US govt overclassifies docs to prevent public learning about crimes

The government is trying to prevent whistleblowing and investigative journalism, a former FBI agent told RT speaking on the case of an ex-intelligence analyst facing 50 years in prison for leaking files about the US drone program.

Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested this Thursday and was charged with illegally obtaining and disclosing classified national defense information and theft of government property under the Espionage Act.

Back in 2013, Hale provided dozens of secret US military papers to the Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill, the US officials confirmed, even though the whistleblower’s indictment does not contain the name of the journalist he contacted, or the name of the media outlet that published his materials.

The documents he leaked revealed the inner workings of the US counterterrorism operations overseas under the administration of then-President Barack Obama, which involved targeted drone strikes. Such operations sometimes led to the deaths of more than a dozen civilians in just one strike.

The accusations leveled against Hale now, more than five years after he allegedly leaked the documents, only demonstrate Washington’s desire to pressure those, who want the US authorities to be accountable for their actions and bear public responsibility for their decisions, into silence, the activists and whistleblowers believe.

James Risen, director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, told NBC that Hale’s prosecution “amounts to an abuse of the Espionage Act to criminalize the process of reporting.”

“There [should] be a law that prevents classification of information evidencing a crime. A lot of their overclassification is actually to prevent people from learning about crimes, which is completely illegal,” Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent and whistleblower, told RT.

She said that the US establishment does not want public accountability because it would be “very difficult” for them to explain their actions to the people because the people “understand that you are not supposed to be able to commit a crime and then to be able to cover it up.”

She also criticized the current level of public scrutiny over the actions of the US high authorities by saying that “we have gone that far in pressing the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press that the people are pretty ignorant about all the stuff that is going on except for these occasional [leaks] with the help of whistleblowers.”