(June 10, 2019) — Daniel Hale is a courageous whistleblower and the latest victim of Espionage Act abuse. Organizations and individuals are invited to sign this Statement of Support for Daniel Hale. The deadline is June 13, 2019.
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, oppose the government’s prosecution of Daniel Hale and call for an end to the abuse of the Espionage Act to silence whistleblowers and other truth tellers.
Daniel Hale, like all individuals in the US criminal system, is innocent until proven guilty. Allegations by the US government are merely that–unproven assertions. However, even if what the government says is true, then Hale 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.
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 Ridenhour-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.
In 2014, FBI agents raided Hale’s home, though no charges were brought against him at the time. Five years later, in May 2019, the US government unsealed an indictment against Hale, alleging that he gave 17 classified documents to a reporter. While the reporter is not named, it is widely believed to be Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept. In 2015, The Intercept published “The Drone Papers,” which they described as being based on “a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia” provided by a whistleblower.
These documents brought to light the decision-making process for targeted killings and revealed that nearly 90% of those killed by drone strikes were not the intended target. These revelations sparked calls for investigations, which occurred in Germany’s parliament, but not the U.S. Congress.
US government’s use of drones to carry out targeted killings has been a subject of immense public debate. The killing of US citizens with drones has been condemned as a flagrant violation of the Constitution. Human rights groups and international legal experts have condemned US drone strikes as illegal extrajudicial executions.
Drone strikes and targeted killings raise literal questions of life or death. They are issues of immense public concern that raise questions about the US government’s deprivations of US citizens’ Constitutional rights and violations of international law and human rights norms.
Whoever assisted in the production of “The Drone Papers” provided much-needed information in a crucial debate about a secret and unaccountable program that has global implications. Punishing them under the Espionage Act is not only wrong. it will have a chilling effect on those who might wish to expose information about US war crimes, constitutional violations, and human rights abuses, making it harder for the public to debate such weighty matters.
Helping the media shine light on war crimes is a far cry from espionage. It is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes to equate journalism, whistleblowing, and truth-telling with espionage. It is entirely unacceptable for a democratic society to do the same.
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. We also call for the charges against Daniel Hale to be dropped immediately.