Several supporters of drone whistleblower Daniel Hale joined United States Representative Ilhan Omar to call for the commutation of his sentence and release from federal prison.
“Daniel’s case is exactly what the pardon power is for, where the letter of the law cannot capture the moral judgments that human beings make under extraordinary circumstances,” Omar declared.
Omar previously endorsed a push to pardon Hale. She joined a “more urgent call for a commutation” because of the harshness of his incarceration and need for access to health care and rehabilitation services.
In 2021, Hale became the first whistleblower charged with violating the Espionage Act to be convicted under President Joe Biden. He also became the first person convicted of an unauthorized disclosure of information to the press to be incarcerated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in a Communications Management Unit (CMU), which the BOP claims is for terrorists or “high-risk inmates.”
Hale is completing a 45-month prison sentence at US Penitentiary Marion in southern Illinois.
He was a signals intelligence analyst in the US Air Force, who was deployed to Afghanistan and stationed at Bagram Air Base and later became a contractor for Leidos at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). There Hale release what became known as the “Drone Papers” to journalist and Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill.
Documents Hale revealed showed “more than 40 percent” of the people in the US government’s database of terrorism suspects have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” The “watchlisting guidance” document he shared helped Muslim Americans clear their names and force the government to remove them from the No Fly List.
Additionally, he exposed how President Barack Obama authorized targeted assassinations, calling attention to the “system for creating baseball cards and targeting packages” that is, according to Hale, based on “intelligence intercepts and a multi-layered system of fallible human interpretation.”
Noor Mir of the Daniel Hale Support Network said Hale is allowed two 15-minute restricted phone calls per week. Sometimes he uses one of his calls to speak with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who provides him with moral support.
According to Ellsberg, “For the same acts that I took fifty years ago in releasing the Pentagon Papers,” Hale was prosecuted. He said Hale had exposed “endless crimes of war,” a war that was not declared by Congress—just as he had done.
Hale was not permitted to make a public interest defense in his case and speak about his motives. That essentially forced him to accept a plea agreement and go to prison, Ellsberg added.
Ruth Bray, who is Daniel Hale’s sister, shared what it was like to grow up with him in a poor and strict household that ultimately led him to join the US military to help him survive. Hale realized that the military “wasn’t what he thought it would be, and he decided to follow his own moral compass and to show the world what is so very wrong with war.”
“It’s a grim and unforgivable irony of the war on terror that the slogan, if you see something, say something, doesn’t apply to people with a close-up view of the horrors and injustices committed in the name of counterterrorism,” stated Spencer Ackerman, a journalist whose newsletter Forever Wars is one of Hale’s favorite publications to read in prison.
Ackerman recalled, “In August 2021, defending the withdrawal from Afghanistan, [Biden] remarked, as we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our foreign policy in the last two decades, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”
“Learning from our mistakes requires you to free Daniel Hale. If you don’t commute his sentence, we’re only turning the page on someone who tried to get us to learn from those mistakes.”
Hale is an antiwar activist, who was involved with About Face: Veterans Against the War. The group organizes to end the US foreign policy of permanent war.
US Air Force combat veteran Natasha Erskine, a part of About Face, described her time in Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), where people like Hale developed moral injuries from what they were asked to do.
“We started seeing disciplinary issues and concerns, issues within families, and for me, I can definitely connect that to this proliferation of special operations in a way that we really hadn’t seen before,” Erskine recalled.
Steven Donziger, a human rights attorney, served time in prison after Chevron co-opted the prosecutorial power typically reserved for state and federal governments and retaliated against him for standing up for people in Ecuador who had their land destroyed by oil.
“There is a wholesale attack in our country on people of conscience who speak out and challenge entrenched pools of power that hurt our society,” Donziger said. “In Daniel’s case, it was the drone program. In my case, it was the fossil fuel industry.”
Jesselyn Radack, who has represented Hale, reminded people that the judge who sentenced him had recognized that he was struggling with psychological and physical problems. The judge recommended him for a medical prison, and instead, the BOP put him in harsh confinement in a CMU.
“Daniel had no criminal history and was not convicted of a violent crime, but he was in there, most recently with Viktor Bout, who just got swapped out in a prisoner exchange—the merchant of death,” Radack added. “He’s in there with people who led the January 6th riots.”
“He’s in there with all sorts of criminally violent people, including those who tried to overthrow the country, when Daniel is a very patriotic person who was trying to make our country better and trying to protect innocent human life that was being extinguished without any due process whatsoever.”
Full remarks from Representative Ilhan Omar (clip from Daniel Hale Support Network)