A former U.S. intelligence analyst working for the National Security Agency (NSA) pleaded not guilty to charges of leaking classified information to a reporter.
Daniel Everette Hale, 31, was arrested earlier this month in Nashville under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law criminalizing the sharing of classified defense information to an individual who lacks the authorization to see it.
He was brought to a federal court for a hearing on Friday, where he entered his not guilty plea.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Hale became an intelligence analyst for the NSA and was deployed to Afghanistan, and then returned and began work as an analyst for a defense contractor, all the while maintaining his top level security clearance, which entrusted him with classified national defense administration.
According to allegations in Hale's indictment, he had maintained contact with a reporter, and exchanged messages with the person.
As a defense contractor, Hale printed 36 documents from his "top secret" computer, 23 of which had nothing to do with his own work. He is accused of leaking at least 17 of those documents to the reporter, who subsequently published the documents, either in part or in whole.
The reporter and news outlet that published the documents are not named in the indictment, however, the description matches Jeremey Scahill, one of the founders of the online investigative news site The Intercept.
Scahill has written extensively on the clandestine U.S. drone program.
In 2015, the Intercept published a series of reports based on classified documents on drone warfare, called "The Drone Papers." Then in 2016, Scahill published "The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program."
Hale is being charged on five counts, including obtaining national defense information, disclosing classified information, and theft of government property. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
His next court hearing is on July 12, Scahill said on Twitter.
By Umar Farooq in Washington