Whistleblowers, Journalists, and Free Press Advocates Condemn Espionage Act Charges Against Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale


One hundred and seventy three individuals and 50 organizations have joined Defending Rights Dissent, Roots Action, and the Whistleblower Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at Expose Facts in condemning the Espionage Act charges against drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. Included among the signatories are other whistleblowers who have been victims of Espionage Act abuse, including Daniel Ellsberg, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakiou, and Jeffrey Sterling.

Hale is a veteran of the US Air Force. During his military service from 2009 to 2013, he participated in the US drone program, working with both the National Security Agency and the Joint Special Operations Task Force at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Hale has been an outspoken opponent of the US targeted killings program and appeared in the Ridenhour-winning documentary National Bird. The US government accuses Hale of providing a journalist with documents that brought to light the decision-making process for targeted killings and revealed that nearly 90% of those killed by drone strikes were not the intended target. If convicted Hale could face up to 50 years in prison.

“Treating whistleblowing as being akin to espionage is absolutely outrageous. Indictments are just unproven allegations by the Government., and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Nonetheless, it is important to stress that the US government wants to send someone to jail for decades for allegedly helping a journalist expose human rights abuses,” said Chip Gibbons, Policy Legislative Counsel for Defending Rights Dissent.

“Hale has been indicted for allegations that constitute whistleblowing in the public interest. The larger concern is not what Hale did or did not do, but what our government is doing, in secret, and lying about. Hale is a military veteran with a strong conscience, and if you look at the armed drone program, it’s easy to understand why someone with integrity would be uncomfortable with its utter lack of accountability,” said Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower attorney for Daniel Hale and Director of WHISPeR.

There is a long history of government abuse of the Espionage Act. It was passed during World War I and immediately used to prosecute anti-war activists. Prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act were once rare. However, under the Obama and Trump Administrations such prosecutions have increasingly become the norm.

Other notable signatories include drone whistleblowers Lisa Ling and Brandon Bryant, journalist Matt Taibbi. Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, also added his name. The full statement and list of signers can be found here.

Questions should be directed to Chip Gibbons, Policy Legislative Counsel, Defending Rights Dissent at (202) 552-7408 or Chip [at] RightsAndDissent.org