United States v. Hale

An Espionage Act case in the Eastern District of Virginia

On July 20, 2021, the Knight Institute joined seventeen law professors in filing an amicus brief in United States v. Hale, a case in which the Eastern District of Virginia is currently considering the appropriate sentence for Daniel Everette Hale after he pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act. A former Air Force intelligence analyst, Hale disclosed to the press classified documents revealing the process by which the U.S. government identified individuals for targeted drone killings beyond the battlefield.

The Espionage Act has long been used by the government to prosecute whistleblowers for disclosing information to the press. Hale’s prosecution, however, is part of a significant uptick in Espionage Act prosecutions under the Obama and Trump administrations, which charged more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined. Like many of those whistleblowers, Hale disclosed information on matters of significant public concern while those matters were the subject of live debate. The amicus brief argues that, to arrive at a just sentence, the court should weigh any harm caused by Hale’s disclosure of the classified information at issue against the importance of the disclosed information to informed public discourse and democratic accountability.

Status: Sentencing scheduled for July 27, 2021.

Case Information: United States v. Hale, No. 1:19-cr-00059 (E.D. Va.).

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