Classified information leak to media results in 45 month prison sentence

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • OSI Public Affairs

A Tennessee man was sentenced July 27, 2021, to 45 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for illegally obtaining classified national defense information and disclosing it to a reporter.

According to court documents, Daniel Everette Hale, 33, of Nashville, began communicating with a reporter beginning in April 2013, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA). Hale admitted meeting with the reporter in person multiple times and communicating with the reporter via phone, text message, email, and at times, an encrypted messaging platform.

Hale, who pleaded guilty to retention and transmission of national defense information on March 31, 2021, faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge determined Hale’s sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI Baltimore, Md., Field Office requested the Office of Special Investigations to assist their investigation, which lasted from April 2014 to October 2017. OSI Special Projects (PJ) Detachment 9, at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C., with support from PJ Detachment 2, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, partnered with various other Intelligence Community agencies into Hale’s illegal activity.

PJ was identified as the primary agency to facilitate Original Classification Authority (OCA) reviews of media articles critical to supporting charges against Hale.

"This case was enabled by the outstanding teamwork with our partners from the FBI, other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the U.S. Attorney's Office," said Lee Russ, Special Agent-in-Charge at OSI Det. 9 during the investigation. "Obtaining Air Force records regarding Mr. Hale’s military service and leveraging subject matter experts and classification expertise from the Air Force, who provided technical and classification assessments of the data, was critical to the success of this investigation and prosecution.”

In February 2014, while working as a cleared defense contractor at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Hale printed six classified documents unrelated to his work at NGA, and soon after exchanged a series of messages with the reporter. Each of the six documents printed were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.

According to court records, while employed as a cleared defense contractor for NGA, Hale printed 36 documents from his Top Secret computer, including 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA. Of those 23 documents, Hale provided at least 17 to the reporter and/or the reporter’s online news outlet, which published the documents in whole or in part.

Eleven of the published documents were marked as Top Secret or Secret.

Court records also stated in August 2014, Hale’s cell phone contact list included contact information for the reporter. He also possessed a thumb drive that contained a page marked “SECRET” from a classified document that Hale had printed in February 2014 and had attempted to delete from the thumb drive. Hale also possessed on his home computer another document he had stolen from NGA.

“While this case neutralized the threat of this person, it highlights the risk insider threats pose, and the need for continued and ever more vigilant protection of our operational and intelligence capabilities,” SA Russ emphasized.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs contributed to this article.