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The previous Air Force analyst who leaked information about a drone was sentenced to 45 months in prison

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Alexandria, Virginia. A previous Air Force intelligence analyst who once helped find targets for US drone strikes has been sentenced to 45 months in prison for leaking top-secret details about the program.

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Daniel Hill, 33, told a federal judge he felt compelled to leak information to a journalist out of guilt over his participation in a program believed to be indiscriminately killing civilians in Afghanistan far from the battlefield.

“It is mistaken to kill,” Hill said in a defiant statement accepting responsibility for his actions, but pleaded for mercy. “It is especially mistaken to kill defenseless people.”

But US District Judge Liam O’Grady told Hill he had other ways to express his concerns besides leaking to a journalist. Citing the need to hinder others from unlawful disclosure, he imposed a harsher sentence of the 12 to 18 month period requested by Hill’s lawyers but far more lax than the longer sentence requested by the plaintiffs.

“You could have resigned from the army,” O’Grady told Hill, or tell your commanders you wouldn’t do it anymore.

The allegation is one of a series of cases the Justice Department has brought in recent years against current and previous government officials who disclosed classified secrets to journalists. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced unused guidelines this month to forbid prosecutors from subpoenaing journalists’ records in leak investigations, but the department has shown no signs of scaling back efforts to indict officials it determines have leaked national security information.

Prosecutors argued that Hill, who was deployed to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in 2012 and was honorably discharged the following year, misrepresented the government’s trust and knew the documents he was sharing “risked causing severe, and in some cases exceptionally grave, hurt to the vehicle.” “. National Security “but he leaked them anyway. They say the documents Hill leaked were found in an online collection of materials designed to aid Islamic State fighters avoid detection.

Hill’s stated reasoning that he was trying to expose the grievances surrounding the Army’s drone program has earned him support among whistleblower advocates and among critics of the government’s war effort, some of whom carried supportive banners outside the courtroom and attended Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

But prosecutors painted a distinct picture. Assistant US Attorney Gordon Krumberg said the effect of Hill’s actions was not to contribute to a public debate about the war but to “endanger the people who are fighting.” He said that even if Hill’s intention was not to assist a terrorist organization, that’s what he did.

The Justice Department said Hill began contacting a journalist in April 2013 while he was still in the Air Force. The following February, while working as a defense contractor for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Hill printed six classified documents, each of which was subsequently published. Prosecutors said he provided the reporter with additional documents that were made public in whole or in part, including 11 classified as classified or top secret.

He pleaded guilty earlier this year.

While the court papers never identified the recipient of the leak, details about the case make it clear that the documents were handed over to Jeremy Scahill, a reporter with The Intercept, who used the documents as part of a series of critical reports on how the military was conducting. Drone strikes on foreign targets.

The arguments on Tuesday were less about whether Hill leaked the records – and he openly admits that – and more about his rationale for his actions and the role he should play in the sentence’s arithmetic.

Defense attorneys argued that he was scrupulous and that his leaks did not jeopardize national security.

Defense attorneys wrote in: “He committed the crime to draw attention to what he believed to be unethical government behavior committed under a cloak of secrecy and in contrast to then-President Obama’s public statements regarding the alleged accuracy of the US military’s drone program.” deposited final week.

Prosecutors painted Hill as eager to admire journalists, but Hill described himself as disturbed by the role his actions may have played in the loss of innocent lives. He worked as a signals intelligence analyst, where he helped identify drone strikes targets by tracking moveable phone signals.

He said in court on Tuesday that he wanted to dispel the notion that “drone warfare keeps us safe,” and documents he leaked showed, among other things, that the drone program was not as correct as the government claimed in terms of avoiding killing civilians.

When Hale read aloud from a prepared statement, his voice occasionally surged with emotion, repeatedly taking responsibility for his actions but lamenting the acts of war more than “taking the papers”

He said he was pained by the possibility that his actions in the drone program had encouraged terrorists in the United States, citing the case of Omar Mateen, the gunman who massacred nightclub-goers in Orlando, Florida, in 2016 and openly demanded during it. The shooting that needed the air strikes to quit.


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