The US Department of Justice has charged a former intelligence analyst for leaking top secret information on its global drone program. The information included targeted assassinations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Daniel Everette Hale, a former intelligence analyst, with the theft and disclosure of sensitive government information in Alexandria, Virginia on Thursday.
Hale, who was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday morning, faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted of leaking classified information on the targeted assassination of individuals in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
The indictment did not name the publication or journalist, but the description appeared to match that of Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept. The information was published in an eight-part series titled "The Drone Papers" by the online news organization The Intercept in 2015.
'Secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing'
The Intercept's editor-in-chief Betsy Reed stated the organization does not comment on anonymous sources, but she said, "These documents detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including US citizens, through drone strikes. They are of vital public importance. "
Reed also criticized US President Donald Trump's administration for following in the footsteps of former President Barack Obama's administration in prosecuting leaks by using "the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral, and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the US government."
Hale, 31, worked as an intelligence analyst for the US Air Force in Afghanistan, where he was assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA) from 2009 to 2013. During that time he was involved in numerous drone strikes.
After leaving the Air Force, Hale was employed at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA is a key intelligence agency in the US.
Hale is accused of having met and delivered information to Jeremy Scahill, one of The Intercept's founding editors, during his year at NGA. Scahill wrote the 2013 book "Dirty Wars," which critically outlined the Obama administration's expansion of the US global drone program.
Three and counting
Hale is the third whistleblower to have provided The Interceptwith classified documents to be charged with crimes under the US Espionage Act.
Last year, Reality Winner, an NSA contractor, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for relaying information in 2017 that outlined Russian hacking activities during the 2016 US presidential election.
Terry Albury, a former FBI agent, was also given a 4-year sentence last year for providing the outlet with documents on the FBI methods for recruiting informants and surveilling suspects.
js/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)