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Whistleblower Facing 9 Years in Prison Says Guilt Over Drone Strikes Forced Leak of Classified Intel

© Flickr / Stephen MelkisethianA protest against drone strikes
A protest against drone strikes  - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.07.2021
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The former US Air Force analyst pleaded guilty to espionage charges in April, and is presently facing nine years behind bars for leaking classified information about the US’ controversial drone program. He is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday.
Whistleblower Daniel Hale recently revealed that it was his own gnawing guilty conscience that prompted him to disclose classified information about the US’ lethal drone operations to a journalist.
In an 11-page handwritten letter to US District Judge Liam O’Grady, Hale outlines the effects his military service had on him while also detailing the events that eventually led him to reach out to a trusted reporter and leak classified intelligence.
“It is more accurate to say that [military service] irreversibly transformed my identity as an American. Having forever altered the thread of my life’s story, weaved into the fabric of our nation’s history,” Hale writes before going on to detail his deployment in 2012 to Afghanistan.
“Notwithstanding, in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, I was a part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11. Nevertheless, in spite of my better instincts, I continued to follow orders and obey my command for fear of repercussion.”
“Yet, all the while, becoming increasingly aware that the war had very little to do with preventing terror from coming into the United States and a lot more to do with protecting the profits of weapons manufacturers and so-called defense contractors. The evidence of this fact was laid bare all around me,” he continued, recalling how “contract mercenaries outnumbered uniform-wearing soldiers 2-to-1 and earned as much as 10 times their salary”.
© Screenshot/Democracy NowScreenshot captures image of whistleblower Daniel Hale, who is facing at least nine years in prison for disclosing classified documents about the US drone program.
Screenshot captures image of whistleblower Daniel Hale, who is facing at least nine years in prison for disclosing classified documents about the US drone program. - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
Screenshot captures image of whistleblower Daniel Hale, who is facing at least nine years in prison for disclosing classified documents about the US drone program.
Although Hale eventually parted ways with the US Air Force and the drone program he was initially assigned to, and even became an outspoken critic of the drone strikes, he wound up right back in a defense position as a contractor assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
As his old feelings of guilt remained a constant companion, they soon forced him to join the growing numbers of American whistleblowers after he found himself invited to watch “archived footage of past drone strikes” with his new co-workers.
“Such bonding ceremonies around a computer to watch so-called ‘war porn’ had not been new to me. I partook in them all the time while deployed to Afghanistan. But on that day, years after the fact, my new friends gaped and sneered, just as my old ones had, at the sight of faceless men in the final moments of their lives,” he recalled. “I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.” 
“Left to decide whether to act, I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person,” he explained. 
“So, I contacted an investigative reporter, with whom I had had an established prior relationship, and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.”
The documents that Hale went on to leak highlighted that the American drone program was not as precise as the US government had claimed, especially in regards to avoiding civilian deaths, a fact he highlighted in the letter.
Hale pleaded guilty in early April to one count of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. At the time, Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower who also happens to be Hale’s lawyer, relayed to the media that Hale agreed to plead guilty as he “would not have received a fair trial because the arcane Espionage Act does not allow for a public interest defense".
Hale’s sentencing is expected to take place at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on July 27. US prosecutors have pushed for Hale to be sentenced for at least nine years.
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