Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, Defending Rights & Dissent observers were present in court when drone whistleblower Daniel Hale gave an eloquent statement to the judge before being sentenced to 45 months in prison. In his statement, Hale told the judge that his conscience required him to blow the whistle on the morally indefensible drone program. While Hale should never have been prosecuted, and should not be sentenced to any time in prison, this sentence is significantly less than the 7 to 9 years the prosecution asked for. In March, Hale pled guilty to one count under the Espionage Act.
Defending Rights & Dissent has long opposed the use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers and has championed Daniel Hale’s cause since he was first indicted. Hale released information in the public interest about the US targeted killing program, as well as secret government watchlists. Hale’s disclosures exposed how during one five-month period in Afghanistan, 90% of those killed by US air strikes were not the intended targets. His revelations about government watchlists have been used to successfully challenge the No Fly List.
Defending Rights & Dissent helped to mobilize over 10,000 people to urge the judge to grant leniency to Hale. Additionally, as recognized experts on the Espionage Act, Executive Director Sue Udry and Policy Director Chip Gibbons were asked by Hale’s defense team to submit statements to the judge.
Sue Udry wrote to the judge that, “The information Mr. Hale released about civilian casualties from drone strikes was essential to the public’s understanding of the program. It was essential for citizens to hold their government accountable. The importance of these revelations to the public discourse cannot be overstated.”
Similarly, Chip Gibbons wrote “Hale is not a spy and should not be sentenced as such. I urge you to show the maximum leniency possible. Hale assisted in newsgathering on a matter of grave public concern. His actions were not rooted in personal gain but in informing our democratic debates. The fact that Hale was prosecuted at all has less to do with the fact that he disclosed information without proper authorization than that he did so in a manner that painted the government’s targeted killing program in a critical light.”
Speaking to supporters of Hale outside the court house immediately following sentencing, Gibbons said, “ The disclosures of Daniel Hale did not harm national security, but the government’s decision to prosecute him harmed our democracy. Hale’s prosecution, like all prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, is a political prosecution.”
Defending Rights & Dissents calls upon President Joe Biden to pardon Daniel Hale and for Congress to amend the Espionage Act.