Statement on the Indictment of Alleged Drone Strike Whistleblower

THE INTERCEPT does not comment on matters relating to the identity of anonymous sources.

In an indictment unsealed on May 9, the government alleges that documents on the U.S. drone program were leaked to a news organization. These documents detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including U.S. citizens, through drone strikes. They are of vital public importance, and activity related to their disclosure is protected by the First Amendment. The alleged whistleblower faces up to 50 years in prison. No one has ever been held accountable for killing civilians in drone strikes.

Following in the dangerous path of the Obama administration, the Trump administration is continuing to use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who enable journalists to uncover disgraceful, immoral, and unconstitutional acts committed in secret by the U.S. government. At The Intercept, we stand firmly opposed to all such prosecutions.

James Risen, director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, said in a statement:

Like previous prosecutions of alleged journalistic sources, the prosecution of Daniel Everette Hale amounts to an abuse of the Espionage Act to criminalize the process of reporting. Everyone who cares about press freedom should reject the government’s outrageous crackdown on whistleblowers, which accelerated dramatically under President Barack Obama and has escalated further under Donald Trump, targeting the very people who are working the hardest to hold the government accountable for abuses and to protect our democracy.

James Risen
Director, Press Freedom Defense Fund

About the Press Freedom Defense Fund

The Press Freedom Defense Fund is part of First Look Media, the media company founded by Pierre Omidyar. The PFDF provides essential legal support for journalists, news organizations, and whistleblowers who are targeted by powerful figures because they have tried to bring to light information that is in the public interest and necessary for a functioning democracy.

Press Freedom