The Intercept has received a massive 'data dump' of documents concerning the USA's drone program against terrorists, including kill operations. It's not only mind-bendingly complex, but to anyone with any sort of morality or conscience it's a terrifying illustration of what happens when faceless individuals and mindless computers make life-or-death decisions - decisions that have so far killed far more innocent bystanders than they have legitimate targets.
The Intercept's coverage can be read here. I urge you to do so, to see what our government is doing in our name, but without our knowledge or consent. It's frightening.
As the Telegraph pointed out in its report on the leaked documents;
Almost all of the victims of American drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan during a five-month period were civilians, according to a leaked trove of classified intelligence documents.
. . .
The source said he had chosen to come forward because the public had a right to know about the "assassinations" that are continuing to take place:
“This outrageous explosion of watch listing - of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong," he said.
“We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”
The documents show how drone strikes are often based on thin intelligence, and have an incalculable civilian toll. Accidental victims are then labelled “enemies killed in action”, even if there is no immediate evidence of to suggest that they were hostile to the US government.
Details of a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, drone stikes killed more than 200 people, of which only 35 were intended.
During one five-month period of the operation, the documents show, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.
In Yemen and Somalia, where the US has much more limited intelligence gathering capabilities, those running the drone programme are often unable confirm the identities of the people killed by it.
“Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” the source said. When “a drone strike kills more than one person, there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate.”
. . .
US intelligence agents use information from government watch lists and other military agencies to begin tracking potential targets. The leaked documents show that those thought eligible for the kill list are then profiled, with their information then crammed onto a small document “known as a baseball card” according to the source.
More “operational information” is added, before the file goes into a “target information folder” that is passed up the chain of command. The president must then sign off on chosen targets.
The process by which people are considered eligible for a baseball card is a complex and nebulous method.
“You’re relying on the fact that you do have all these very powerful machines, capable of collecting extraordinary amounts of data and information,” sometimes giving personnel “godlike powers” the source said.
Moreover, according to a separate investigative report, many of the people helping compile this information are private contractors, who may not be bound by the same rules or accountability structure as members of the United States military.
There's more at the link.
This is truly frightening. The life of human beings is literally being decided by bureaucrats, without a shred of actual evidence being presented to a court of law to decide whether a death sentence is actually justified. The victims include US citizens. I've no doubt at all that some of them deserved their fate . . . but if the documents are correct, they're a small minority of those who are still, to this day, being killed in our name, but without our knowledge or sanction.
The next question, of course, is this: if it's acceptable for nameless, faceless bureaucrats to do this to people in other countries, what's to stop them doing the same thing in this country to citizens whom they regard as a threat to their policies or powers?