Whistleblowers

He Helped Reveal How U.S. Drone Strikes Were Killing Innocents. The Feds Just Charged Him With Espionage.

Another intelligence analyst who leaked important information to the public is treated like a traitor.

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A former Air Force intelligence officer has been arrested and charged with espionage for leaking information to the press detailing how the U.S. government uses armed drones for secret assassination missions in foreign countries.

Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, was arrested this morning. According to the Justice Department, Hale, during his time in the Air Force as an intelligence analyst, and then later as a private sector employee of a defense contractor, passed along top secret documents to a reporter, some of which were published.

The 2013-2014 timeframe during which this leaking allegedly happened suggests that Hale may have played a role in The Drone Papers, published by The Intercept. The series documented the secret use of drones to kill human targets, both in countries in which we're engaged in authorized military action (like Afghanistan) and countries where we are not (like Yemen and Somalia).

The person who leaked these documents to The Intercept revealed that the government classified anybody killed by U.S. drone strikes—even if they weren't the target—as militants, and that's how they were able to insist that civilians weren't being killed in significant numbers.

The Intercept stories were not news to the Yemenis, Somalians, and Afghanis who have been affected by U.S. drone strikes on civilians. These people already knew that they and their loved ones are not terrorists. Hale—like Edward Snowden and Reality Winner—is being accused of "espionage" for the crime of informing the American people about their government's actions.

The Drone Papers were compiled and included in a book, The Assassination Complex, by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. I reviewed the book in the December 2016 issue of Reason magazine. If Hale is the whistleblower who made that journalism possible, then this is likely him explaining the collateral damage of drone strikes in Afghanistan:

With the help of confidential documents leaked to The Intercept, the book is able to offer some hard numbers. In a yearlong operation in northeastern Afghanistan, the United States killed more than 200 people; only 35 were intended targets. The source who leaked the documents explained: "Anyone caught within the vicinity is guilty by association," but "there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate…so it's a phenomenal gamble."

Hale is charged with five separate crimes: obtaining national defense information, retention and transmission of national defense information, causing the communication of national defense information, disclosure of classified communications intelligence information, and theft of government property. The maximum penalty for each crime is 10 years, but he likely won't do a stint that long. Instead, he'll face incredible pressure to plead guilty and receive a shorter, but still likely harsh, sentence, just as Winner did.

Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, released a statement declining to comment on whether Hale was the source of information for their drone coverage. She added:

Following in the dangerous path of the Obama administration, the Trump administration is continuing to use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral, and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the U.S. government. At The Intercept, we stand firmly opposed to all such prosecutions.

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  1. …accused of “espionage” for the crime of informing the American people about their government’s actions.

    Seems more like a breach of contract.

  2. “Anyone caught within the vicinity is guilty by association,” but “there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate…so it’s a phenomenal gamble.”

    How is this a gamble? What’s the US government wagering against some random foreigner’s life? If a single person involved in killing dozens of innocent persons lost even 5 minutes sleep over it, they’d be right there at The Intercept passing classified documents, but they’re not so they didn’t.

    1. Don’t want to get droned like a thug? Then don’t “mind you own business within 50 yards of a thug” like a thug.

  3. Its a federal crime to mishandle classified information. There are consequences for your actions.

    With that being said, jury nullification is an excellent way to acquit this guy for releasing information that W Bush and Obama were murdering innocent civilians.

    1. The constitution does not grant Congress the power to (a) make information “secret” or “classified” or (b) criminalize the transmission of information which reveals federal officials murdering others.

      Remember, if the power is not specifically, unambiguously granted, it is unconstitutional. It can’t be implied.

      1. Do you want FBI case files, IRS records, and other information to be public record?

        1. Yes, excluding actual personal tax returns (all other IRS records should be public). In my opinion, the vast majority of it would reflect more poorly on the agencies in question than on whatever poor sod is the focus of the agency.

      2. The government has some big leeway under all the National Defense clauses of Section 8.

        Article I, Section 8:
        […]
        To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
        To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
        [….]

  4. That reminds me, if I sleep late on Sunday, I will accidentally miss my flight out of Israel, and the Tel Aviv Consulate won’t open until Monday. Meh … I only whistle blew about some county level authorities. The odds of me getting hit by a drown strike this month are lower than the odds Hamas injuring me this month. Mostly, I am worried about my mom pulling something that prevents me from enjoying the Eurovision show.

  5. The law is law, and once a law is broken the perpetuator should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. The law is the law, people.

