A former Air Force intelligence analyst turned whistleblower who leaked America's drone secrets to the press was sentenced to 45 months behind bars in an Alexandria, VA federal court on Tuesday.
33-year old Daniel Hale is now widely understood to be the leaker of classified info to Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote a series of reports on the Obama administration's secretive drone program and the mounting civilian casualties - as well as the flimsy and dubious legal justifications offered based on 'war on terror' rationale.
"I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public," Hale wrote in an eleven page letter to the court.
He described that even within his first days of being deployed to Afghanistan, he personally witnessed civilians being taken out by US drones in what amounts to 'guilt by association' policies. A major turning point which set Hale on the path to becoming a whistleblower was described in the letter to the court, recounted in Business Insider as follows:
It was back in 2012, and Hale found himself watching a car being driven by a suspected bomb-maker from Jalalabad head toward Pakistan. Hale's superiors were "alarmed" and feared that the suspect was trying to escape across the border, prompting the car to be targeted with a drone strike.
"It was a windy and clouded afternoon when one of the suspects had been discovered heading east at a high rate of speed," Hale wrote. "A drone strike was our only chance and already it began lining up to take the shot."
But the payload missed the target, and the car "continued on ahead after narrowly avoiding destruction" before stopping. A man emerged and looked shocked he was still alive. To Hale's surprise, a woman also stepped out and rushed to the trunk.
It turns out the couple's two young children had been traveling in the back of the car, and the mother was trying desperately to get to them from behind the damaged car. The 3-year old and 5-year old were later found the next day in a dumpster.
The tragic account continues:
"The eldest was found dead due to unspecified wounds caused by shrapnel that pierced her body. Her younger sister was alive but severely dehydrated," Hale said, going on to describe his distress over his commanding officer being more disgusted with the children being left in the dumpster than with the fact they had "errantly fired on a man and his family, having killed one of his daughters."
In issuing the sentence the Bush-appointed judge appeared to sympathize with Hale's motivations for the leaks, but still said "You’re not facing prison for speaking out about the drone program injuring and killing innocent persons... You could have been a whistleblower and garnered all this attention without leaking any of these documents, frankly."
Federal prosecutors had actually been pushing for a sentence of over nine years. It demonstrates that the Biden administration is going after leakers of classified information just as fiercely as prior administrations.
One key line in the Business Insider report strongly suggests Biden is set to continue ramping up his war on both whistleblowers and the press: "The hefty sentence the Biden Justice Department sought for Hale signals that, while the new administration’s appointees are eager to make peace with journalists and news outlets, prosecutors will continue to throw the book at the men and women who leak information to the media."