Newly leaked United States government documents have provided an unprecedented window into the secret US drone assassination program across the globe.
In “The Drone Papers”, online publication The Intercept reveals drone strikes have resulted from unreliable intelligence, stemming in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence” (for example, using mobile phone signals to identify people) that officials acknowledge is insufficient.
The documents undermine US government claims that drone strikes have been precise. In Afghanistan, strikes on 35 direct targets killed at least 219 others.
Among other revelations, they also suggest the strikes have hurt intelligence gathering and that unknown male victims have been labelled as “enemies killed in action” unless evidence later proves otherwise. The documents were leaked to The Intercept by an unnamed US intelligence source.
Jeremy Scahill, an editor of The Intercept, told Democracy Now!: “This is the first time that primary source documents have been published that detail the chain of command for assassinating people around the globe.
“The banality of the bureaucracy of assassination is so clear in these documents — the cold corporate words that they use to describe killing people. The 'basics of manhunting' is one of the terms that they use. The 'tyranny of distance' is another term that they use. 'Arab features,' you know, to describe people that they're looking at from thousands of feet above.
“The corporate coldness of the way that these documents reflect what is actually a process of systematically hunting down and assassinating human beings should send chills through the spine of people who care about democracy in this society.”
The unnamed intelligence source who leaked the documents to The Intercept told the site: “It's stunning the number of instances when I've come across intelligence that was faulty, when sources of information used to finish targets were misattributed to people.
“And it isn't until several months or years later that you realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this target, it was his mother's phone the whole time.
“Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association — it's a phenomenal gamble.”
See The Intercept for full details.