US Whistleblower Daniel Hale Gets Nearly Four Years in Prison for Leaking Classified Drone Intel
19:17 GMT 27.07.2021 (Updated: 19:18 GMT 27.07.2021)
Days ahead of his sentencing, the former US Air Force analyst issued an 11-page handwritten letter addressed to US District Judge Liam O’Grady that outlined how the effects of his military service prompted him to leak classified intelligence regarding the US’ drone warfare program. At the time, he was facing nine years in prison.
American whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to nearly four years behind bars on Tuesday for his decision to disclose top secret information about the US’ lethal drone program to a journalist.
In the Tuesday ruling, US District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Hale to approximately 45 months in prison, noting the lengthy sentence was rooted in a so-called “need” to deter others working within the US government from wanting to take similar measures and leak classified intelligence.
O’Grady also underscored that Hale had other options at his disposal aside from simply handing over documents to a member of the media.
The sentencing, which was laid out at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, will also include Hale’s time served during trial; however, it will be followed with three years of supervised release.
US prosecutors had been arguing that Hale’s leak caused “exceptionally grave damage” to the national security, and as such, merited at least a nine-year prison sentence, an amount of time that would have marked the longest punishment yet in a case involving the leak of government information.
Officials had claimed that Hale’s disclosure had allegedly wound up in an online file that reportedly outlined how Daesh militants could avoid detection from US drones at the height of escalations.
While stationed in Afghanistan, Hale worked in tracking down drone targets, specifically by locating cell phone signals from individuals who were believed to be enemy combatants. However, in many cases, drone strikes caused the deaths of innocent civilians.
In an 11-page letter to O’Grady ahead of the Tuesday sentencing, Hale acknowledged his move to leak intelligence was ill-advised, but that it was a necessary move as he could not in good conscience keep quiet on the devastation created by the lethal program.
“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,” Hale wrote. “Nevertheless, in spite of my better instincts, I continued to follow orders and obey my command for fear of repercussions.”
He later detailed that his feelings of guilt were what eventually forced him to reach out to the Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill to detail how the drone warfare program racked up civilian casualties in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Hale later went on to anonymously write a chapter for the book, “The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.”
Hale eventually pleaded guilty in early April to one count of violating the 1917 Espionage Act as part of a plea deal that saw him initially facing up to 10 years behind bars. At the time, the whistleblower indicated that a trial was not an option for him as it would not be “fair.”
© AP Photo / Armando FrancaFormer U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden addresses attendees through video link at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Snowden has been living in Russia to escape U.S. prosecution after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs
Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden addresses attendees through video link at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Snowden has been living in Russia to escape U.S. prosecution after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs
© AP Photo / Armando Franca
Addressing the development, fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden stated via Twitter that the only crime Hale committed was "telling the truth," adding that the former analyst should be handed a "medal" instead of a prison sentence.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 27, 2021
Supporters of Hale have since launched a petition to call on US President Joe Biden to pardon the Tennessee native for his offense. The effort by the Code Pink grassroots group has so far accrued nearly 6,500 signatures.