Former Air Force intelligence analyst charged with leaking Obama-era drone secrets

A Reaper drone during a combat mission over Afghanistan.
A Reaper drone during a combat mission over Afghanistan. Copyright Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt AP file
By Pete Williams with NBC News Politics
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Court documents said the analyst gave classified documents to a reporter which were published on a news site federal officials confirmed was The Intercept.


WASHINGTON — A former Air Force enlisted man who served as an intelligence analyst and government contractor was charged Thursday with illegally giving classified information to a reporter.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said 31-year-old Daniel Everette Hale of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested Thursday morning and would make his initial appearance there later in the day.

Court documents said Hale gave more than a dozen classified documents to the reporter which were then published in whole or in part on a news website. Though the documents did not name either the journalist or the news organization, federal officials confirmed that the reporter was Jeremy Scahill, and the online news site was The Intercept. Scahill is listed on the website as one of its three founding editors.

A grand jury indictment said Hale met the reporter at an April 29, 2013 book tour event in Washington, D.C., which started several months of conversations between them, in person and through an encrypted messaging app.

The FBI said while working as a contractor at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Hale printed out eleven secret or top-secret documents describing U.S. counter-terrorism operations overseas under the administration of President Barack Obama. Court documents said one described a military campaign targeting al Qaeda and another contained information gathered by U.S. intelligence about "specific named targets."

Prosecutors said of nearly two dozen documents Hale printed that were unrelated to his work as a contractor, he provided at least 17 to Scahill or The Intercept. Scahill published a book, "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield," and wrote about drones for The Intercept. He also made a documentary film, "Dirty Wars."

The indictment charging Hale said the documents he provided "were published by the Reporter's Online News Outlet and compiled and published in a book authored by the Reporter."

Scahill's article about drones for The Intercept, posted in 2015, said the documents it published were "provided by a whistleblower."

"The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government," the article said.

The Intercept quoted the source as saying, "This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them 'baseball cards,' assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong."

Hale was charged with illegally obtaining and disclosing classified national defense information and theft of government property.

In August 2018, a former contractor for the NSA, Reality Winner, was sentenced to five years in prison for leaking classified documents to The Intercept that detailed Russian efforts to hack into the computers of a company that made software for local election officials. She pleaded guilty to mailing the documents to the news site.

Share this articleComments