Whistleblower charged with giving classified drone warfare documents to journalist

Ex-NSA official charged with leaking classified drone documents

Daniel Hale is accused of giving top secret files on drone warfare to a journalist at an online news outlet

A former National Security Agency (NSA) official has been charged with giving classified documents on drone warfare to a journalist, amid a crackdown on government leaks by Donald Trump’s administration.

Daniel Hale is accused of leaking top secret files that were published by an online news outlet. The outlet was not identified by prosecutors, but the files described appear to match those published in a series by the Intercept.

Hale, 31, was indicted by a grand jury on five charges relating to the alleged leak. Each charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. The US justice department said Hale was arrested on Thursday morning and would appear in court later in the day.

Authorities said Hale, of Nashville, Tennessee, worked as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan for the NSA while serving as an enlisted airman in the US air force from 2009 to 2013.

He later worked as a contractor for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Virginia, and allegedly began printing documents unrelated to his work. He allegedly provided at least 17 to the news outlet, 11 of which were marked “secret” or “top secret”.

The indictment said Hale met a reporter from the news outlet at an event in a Washington DC bookstore in April 2013 and soon began searching his NSA computer for classified information on subjects that the reporter wrote about.

Hale and the reporter allegedly communicated by telephone, email and text message over the following months. Emails and text messages sent to Hale by the reporter – some in the hours after Hale allegedly printed documents – were quoted in the indictment.

Prosecutors said Hale also repeatedly sent text messages to a friend excitedly discussing his early interactions with the reporter.

According to prosecutors, the reporter also told Hale to download Jabber, an encrypted messaging application. The pair are said to have had encrypted conversations on the program between communicating over less secure channels.

The Intercept declined to comment on its sourcing. But the site’s editor-in-chief, Betsy Reed, said in a statement that federal authorities were going after “whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the US government.

“At the Intercept, we stand firmly opposed to all such prosecutions,” Reed said.


Ex-Intelligence Analyst Charged With Leaking Information to a Reporter

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors in Virginia charged a former United States intelligence analyst with providing classified information to a reporter, according to unsealed court documents.

Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville was arrested Thursday morning and was expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Nashville. He was charged under the Espionage Act and with theft of government property. The Espionage Act is a World War I-era law that criminalizes the disclosure of potentially damaging national security secrets to someone not authorized to receive them.

Mr. Hale’s case is the latest example of the Justice Department’s efforts to find and prosecute officials who provide reporters with sensitive information, an aggressive approach dating to the George W. Bush administration. The number of leak cases accelerated under President Barack Obama, and the heightened pace has continued under President Trump.

Prosecutors said that in 2013, while Mr. Hale was enlisted in the Air Force and assigned to the National Security Agency, he began communicating with a reporter. Details in the indictment suggest the reporter worked for The Intercept, a news website. This is the third case in which someone was prosecuted after providing the media outlet with classified information.

Mr. Hale met with the reporter multiple times and communicated using encryption. Prosecutors said that Mr. Hale left the Air Force and was then assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, where he worked as a political geography analyst.

At the agency, prosecutors said, Mr. Hale printed 36 documents from his Top Secret computer. Mr. Hale provided at least 17 of them to the reporter and The Intercept, which published the documents in whole or in part. Eleven of the published documents were marked as Top Secret or Secret, prosecutors said. The documents appear to be used in Intercept reporting about the military’s use of drones.

According to the indictment, in August 2014, Mr. Hale’s cellphone contact list included information for the reporter, and he possessed two thumb drives. One thumb drive contained a page marked “secret” from a classified document that Mr. Hale had printed in February 2014. Prosecutors said Mr. Hale had tried to delete the document from the thumb drive.

The other thumb drive contained Tor software and the Tails operating system, which were recommended by the reporter’s online news outlet in an article published on its website regarding how to anonymously leak documents.

Ex-intelligence analyst charged with leaks to reporter

May 09, 2019 05:21 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former government intelligence analyst has been charged with leaking classified documents about military campaigns against terrorist group al-Qaeda to a reporter.

Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested Thursday morning. An indictment in Alexandria, Virginia, charges him under the Espionage Act with counts including obtaining and disclosing national defense information, as well as theft of government property.

According to the indictment, Hale worked as an intelligence analyst for the Air Force and later as a contractor assigned to the government’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The indictment says Hale began communications with a reporter in 2013 while at the Air Force and continued communications after going to NGA.

According to the indictment, Hale provided 11 Top Secret or Secret documents to the reporter and his online news outlet. Those documents were later published either in whole or in part.

They include a secret memo outlining a military campaign against al-Qaeda overseas, a top secret intelligence report on an al-Qaeda operative, and a secret PowerPoint slide “outlining the effects of the military campaign targeting Al-Qaeda overseas,” according to the indictment.

At an initial appearance Thursday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Nashville, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alistair Newbern ordered Hale released under pretrial supervision pending his next hearing, which is May 17 in Alexandria.

One of Hale’s attorneys — Jesselyn Radack, who specializes in representing whistleblowers — said the investigation of Hale had essentially lay dormant for five years up until Hale’s arrest. She said the Trump administration is continuing and escalating what she called “a toxic trend” started under the Obama administration of aggressively prosecuting legitimate whistleblowers.

“If you look at the charges, what he’s accused of is classic whistleblowing,” Radack said. “He contacted a reporter about a matter of extreme importance that’s been shrouded in secrecy.”

Court papers do not identify by name the reporter who allegedly received the leaks, but details in the indictment make clear that Jeremy Scahill, a founding editor of The Intercept, is the reporter who received them.

The indictment states that many of the classified documents were disclosed in an October 2015 news article.

On October 15, 2015, Scahill published an article on The Intercept titled “The Assassination Complex” that relies on “a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars.”

The story says the documents “were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides.”

Scahill’s book, “Dirty Wars,” was published in 2013, and the indictment indicates Hale and Scahill met while Scahill was promoting the book at a Washington, D.C., bookstore. The book reported on the use of drones to attack and kill targets like al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, among other things.

The indictment states that Hale listed his work with drones on kill and capture operations on his resume and quotes Hale in a text message to a friend stating that Scahill “wants me to tell my story about working with drones.”

Betsy Reed, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief, issued a statement Thursday saying they do not comment on matters related to anonymous sources. She did say the documents described in the indictment “detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including U.S. citizens, through drone strikes. They are of vital public importance.”

She criticized the Trump administration for following the path of the Obama administration in aggressively prosecuting leaks and using “the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral, and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the U.S. government.”

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement that the indictment is the “latest step in the Department’s efforts to stop the leaks of information that could damage the national security. We have brought four cases in the last two years and have secured three convictions thus far.”

The Eastern District of Virginia, where Hale will be prosecuted, has been a frequent location over the years for cases involving leaks and whistleblowers.

Prosecutors in Alexandria have filed criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and against former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, though both so far remain overseas despite U.S. efforts to obtain their extradition.

In 2015, a judge imposed a 3 ½ year sentence on former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted of exposing government secrets to a New York Times reporter. In 2013, another former CIA man, John Kiriakou, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison after pleading guilty to leaking a covert officer’s identity to a reporter.

Kiriakou’s indictment in 2012 prompted then-CIA Director David Petraeus to issue a statement reminding his agency’s employees of the need for secrecy in their work.

“When we joined this organization, we swore to safeguard classified information; those oaths stay with us for life,” he said at the time.

In 2015, Petraeus pleaded guilty in federal court in North Carolina to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. He was sentenced to probation.

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Jonathan Mattise in Nashville contributed to this report.