    If you want to read more please visit my blog, http://www.libertariansforenforcementoflaws.com

    1. Enforce me to flaws, you say?

  6. Should be an interesting case.
    Does an service member, regardless if he is an officer, NCO or enlisted have the right to pass on secret documents, even to American journalists?
    Is it treason, or is it whistle blowing?
    Where does his actions stop becoming whistle blowing and become treason?
    How is this determined and what are the parameters especially when America is at war?

    1. War? Did I miss a declaration?

      CB

      1. January 8, 1964

    2. You’re asking questions as if they have binary answers.

      “Is it treason or or is it whistle blowing?” The answer is probably “Yes” – that is, it can be both.

      “Does an service member… have the right to pass on secret documents … to journalists?” The answer can be simultaneously “a legal right, no” and “a moral right, yes”. Given the oath of office, a servicemember arguably has an obligation to disclose if that is what is necessary to defend the Constitution from a domestic enemy.

  7. I’m curious about the flip side of this, whether the information revealed, possibly by this person, implies that anyone on the government side is guilty of acts that are criminal under U.S. law.

    One possibility. Suppose it is true that everyone killed in a drone strike is automatically classified as a terrorist, even if it’s obvious that he was an innocent bystander. Further suppose that there has been testimony to Congress asserting that no civilians were killed. Would the person who gave that testimony be guilty of perjury? Similarly for any other case involving sworn testimony.

    1. The current working definition of “terrorist,” in operation since late 2001, is “anyone the President deems a terrorist.”

      1. He has a Disposition Matrix that he personally vets.

    2. Does any of that really matter, when the people who determine if it’s legal are the ones doing the killing?

      If a person kills someone and then say “it’s okay, it was perfectly legal”, will the police just leave them alone and not investigate? What if that person blows them and thirty other people to little bits with an explosive? Obviously the first may not be okay, but the fedgov has shown us that the second is a perfectly acceptable form of murder.

      Outside the country for now. When they finally get serious about those *domestic* terrorists, though…

      1. Your cellphone coordinates are already loaded in the next cruise middle.

        1. Missile

  8. >>>”there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate…so it’s a phenomenal gamble.”

    what’s the gamble? walking the dog under Drone of Damocles or our guy accidentally blowing up a soccer game?

  9. I realize it’s an oversimplification, but these “secrets” are only attempts to hide things from the American people. It’s certainly no “secret” to the targets of the drones: they have a really good idea of 1) where they came from, and 2) the status of those who were injured, killed, or left homeless. For how long did the government try to hide the bombing of Cambodia and Laos? It certainly wasn’t a secret to most of the rest of the world. Just to most Americans.

  10. […] they were able to insist that civilians weren’t being killed in significant numbers,” reports Reason‘s Scott […]

  11. Why is every terrorist crime our government commits labelled top secret?

    Oh yeah, because that’s the law. If we don’t like it we can change it with our one vote every 4 years. Not.

    But knowing it is a crime.

  12. […] how they were able to insist that civilians weren’t being killed in significant numbers,” reports Reason’s Scott […]

  13. […] how they were able to insist that civilians weren’t being killed in significant numbers,” reports Reason‘s Scott […]

  14. […] how they were able to insist that civilians weren’t being killed in significant numbers,” reports Reason’s Scott […]

  15. It kinda makes me wonder why reason allows a shitstorm of spam to obfuscate every discussion.

    Maybe their “masters” require it.

  16. CIA station chiefs are likewise hardly ever killed in significant numbers, but the howling over one of them drowns out the LP endorsement of George Washington’s warning against entangling alliances. Here is a chance to scrap the idiotic vigilante execution plank added in 2017 to make us look like anarchists. Replace it with a plank against using drone bots to enforce letters of marque or bills of attainder abroad and we’ll look like literate ‘murricans!

  17. […] how they were able to insist that civilians weren’t being killed in significant numbers,” reports Reason‘s Scott […]

  18. […] to punish the leakers themselves, people like Edward Snowden, Reality Winner, and most recently Daniel Hale. No journalist has been successfully prosecuted by the federal government for the act of publishing […]

  19. […] to punish the leakers themselves, people like Edward Snowden, Reality Winner, and most recently Daniel Hale. No journalist has been successfully prosecuted by the federal government for the act of publishing […]

  20. […] to punish the leakers themselves, people like Edward Snowden, Reality Winner, and most recently Daniel Hale. No journalist has been successfully prosecuted by the federal government for the act of publishing […]

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