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Whistleblower setenced to 45 months in jail for telling world of the US's drone assassination programme

A WHISTLEBLOWER who exposed the extent of the United States’ drone assassination programme was sentenced for 45 months today.

Daniel Hale, a former US Air Force intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty in March to breaking the WWI-era Espionage Act when he leaked secret documents exposing the workings of president Barack Obama’s administration’s assassination programme to the media in 2015.

During his time in the air force between 2009 and 2013, Mr Hale worked in Afghanistan with the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) and military identifying people for drone-strike assassination by hacking the phones of suspected combatants and pinpointing their location.

This information was then passed to a drone pilot in the US who would then keep surveillance on the target before they were captured or killed.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” Mr Hale wrote in a letter to the judge presiding over his case on July 18.

Mr Hale said that when he thinks of the things he helped the US do in Afghanistan, such as blowing an innocent farmer in half or killing a suspected car bomber’s two children, “I am grief-stricken and ashamed of myself.

“I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person.

“So I contacted an investigative reporter with whom I had had an established prior relationship and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.”

Mr Hale faces a maximum 10-year sentence.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked details of the US’s global phone surveillance programme in 2013 and has frequently spoken in support of Mr Hale, said last week that “what is being done to him in response is a national disgrace.”

At a meeting in May with Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who provided journalists with documents detailing US atrocities carried out during the Vietnam war, Mr Snowden said: “He sacrificed everything … to tell us that the drone war that [was] so obviously occurring to everyone else, but the government was still officially denying in so many ways … is happening, and 90 per cent of the casualties in one five-month period were innocents or bystanders or not the target of the drone strike.

“We could not establish that, we could not prove that, without Daniel Hale’s voice.”

Update:

Following the sentencing, which happened after the Star went to press, Mr Hale said: "I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life. For that I was compensated and given a medal.

"I couldn't keep living in a world in which people pretended that things weren't happening that were.

"Please, your honour, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives."

The Freedom of the Press Foundation said that though Mr Hale did not receive the maximum 10 year sentence, it was "still a shamefully excessive punishment for following his conscience and bringing important information to the American public."

The American Civil Liberties Union said: "Leaks to press in the public interest shouldn't be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Period.

"Daniel Hale helped the public learn about a lethal program that never should have been kept secret. He should be thanked, not sentenced as a spy."

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