Daniel Hale Receives 45-Month Sentence For Releasing Drone Documents
Posted by sashimi on July 27, 2021, 10:02 pm
Kevin Gosztola, 27 July 2021 |
Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison. It
was a severe sentence but not the harshest sentence ever issued in an Espionage
Act prosecution against a former United States government employee or contractor
for the "unauthorized disclosure" of information.
The sentence was not what U.S. prosecutors demanded. They wanted Hale to go to
prison for nine years, but it is likely Judge Liam O'Grady issued a lower
sentence after considering his mental health problems.
This case is the first major Espionage Act conviction under President Joe Biden.
Hale was a signals intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force, who was deployed
to Afghanistan and stationed at Bagram Air Base. He helped track down the
"geographic location of handset cellphone devices believed to be in the
possession of so-called enemy combatants" so they could be targeted and killed
He later worked as a defense contractor for Leidos at the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where he decided to release documents on
the drone program to journalist Jeremy Scahill.
In a letter to Judge Liam O'Grady, Hale shared the trauma he experienced as a
participant and witness to gruesome and violent drone strikes. He recalled the
moment when colleagues at the NGA asked him to join them to watch "war porn" or
archived footage of drone strikes. He could no longer suppress his conscience.
"My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life. At first, I tried
to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come
along to take this cup from me. But this, too, was folly," Hale stated. "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."
"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
His defense asked the court for a sentence of 12 to 18 months and a "period of
supervised release with mental health counseling," maintaining that was
reasonable given prior sentences issued by the same court against former CIA
officers John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling. (Both were the target of Espionage
Despite the fact that Hale pled guilty on March 31 to one of the five Espionage
Act offenses he faced, prosecutors remained spiteful and unwilling to support
anything less than a "significant sentence" to "deter" government employees or
contractors from "using positions in the intelligence community for
Prosecutors requested a sentence of at least 9 years because Hale only accepted
what he did was legally wrong, not morally wrong, and refused to believe
prosecutors' claims that the disclosure of documents risked "serious" or
"exceptionally grave damage" to U.S. national security.
Court was cleared during the sentencing hearing so the U.S. government could
further present secret evidence involving an alleged "internet compilation"
distributed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that referenced two of
the documents. Prosecutors refused to declassify this in order to ensure
transparency and fairness in the proceedings.
Harry Cooper, a former CIA executive expert for classification who trained the
"agency's top-tiered executives," including the CIA director, contended the
"internet compilation" supported his conclusions that the disclosure of
documents did not pose "any substantial risk of harm."
"It suggests that the adversaries treated the documents as trophies rather than
as something that would give a tactical advantage, given that publication would
reduce to zero any tactical advantage that the documents might otherwise have
given," Cooper added. "In short, an adversary who has gained a tactical
advantage by receiving secret information would never publicize their possession
"Shortly before trial," according to Hale's defense, "the government produced in
discovery a document indicating that some or all of the years-long delay between
the conclusion of the FBI's investigation in this case and the decision to
prosecute was because the prosecution team lacked the approval of superiors
-- Cont'd at https://thedissenter.org/daniel-hale-receives-harshest-sentence-ever-for-a-leak/
Hale's letter: https://thedissenter.org/daniel-hale-letter-to-court-before-sentencing/