Trump Justice Department Charges Another Leaker for Allegedly Spilling Drone War Secrets to Press
Feds reach back to 2013 and charge intelligence contractor for allegedly turning over information about the U.S. fight against Al Qaeda.
A former intelligence analyst at the National Security Agency has been charged with leaking classified information to the press about the Obama administration’s use of armed drones, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday. It’s the latest in a series of prosecutions by the Trump administration aimed at sources of the press.
Daniel Everette Hale, 31, was charged under the Espionage Act of illegally disclosing top-secret and secret documents to a news organization, according to an indictment filed in March and unsealed Thursday. He was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday morning.
Details from the indictment suggest the organization is The Intercept, which did not respond to a request for comment. It is the third time the Justice Department has prosecuted an alleged Intercept source in the past two years.
Hale served in the Air Force from July 2009 to July 2013, during which time he was assigned to the National Security Agency, according to the indictment. He was deployed to Afghanistan, where he worked as an intelligence analyst. While still at the NSA, in April 2013, Hale allegedly began communicating with an unnamed reporter.
The two met on multiple occasions and communicated through an encrypted messaging platform, according to the indictment. Hale allegedly texted a friend in May 2013, claiming that “[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 left the Air Force in July 2013 and was hired by a defense contractor, where he was assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. From February to August 2014, Hale allegedly printed a total of 36 documents and provided at least 17 to the reporter, some of which were unclassified, according to the indictment. Eleven were secret or top secret documents.
The documents contained a PowerPoint presentation on counterterrorism operations, described a military campaign targeting Al-Qaeda, included information gathered by the NSA on specific named targets, and outlined U.S. military technical capabilities. The documents were later compiled and published by the news website and in a book authored by the reporter, according to the indictment.
Hale was charged with theft of government property and several other counts under the Espionage Act.
Hale’s arrest comes amid a crackdown on leakers to journalists by the Trump administration. Last month, the U.S. charged WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange with allegedly helping veteran intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a computer password to steal classified documents. In October, a Treasury Department employee was charged with sharing financial information on targets of the Mueller investigation with BuzzFeed.
Last year, two purported Intercept sources were also prosecuted. Former NSA contractor Reality Winner was sentenced to 63 months in prison for leaking classified information about Russian election interference to The Intercept. In October, former FBI agent Terry Albury was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, apparently related to how the FBI recruits informants.