Drone wars whistleblower Daniel Hale enters one guilty plea

The week before his scheduled April 5 trial, Air Force veteran and former intelligence analyst Daniel Hale changed his plea to guilty on one count of violating the Espionage Act when he illegally obtained classified “national defense information” and give it to a reporter widely acknowledged to be Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.
At a March 31 hearing in federal court in Virginia, Hale affirmed he had printed 36 documents on a government computer while working for a private contractor, 23 of them unrelated to his work, and provided “at least 17 to a reporter and/or the reporter’s news outlet, which published the documents…” Eleven were classified Secret or Top Secret.
The information Hale shared revealed gross human rights violations in the preparation of target lists for deadly attacks where ninety percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.
Jesselyn Radack, Hale’s attorney, told CovertAction Magazine that Hale changed his plea because he “would not have received a fair trial because the arcane Espionage Act does not allow for a public interest defense. Meaning, Hale’s motive of wanting to inform the public could not be raised as a defense to the charge of disclosure of information.”
Judge Liam O’Grady permitted Hale to remain free under supervision of a probation officer until sentencing on July 13. The charge carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Despite the guilty plea, federal prosecutors opposed a motion to dismiss four related charges.
Kevin Gosztola, reporting on the hearing at dissenter.substack.com, wrote that O’Grady “seemed to recognize the four remaining charges criminalize much of the conduct already covered in Hale’s plea. Often this is referred to as charge stacking. Yet the judge permitted the government’s extraordinary and unusual request, leaving open the possibility of a trial if prosecutors are unhappy with sentencing.” O’Grady also noted that the sentence he gives Hale would probably not depend on the number of convictions, and he would address the issue at sentencing.
Hale was arrested in May 2019, nearly six years after he first spoke out publicly against the U.S. drone warfare program at a CodePink Ground the Drones summit, and at least five years after the FBI was first aware that he was the likely source for classified disclosures at the heart of The Intercept’s 2015 Drone Papers series, and his appearance in the documentary film National Bird. In August 2014, two weeks after The Intercept first published an article based on his material and just days after he completed an assignment for the defense contractor Leidos with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a political geography analyst, FBI agents had searched his home and seized thumb drives containing at least one classified document, software used for anonymous internet browsing and communication, and contact information for Scahill.
In the Drone Papers, Scahill quotes his source saying, “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong.”
The week after Hale changed his plea, nearly two dozen people held signs and banners declaring “Free Daniel Hale” and “Daniel Hale Exposed War Crimes” as they vigiled and blocked the gates of Creech Air Force base in Indian Springs, Nevada. Creech, commanded by Col. Stephen R. Jones, is the nation’s premier drone warfare training and covert operations base. Commuter traffic was disrupted on three mornings while some demonstrators chanted “Arrest Col. Jones for War Crimes, Not Daniel Hale for Whistleblowing.”
“Blockaders held their blockade for as long as they could, without risking arrest, to avoid the higher health risks that exist with jail detainment during the COVID pandemic,” wrote Toby Blomé, an organizer of the twice-annual Shut Down Creech action camps in the desert northwest of Las Vegas.
CodePink asks that supporters sign the petition to Judge O’Grady at www.codepink.org/danielhale. Supporters are also encouraged to write a letter to Judge O’Grady speaking to Daniel’s character and the public importance of his disclosures. Directions for writing your letter and getting it to his attorney, who will present it to the court, are found at www.codepink.org/danielhaleletters.
For more information, visit standwithdanielhale.org.