Democratic Socialists of America International Committee (DSA IC, or IC) stands in solidarity with anti-war activist and whistleblower Daniel Hale, who, in addition to speaking out against U.S. drone policy, gave information to an investigative journalist about the U.S.’s global assassination program. As a result of this heroic act, the U.S. government charged Hale with violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. Hale recently pled guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, admitting to a judge that he gave this information to a reporter and was the anonymous author of a chapter in The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. While the charges Hale pled guilty to carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, the U.S. government has yet to dismiss the remaining charges. This is a clear attempt to extract the maximum punishment against a person of conscience who exposed the ugly face of U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S. drone program is a program of illegal and murderous extrajudicial killings, often euphemistically referred to as “targeted killings.” Yet, Hale’s revelations show that they are far from targeted. During one time period covered in the documents Hale gave to a journalist, 90 percent of those killed were not the intended targets. The U.S. government obscures this fact by classifying even unintended targets as the “enemy,” a term that serves as a catchall without any further explanations.
Hale, speaking anonymously at the time, explained: “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them “baseball cards,” assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,”
The Espionage Act passed during World War I and was a way to persecute people who opposed the War. The U.S. government jailed prominent leaders of the Socialist Party of America, including Eugene Debs, and staged a mass trial of the members of the Industrial Workers of the World. The crime these people committed was exercising their First Amendment rights. These efforts not only served to stifle criticism of a brutal and unnecessary war, but they decimated the U.S. left.
When Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo gave the U.S. government’s secret history of the Vietnam War (i.e., the “Pentagon Papers”) to the press, this draconian law found a new purpose—jailing those who expose the crimes of the national security state. In spite of this attempt, whistleblower prosecutions under the Espionage Act remained rare until the Obama administration. Obama’s Department of Justice normalized the practice and Trump’s Department of Justice accelerated it, seeking longer and harsher sentences against those who give information to the media. It appears Biden’s Department of Justice, instead of reversing course, will continue this bipartisan practice, building on top of the cruelty of Trump administration
The Espionage Act has been used to prosecute Chelsea Manning, who exposed U.S. war crimes and other abuses of power, Edward Snowden, who exposed the U.S. government’s illegal and unconstitutional bulk surveillance, and Julian Assange, an Australian national who published information given to him exposing U.S. war crimes. The International Committee has previously condemned the U.S. government’s persecution of Manning and Assange. Among the policies included by the International Committee in DSA’s “First 100 Days of Socialism” was ending “government repression of journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal information about harmful actions by U.S. agencies abroad.”
Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee again reiterates its call to end the repression of those who expose U.S. war crimes. Hale should receive no time in prison. Moreover, Hale and all those indicted or convicted under the Espionage Act for exposing official abuses of power, should receive full pardons. We call for an end to U.S. policy of drone strikes and extrajudicial executions and for a complete withdrawal of the U.S. from the Middle East. We stand in solidarity with Daniel Hale, whose courageous act of truth telling has exposed monstrous policies approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government.