A former intelligence analyst and former member of the U.S. military has pleaded guilty to illegally disclosing classified information to a reporter.
Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, admitted to obtaining classified national defense information while working at the National Security Agency (NSA) and as a defense contractor at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and sharing it with the journalist.
“Hale has now admitted what the evidence at trial would have conclusively shown: that he took classified documents from his work at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), documents he had no right to retain, and that he sent them to a reporter, knowing all along that what he was doing was against the law,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a March 31 statement.
Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, added: “As an analyst for the Intelligence Community, Daniel Hale knowingly took highly classified documents and disclosed them without authorization, thereby violating his solemn obligations to our country. We are firmly committed to seeking equal justice under the law and holding accountable those who betray their oath to safeguard national security information.”
According to court records, starting in April 2013, Hale, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the NSA, began communicating with the reporter; the pair had met at a book tour event at a bookstore.
Hale would use his top secret NSA computer to search for classified information concerning individuals and issues about which the reporter wrote, the documents state.
At one point, Hale texted a friend and said the reporter “wants me to tell my story about working with drones at the opening screening of his documentary about the war and the use of drones.”
Hale later sat next to the reporter at a public event and dined out with the reporter. They began using Jabber, an encrypted messaging platform, to communicate.
Once he started working at the NGA, Hale would print out top secret documents. Those documents were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.
The reporter wasn’t identified in the Justice Department statement but information included in the charging document appears to point to Jeremy Scahill of online news outlet The Intercept.
Scahill published a series of articles about the Obama administration’s use of drones to kill people in the Middle East; he said the documents were provided by a whistleblower. A website attempting to drum up support for Hale also described him as a whistleblower and “an outspoken opponent of the U.S. targeted killings program.”
Scahill wrote after President Joe Biden took office that the new commander-in-chief should stop the prosecution of whistleblowers.
In a statement when Hale was charged, Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed said the publication doesn’t comment on matters relating to the identity of anonymous sources.
She said the documents the publication reported on “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, and activity related to their disclosure is protected by the First Amendment. The alleged whistleblower faces up to 50 years in prison. No one has ever been held accountable for killing civilians in drone strikes,” she said.
Hale, who was arrested and charged in 2019, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison; he will be sentenced on July 13.