In May 2019, drone whistleblower Daniel Everette Hale was arrested and indicted on allegations that he disclosed classified documents about the U.S. military’s assassination program, believed to have been the source material for a series in The Intercept called “The Drone Papers”. On March 31, 2021, Hale pleaded guilty to a single count under the Espionage Act, carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years. Sentencing is currently scheduled for July 27, 2021.
Hale is a veteran of the US Air Force. During his military service from 2009 to 2013, he participated in the US drone program, working with both the National Security Agency and the Joint Special Operations Task Force at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. After leaving the Air Force, Hale became an outspoken opponent of the US targeted killings program, US foreign policy more generally, and a supporter of whistleblowers. He publicly spoke out at conferences, forums, and public panels. He was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary National Bird, a film about whistleblowers in the US drone program who suffered from moral injury and PTSD. Hale based his criticisms on his own participation in the drone program, which included helping to select targets based on faulty criteria and attacks on unarmed innocent civilians.
Daniel is facing up to 10 years in prison for contacting the press about a matter of extreme public importance that has been shrouded in secrecy. But the larger concern is not what Hale did or didn’t do but what our government has been doing. For almost two decades, they have used a veil of secrecy to deny the American public the basic right to informed debate and consent. Government officials have repeatedly lied about nature and the extent of drone assassinations. No one has ever been held accountable for these lies, or for the war crimes they have enabled.
Daniel is a whistleblower who has enriched the public’s knowledge about matters of grave civic concern. It is unconscionable to use a law supposedly aimed at actual spies and saboteurs, against individuals who act in good faith to bring government misconduct to the attention of the public.
HOW TO HELP
Write to Daniel. You can write letters to Daniel at:
Daniel E. Hale
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Ctr.
2001 Mill Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(only on plain white paper, with black ink, handwritten or printed)
Printouts of news items or transcripts of podcasts should be black text-only, no images.
Write to the Detention Center Bureau Commander to ensure Daniel’s humane treatment in detention. Ask for assurances that Daniel can access books, music, exercise space, fresh air and counseling. Contact: Chief Deputy Shelbert Williams, Detention Center Bureau Commander, email@example.com
Daniel is one of at least eight alleged media sources to be criminally prosecuted — and the fifth to be charged under the Espionage Act — during the Trump administration. And this will be the first such case to be sentenced under the Biden administration.
Trump’s Department of Justice built upon the Obama administration’s notorious War on Whistleblowers, taking an already draconian effort to the next level. The Justice Department made every effort to prosecute leaks even more aggressively, reopening old cases (including Daniel’s), and even creating a dedicated FBI counterintelligence unit to hunt down leakers. They placed government employees under increasingly heavy surveillance, with the intention of clamping down on their First Amendment right to free speech. The Trump administration obtained lengthier prison sentences for whistleblowers than any previous president.
Transparency and civil liberties advocates have called on the Biden administration to change course and to consider clemency for these cases, but so far we have seen little evidence of any change in policy.
With the Wikileaks indictment, the U.S. government also expanded the War on Whistleblowers to directly attack publishers and journalists, a move that the Obama administration had ultimately backed down from. The Biden administration decided early on to maintain the U.S. government’s appeal to extradite Julian Assange.
We object to the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who provide information of important public interest to the media. We call for the end of such abuses of the Espionage Act.