JOHN KIRIAKOU: Drone Whistleblower Thrown in Pen With Terrorists

Is society safer with Daniel Hale, who exposed U.S. drone civilian killings, being housed with some of the most dangerous prisoners in America?

Marion Prison (BOP)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale was sent on Sunday to the notorious Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the maximum-security U.S. Penitentiary (USP) at Marion, Illinois to serve a 45-month sentence, rather than to the low-security prison at Butner, North Carolina, where federal Judge Liam O’Grady had recommended he go.

Butner is a prison hospital complex, and O’Grady was cognizant of Daniel’s need for psychological therapy to deal with post traumatic stress disorder from his time as a U.S. Air Force drone operator.

USP Marion, on the other hand, is a former “Supermax” prison that was built in the early 1960s as a replacement for Alcatraz. It was converted into a CMU to keep terrorists from being in contact with the media. The Bureau of Prisons, which apparently knows better than a federal judge, decided that the American public must be protected from Daniel Hale’s dangerous ideas, like the notion that we shouldn’t murder innocent civilians with drones.

Hale today should be sitting in the TV room of a low-security housing unit in a prison in North Carolina awaiting drug and alcohol counseling or speaking with a therapist. That’s what the judge’s order was. Hale is emotionally fragile. He’s occasionally suicidal. He needs some help and support through this experience. Instead, he’s on 24-hour-a-day lockdown. He will likely spend his entire nearly 4-year sentence in solitary confinement with almost no human contact at great risk to his mental health.

What is Daniel Hale’s day like? He is alone in a six-by-ten-foot concrete and steel cell. It has a steel bunk, a paper-thin mattress, a small steel sink, and a steel toilet. On the days that he’s allowed to exercise, which is two or three times per week, he is led into a six-by-ten-foot outdoor cage, where he can walk in circles for an hour.

He is permitted two showers per week and one phone call per month, but only to his attorney. Visitors are carefully screened (NSA whistleblower Tom Drake and I, for example, are banned from visiting him because we have criminal convictions for blowing the whistle on warrantless wiretapping and CIA torture, respectively.)

Even then, the few visitors he will have will be able to see him only through reinforced glass and with the use of an intercom. When Hale receives a letter, it will be scanned and then put on a monitor screen installed along the ceiling of his cell, where it will remain for five minutes while he reads it. At the end of five minutes, it will disappear permanently.

His Fellow Prisoners

Daniel Hale at a peace protest at the White House in undated photo. (DIY Roots Action website)

There are only two full-fledged CMUs in America. One is at USP Marion and the other at USP Terre Haute, Indiana. Again, the purpose of a CMU is to keep the closest possible watch on a dangerous prisoner’s communication with the outside world. So who are some of the other prisoners in Marion’s CMU along with Hale?

They include convicted al-Qaeda terrorist Muhammad Saleh, a follower of the late “blind sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman; Muhammad Rashed al-Owhali, convicted of terrorism in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya; Omar Rezaq, a member of the notorious Abu Nidal Organization and the last surviving hijacker of Egypt Air flight 648 in which 58 people were killed in 1985; and Victor Bout, the Russian arms dealer convicted of selling surface-to-air missiles to terrorist groups.

Does Daniel Hale belong with these people? Is society safer with him being housed with some of the most dangerous prisoners in America? Is solitary confinement in one of the most restrictive maximum-security penitentiaries in America what Judge O’Grady believed was “justice?” Is solitary confinement supposed to somehow “rehabilitate” Hale?

The obvious answer is no.

This is what the BOP does, however. The bureau’s leaders don’t care one whit what judges say at sentencing. I was supposed to be sentenced to a minimum-security work camp and instead was sent to a low-security prison—not an impossible situation, but still an honest-to-God prison. When I filed an internal appeal, I was told that the judge’s order was a “recommendation” that the BOP had chosen to ignore.

The situation is more serious with Hale, though. This isn’t just a case of the BOP ignoring a recommendation. There’s a huge difference between a low-security prison and a Supermax CMU. There’s a huge difference between a low-security prison and solitary confinement. And there’s a huge difference between a low-security prison and a complete lack of the medical and psychological support necessary to keep a prisoner alive.

