” without verifying whether or not everyone killed was actually a combatant.
Hale is unusual among prosecuted whistleblowers in that his investigation rolled out in a more public fashion than most. Hale was featured in the drone warfare documentary “National Bird,” in which he discussed his reluctant participation in intelligence gathering that enabled drone strikes, as well as the risk he was taking talking about his intelligence work with the documentary crew.
Hale wasn’t being overly dramatic. His home was raided by the FBI during the documentary’s filming in 2014. According to the indictment [PDF], Hale’s printing and removal of top secret documents began in early 2013 — just a couple of months before the first Snowden leak. The indictment’s timeline appears to be correct. In “Citizenfour,” the documentary about Snowden’s first meetings with Glenn Greenwald, Greenwald discusses another leak source that is most likely Hale.
At the end of the documentary “Citizenfour,” Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald tells NSA leaker Edward Snowden the Intercept has a new source of confidential information on the U.S. drone program.
“That’s really dangerous on the source’s side,” Snowden said, looking at some of the revelations. “That person is incredibly bold . . . Do they know how to take care of themselves?”
Greenwald reassures him “they’re very careful.”
Not careful enough, apparently. The indictment makes mention of encrypted communications and the possible use of Tor, but it does not seem to have prevented the government from accessing texts and chat messages sent from Hale to others about the leaked documents.
Hale is facing a total of five espionage-related charges, according to the indictment. What’s somewhat surprising and/or depressing is how long this indictment took to arrive. The FBI’s raid happened nearly five years ago (August 2014), but the indictment wasn’t filed until March of this year. That’s almost five years Hale was in limbo, waiting for the DOJ’s next move.
What Hale exposed was a program that allowed the US to rain death on people around the world based only on gathered intelligence, rather than courtroom prosecutions. The US government has developed a taste for drone killings, which have only continued to escalate with each administration since their introduction during George W. Bush’s presidency.
What we saw was information the government never wanted us to have. It wanted to keep these facts secret — partly for national security reasons, but mainly because it knew the public would not wholeheartedly support point-and-click killings of people halfway around the world. Hale isn’t a criminal. He’s a whistleblower. But the government only likes whistleblowers it can keep from taking their problems outside its closed loop. Everyone else is just prosecution-bait.