Former intel analyst pleads not guilty to leaking secret documents

Defense claims defendant is a 'whistleblower'

By David Shortell, CNN
National Security Agency

Aerial view of the National Security Agency building in Washington, D.C.

(CNN) - A former National Security Agency intelligence analyst pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he leaked classified information to a reporter.

At an initial appearance hearing in Virginia federal court, Daniel Hale also waived his right to a speedy trial, acknowledging what a judge said could be an unusually long trial because of the amount of sensitive information it will cover.

Hale was arrested last week in Nashville and charged with multiple counts of mishandling national defense information.

According to court documents, Hale, a former airman who also served as an intelligence officer at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, allegedly printed dozens of documents from his government computer and provided at least 17 to a reporter, many of which were classified as top secret or secret.

The reporter and the news outlet he or she works for was not identified in court documents, but appears to be Jeremy Scahill, a co-founder of the investigative news outlet The Intercept, who has written extensively about the covert US drone program.

In a statement last week The Intercept's editor-in-chief said she would not comment on "matters relating to the identify of anonymous sources" but called the documents allegedly leaked by Hale "of vital public importance."

Hale appeared in court with a black T-shirt that exposed tattoos on his forearms. A woman who identified herself as his sister greeted him after the hearing.

Hale declined comment as he left the courtroom. He is not being detained ahead of his trial.

He is expected back in Virginia federal court on July 12 for a status conference.

Jesselyn Radack, a national security and human rights attorney who is working with Hale's defense team, called Hale a whistleblower who was accused of "contacting the press about a matter of extreme public importance."

"These cases are part of a coordinated campaign to deprive the public of information about our government, and they lay the groundwork to go after more mainstream media sources, outlets and publishers," Radack said in an email.

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