AGENCIES: In the latest chapter of the US’ crackdown on whistleblowers, a 31-year-old intelligence contractor is facing charges for leaking 17 secret documents to an unnamed journalist, which could result in up to 50 years in prison.
Daniel Everette Hale was arrested and charged under the Espionage Act on Thursday for illegally disclosing top-secret and secret documents to the media, according to the indictment.
While the paperwork was initially filed in March, it didn’t result in an arrest until May 9. Hale is set to make his first appearance in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday.
The documents Hale is accused of leaking are reported to have contained a presentation on counterterrorism operations, details of a US military campaign against Al-Qaeda and information on the US military’s technical capabilities.
While serving in the air force, Hale was assigned to work with the National Security Agency (NSA) between 2009-2013. In April 2013, he met a reporter at a book tour in Washington, according to the indictment.
The journalist was reportedly interested in Hale’s experience “working with drones” and wanted him to tell his story about working with them at a screening of a movie on the topic.
The next year after several meetings, Hale agreed to print out six classified documents and allegedly handed them over to the reporter. In total, Hale is accused of printing 36 top secret documents, 17 of which ended up being provided to the reporter and published.
Although the media-source is not named in the indictment itself, it is widely reported to be the Intercept, the same news site that had the massive trove of documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The media outlet has not yet commented on the arrest, but it would mark the third time in two years the Justice Department has targeted an Intercept source.
In 2015, the Intercept published “The Drone Papers’, which cited “a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the US military’s assassination program,” which they said had been provided to them by a “whistleblower.”
The Trump administration has carried out several such prosecutions against whistleblowers. Last month, WikiLeaks co-founder and editor Julian Assange was charged for allegedly assisting Chelsea Manning crack a computer password in order to steal classified documents.