(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: public domain / Wikimedia)
Under President Barack Obama, the Espionage Act prosecution against Afghanistan War veteran Daniel Hale apparently lacked the support of high-ranking officials in the United States Justice Department’s national security division.
That is according to a “classified appendix” submitted by Hale’s defense with their position that a sentence of 12 to 18 months would be “appropriate.”
“Shortly before trial, the government produced in discovery a document indicating that some or all of the years-long delay between the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation in this case and the decision to prosecute was because the prosecution team lacked the approval of superiors within DOJ,” the defense declares in their sentencing memorandum [PDF].
They add, “Further, it shows that the decision to prosecute was finally made only after a change in supervisory personnel within the DOJ National Security Division.”
The referenced document reflects the political nature of the prosecution that was launched under President Donald Trump.
Hale is due to be sentenced on July 27. He was part of the drone program in the U.S. Air Force and later worked at the NGA. He pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.
He was taken into custody and sent to the William G. Truesdale Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on April 28. A therapist from pretrial and probation services named Michael violated patient confidentiality and shared details with the court related to his mental health.
Hale’s last day as a contractor came on August 8, 2014. As his defense recalls, “That same day, the FBI raided his northern Virginia home and took, among other things, all of his electronic devices.”
“Mr. Hale moved to New York, but the stress of the FBI raid and what would happen to him weighed heavily on him,” the defense shares. “He failed out of school. But then, nearly five years passed and no charges were announced. It would not be until May 2019, after a change in administration and in relevant supervisory personnel within the Department of Justice, that prosecutors received approval to seek an indictment.”
The defense claims the investigation into Hale ended in 2015. But the government has taken a position that contradicts this evidence obtained in discovery.
“The idea that the government sat on its hands for years is ridiculous,” a prosecutor told the court. “Having been the prosecutor on the case since the beginning, I can tell you that we were struggling throughout to try to deal with the very complex problems posed by the theft of information impacting many different components of the intelligence community.”
When it came to the military court-martial against Pfc. Chelsea Manning, this same excuse was put forward by prosecutors to avoid repercussions for violations of her right to a speedy trial. The Manning case took about three years because the information released to WikiLeaks involved “different components of the intelligence community.”
If we are to believe the government, then Hale would have been charged immediately and possibly waited under supervised release or in jail until August 2017 for a trial.
The interests of intelligence agencies should have had no bearing on whether the Justice Department indicted Hale, and of course, prosecutors could have issued a superseding indictment and slapped him with more charges based on their consultations with intelligence agencies that were implicated.
It is not unusual to learn there was dissent at the Justice Department against indicting Hale. Prosecutors may have wanted to avoid a trial over sensitive information involving drone warfare that would further tarnish President Obama’s legacy as drone warrior-in-chief.
Furthermore, it is well known that the same prosecutors declined to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act.
Both Hale and Assange had their indictments disclosed to the public around the same time frame in 2019. The cases were a product of politics at the Trump Justice Department, which ramped up the number of investigations into leaks (even creating a counterintelligence unit within the FBI for investigating “unauthorized disclosures”).
Like the Justice Department officials working under Attorney General Eric Holder, officials under Attorney General Merrick Garland had an opportunity to abandon the political prosecution against Hale, which they inherited. However, Garland and officials in the DOJ’s National Security Division seem to have fully embraced the case, including the vindictiveness at the core of the charges.
Gordon Kromberg, a prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia with a history of engaging in alleged racism and corruption to win convictions, was allowed to see this prosecution through to its bitter end.
A day before Hale’s sentencing, Kromberg and other prosecutors still refuse to accept that Hale took responsibility and pled guilty to a charge. They demand Hale be sentenced to nine years in prison. They insist to a federal judge that he has “expressed no remorse for his crime.” They object to the fact that Hale accepts “what he did was legally wrong” but will not agree with prosecutors who believe his actions were morally wrong.
“Hale has never acknowledged the potentially serious, and in some cases, exceptionally grave damage to national security his actions could have caused,” the government states. “Under these circumstances, he cannot be entitled to a reduction in offense level for acceptance of responsibility.”
“In analogous circumstances, no one would award such a reduction to a heroin dealer who admitted that he violated the law by distributing heroin, but simultaneously asserted that by distributing the heroin he was helping society rather than harming it,” prosecutors further contend.
The grotesque analogy is emblematic of the shameless manner in which the Justice Department manipulates due process and wields a 1917 law against conscientious individuals, who dissent against what has become a permanent warfare state.
On July 27, President Joe Biden’s administration will take the sledgehammer they hold and smash one last nail into the proverbial coffin.
Hale will likely receive the harshest sentence ever issued against a former government employee or contractor accused of an “unauthorized disclosure.”
It will be the second major instance under Biden of a media source sentenced to prison, a defining moment of his presidency. Yet it will not spark a scandal any more than the first instance involving former Treasury Department employee Natalie Edwards did.
The moment will further endear Biden to the military and national security agencies, proving once more that he will do nothing to challenge the stranglehold they have over government. Instead, he'll continue to shower them in billions of additional funds and pay no attention to the moral injury inflicted upon young military officers like Hale who participate, aid, and abet the targeted assassination complex.