Russian drone, red dawn
Russian drone, red dawniStock

A former US intelligence official was sentenced to nearly four years in prison this week for leaking classified documents on drone strikes.

Daniel Hale, 33, was sentenced Tuesday to 45 months in prison by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia for taking seventeen US military documents listed as classified and leaking them to The Intercept, the outlet founded by journalist Glenn Greenwald which also was the first to publish information leaked by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden.

A former serviceman in the US Air Force, Hale was assigned to work with the National Security Agency in 2013 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, working as part of the team which selected targets for drone attacks.

In 2014, Hale left the Air Force and leaked documents on US drone strike targets and civilian casualties from those strikes, prompting the FBI to open an investigation against Hale.

Hale was charged in 2019 with theft of government property and leaking classified documents. He pleaded guilty to leaking classified information in March 2021.

Edward Snowden lauded Hale Tuesday, calling him a “great American whistleblower” for revealing information on civilian deaths from US drone strikes.

“Daniel Hale, one of the great American Whistleblowers, was just moments ago sentenced to four years in prison. His crime was telling this truth: 90% of those killed by US drones are bystanders, not the intended targets. He should have been given a medal,” Snowden tweeted.

But US District Judge Liam O’Grady, who sentenced Hale Tuesday, rejected the argument that Hale acted as a whistleblower, and took Hale to task for illegally taking classified documents.

“You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people,” O’Grady said. “You could have been a whistleblower…without taking any of these doucments.”