US charges ex-intel analyst for leaking secret drone attacks to reporter

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by Agence France-Presse

A former intelligence analyst was charged Thursday with leaking secrets about the US military’s drone-based targeted assassination program that formed the basis of a powerful 2015 expose by The Intercept.

The Justice Department said Daniel Everette Hale illegally provided top secret documents on the program to a reporter who was not named, but could be identified by details in the indictment as The Intercept founding editor Jeremy Scahill.

Hale, who was arrested early Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, was the third person to be charged with leaks to The Intercept, which since its 2014 launch has published numerous scoops baring US national security secrets.

He faces up to 50 years in prison on five charges relating to the theft and disclosure of sensitive government information.

Hale, 31, was a US Air Force intelligence analyst in Afghanistan assigned to the National Security Agency from 2009 to 2013, when he took part in numerous drone attack operations.

After leaving the service, he was a contract political geography analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), one of Washington’s key intelligence agencies.

The indictment says he met with the unidentified reporter at Washington bookstore events in April and June 2013, on dates matching those in which Scahill was promoting his book “Dirty Wars.”

Over the next year working at the NGA, he allegedly accessed multiple secret documents on the US military drone program and turned them over to Scahill.

Those became the basis of The Intercept’s October 2015 eight-part series “The Drone Papers,” which detailed the extent of the Obama administration’s secretive operation to use drones for assassinations in Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The expose contributed to the Obama and then Trump administrations’ efforts to crack down on leaks from US intelligence to media, with the Intercept one of the key targets.

Last year, NSA contract worker Reality Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in a federal prison for leaking documents to The Intercept in 2017 on Russian efforts to hack into US voting systems the previous year.

Also last year, former FBI agent Terry Albury was sentenced to a four-year prison term for providing documents to the Intercept on how FBI recruits informants and surveils suspects.

Asked about Hale’s arrest, Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of the Intercept, said the outlet “does not comment on matters relating to the identity of anonymous sources.”

Reed added that the Trump administration was “following in the dangerous path of the Obama administration” by “continuing to use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral, and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the US government.

“At The Intercept, we stand firmly opposed to all such prosecutions,” she said. (AFP)

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