What happens if, God forbid, Daniel can’t make it through the sentence and he harms himself? A BOP apology isn’t going to cut it. A letter to Congress attributing the disaster to “human error” won’t help him. This issue has to be fixed right now. Daniel Hale must be transferred to Butner and he has to get the help he needs.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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14 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Drone Whistleblower Thrown in Pen With Terrorists

  1. Herbert Hoffman
    October 22, 2021 at 11:46

    Thank you, John and Evelyn. This seems to
    be another example of the rapidly creeping fascism overtaking this nation. To cruelly incarcerate Hale so that he cannot communicate is neither humane, Christian, and hardly an instance of “when the punishment fits the crime.” Actually, no crime was committed only an effort to prevent future crimes.

    I shall call the Judge and the AG.


    Herb Hoffman

  2. AndrewNichols
    October 21, 2021 at 17:45

    Like with Assange, it’s all about the message. Expose the crimes of the Empire and you face the worst. The crimes if Empire must be kept hidden otherwise the masses will revolt and not turn up to the wars they start.

  3. October 21, 2021 at 17:04

    John. I greatly admire your fidelity to the cause as you shed light on Daniel Hale’s inexcusable conditions. — Patrick Lawrence,

  4. Vesa Sainio
    October 21, 2021 at 13:39

    Frances Haugen gets a red carpet while Daniel Hale is tortured to death.

  5. October 21, 2021 at 03:25

    War Criminals walk free, while Wistle blowers land in American Gulag

  6. Randy
    October 21, 2021 at 00:57

    We are said to have a guarantee of a right to a fair and speedy trial, but where pray tell, is our guarantee that we will actually GET one?! There can be no such guarantee, because the men and women who sit in judgment of us are no better than ANY of us! They are child and spouse abusers, alcoholics, drug abusers, and tax cheaters too! So how can even one of them lay claim to becoming some sort of demigod who is all knowing, fair, wise and just, by putting on their black robes of death?
    WHY do we have any kind of an obligation to obey the whims and dictates of these criminal and fake judges??

  7. Afdal
    October 20, 2021 at 20:09

    At this point I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the thugs in charge brought back rat torture.

  8. evelync
    October 20, 2021 at 10:17

    Thank you John Kiriakou.
    I called Judge O’Grady’s Chamber and told his clerk that the prison system had ignored his recommendations and thrown this courageous whistleblower into a maximum security torture chamber.
    I shared your article and told him that the people of this country are disrespected by the CIA who commit crimes in our name with our tax dollars and try to hide from us the wrongdoing and serve the profiteers of the MIC and too big to fail banks instead of the vast majority of people in this country who appreciate the whistleblowers and see that the for profit wars don’t serve the general wellbeing.
    He will share my views with the judge.
    I appreciated that they took my call and listened to what I was saying.

    • John Kiriakou
      October 20, 2021 at 13:18

      God bless you, Evelyn. I’ll do the same.

      • evelync
        October 20, 2021 at 19:31

        Senior Judge Liam O’Grady 703-299-2121

  9. Linda Furr
    October 20, 2021 at 10:09

    I’m increasingly disturbed by the sadism permeating through US policies.

  10. October 20, 2021 at 08:39

    Twisted, psychotic, sadistic. They, not Hale, should be in solitary, forever. Automate their cell because no true human being with any small degree of decency should have to supervise sadism.

    There is no justification for the existence of such people, not ever before, not this century, not ever. Yet here we are, no one, it seems, will step in. There truly is no “justice” system except for a few chance exceptions, it seems. Not courts, not prisons, not police.

    Just a rant, exasperation. Even traffic tickets have to extract the last ounce, and then more, out of every pound of flesh.

  11. TomG
    October 20, 2021 at 07:13

    This is truly an atrocious act, but I’m not sure why anyone would even entertain the notion that BOP would apologize should he go completely insane and/or successfully end his life. Garland was the white night deprived of his seat on the Supreme Court. Where is his in this as the Attorney General? To have allowed this while on his watch is at best negligence of the highest order and at worst yet another diabolical demagogue.

    • evelync
      October 20, 2021 at 12:54

      yes! Justice should be protecting the whistleblowers instead of the perpetrators of the crimes done in our name and with our tax dollars.

      We have the opportunity to reach out to the AG via FAX or email – one can call main number and get the contact info
      and hope that it gets through and gets their attention too.

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