By Spencer Graves

On Aug. 26, US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wrote President Biden asking for a pardon or commutation of sentence for Daniel Hale, who released documents that seem to have been classified to keep information from the American public. “One document he (Hale) leaked showed that during a five-month operation in Afghanistan, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets,” according to a report in The Washington Post.1

We need more than a pardon for Hale. Not one of the people killed during that five-month operation, whether the intended target or not, had a fair trial. Not one was informed of the nature of the alleged crime for which they were executed. Not one had a day in court.

At Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, MO, protesters oppose drone operations in 2014.—Photo by Shane Franklin

Why does the US have enemies? Because of the manifest contempt that operations like this show for the rule of law.

But this is not restricted to the five months of drone operations described in the document that Hale is imprisoned for releasing. Of the tens of thousands of people killed from the US-led military operations in Afghanistan over the past 20 years or the hundreds of thousands killed in the contemporaneous operations in Iraq and neighboring countries, perhaps a few dozen had anything do with the suicide mass murders of Sept. 11, 2001. Not one of those hundreds of thousands killed, not even the few dozen potentially involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, had a fair trial. Not one was informed of the nature of the alleged crime for which they were executed. Not one had a day in court.

Chelsea Manning supporters line the sidewalk outside the US Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS, in 2014.—Photo by Jim Hannah

Why does the US have enemies? Because of the manifest contempt that operations like this show for the rule of law.

Whistleblowers like Daniel Hale, Reality Winner, Sibel Edmonds, Jeff Sterling, Thomas Drake, Ed Snowden, and Dan Ellsberg deserve Congressional Gold Medals. They are not eligible for Medals of Honor because they were not active-duty military at the time they attempted to inform the public of crimes kept secret by questionable use of government rules for classified information.

To this list, we should add Chelsea Manning, who was in the military when Manning released classified information—which seems to have been classified to keep information from the US Congress and the American public. We should add Julian Assange, who has helped break the complicity of the mainstream media in the government’s attempt to keep information from the US public. We should also add Richard Barlow, whose career was destroyed after he told his managers at the Central Intelligence Agency and the US Department of Defense that they should not lie to Congress.

Nathaniel Schiele seeks peace for the world and freedom for Chelsea Manning in 2014.—Photo by Jim Hannah

But even awarding Congressional Gold Medals like this treats a symptom, when we should fix the system by authorizing anyone to file with any federal judge a request to review any classified document. And we should authorize any such judge to declassify such documents, subject to appellate review, if in the judge’s opinion, the public interest would be better served by declassification. This would overturn US v. Reynolds (1953), which says that no federal judge can question a claim of national security by any federal official. US v. Reynolds has been an open invitation to massive, clandestine criminality by federal government officials. It has encouraged actions that have manufactured many of the enemies the US has faced on the international stage since 1953. US v. Reynolds is a fundamental threat to US national security and should be overturned. Awarding Congressional Gold Medals as suggested above would be nice but ultimately would not make nearly as much of a contribution to US national security as overturning US v. Reynolds.

—Spencer Graves, a Vietnam Era veteran with a PhD in statistics, has studied national security and related issues since 1967. He is the founder of EffectiveDefense.org and serves as secretary of the Board of Directors of PeaceWorks Kansas City. This is his opinion and not an official position of PeaceWorks.  Copyright 2021, Spencer Graves, Jim Hannah, Shane Franklin, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/daniel-hale-pardon-letter/2021/08/26/89ad149e-05c8-11ec-a266-7c7fe02fa374_story.html