Ex-government intelligence analyst leaked classified Al Qaeda documents to reporter: indictment

A former government intelligence analyst leaked classified documents about military campaigns against Al Qaeda to a reporter that later published either in whole or in part, a new indictment charged.

Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested Thursday morning and accused in a Virginia indictment of obtaining and disclosing national defense information and theft of government property. The charges fall under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that criminalizes the disclosure of potentially damaging national security secrets to someone not authorized to receive them.

Hale worked as an intelligence analyst for the Air Force and later as a contractor assigned to the government’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

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The indictment charges that Hale began communicating with a reporter in 2013 while at the Air Force and began to provide him top secret or secret documents to the reporter and his online news outlet.

The communication continued after Hale went on to work at NGA. In total, Hale printed 36 documents form his Top Secret computer and provided at least 17 documents to the reporter. Eleven of those were marked Top Secret or Secret, the indictment said

The documents include a secret memo outlining an overseas military campaign against terrorist group Al Qaeda, a top-secret report on an Al Qaeda operative, and a PowerPoint slide “outlining the effects of the military campaign targeting Al Qaeda overseas.”

The indictment states that many of the classified documents were disclosed in an October 2015 news article.

Court documents do not identify the name of the reporter, but details in the indictment make clear that it was Jeremy Scahill, a founding editor of The Intercept, who allegedly received the leaks, the Associated Press reported.

On October 15, 2015, Scahill published an article on his online news outlet titled “The Assassination Complex” that relies on a “cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars.”

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The story went on to say that the cache of documents was “provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides.”

The indictment indicates that Hale and Scahill met while the reporter was promoting his book “Dirty Wars” – published in 2013 – at a Washington, D.C., bookstore. The book reported on the use of drones to attack and kill targets like Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

The indictment states that Hale listed his work with drones on kill and capture operations on his resume and quotes Hale in a text message to a friend stating that Scahill "wants me to tell my story about working with drones."

According to the indictment, Hale and Scahill used an encrypted messaging service called Jabber to communicate throughout 2013 and 2014.

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Scahill did not immediately return an email seeking comment Thursday.

According to the New York Times, this would be the third case in which someone is prosecuted after providing The Intercept classified information.

Hale will make an initial appearance at the federal court in Tennessee.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.