New reports thanks in part to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal the disastrous collision of two secret, unaccountable and legally dubious U.S. programs - targeted assassination by drone and NSA mass surveillance.
First Look Media reports:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
The former drone operator also says that he personally participated in drone strikes where the identity of the target was known, but other unknown people nearby were also killed.The Obama administration expanded and has consistently defended the secret, programmatic extra-legal killing of admittedly innocent people, including Americans like 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Despite that the drone program's margin of error is drastically more significant than senior Obama administration officials publicly claim, the drone assassination program - in collaboration with the NSA's equally-flawed mass surveillance - continues to expand:
“They might have been terrorists,” he says. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”
The government’s assassination program is actually constructed, he adds, to avoid self-correction. “They make rushed decisions and are often wrong in their assessments. They jump to conclusions and there is no going back to correct mistakes.” Because there is an ever-increasing demand for more targets to be added to the kill list, he says, the mentality is “just keep feeding the beast.”The Associated Press reports that Obama administration, having learned nothing from the tragic mistake in killing an innocent 16-year-old American citizen, is considering its morally bankrupt assassination-by-drone brand of justice for another American. The AP describes in detail that intelligence officials are "making a case" internally to assassinate the American. Due process requires far more than some secret, internal condemnation of guilt from the Executive branch or in the words of the ACLU's National Security Project Director:
The government’s killing program has gone far beyond what the law permits, and it is based on secret evidence and legal interpretations."Innocent until proven guilty" has become "innocent until suspect enough to drone according to a secret and shifting Executive branch 'standards.'" The drone assassination program is a natural outgrowth of the US torture program. There can be no politically troublesome debate over where or how to detain and interrogate "targets" when the U.S. government can simply wipe them from the face of the earth, along with any innocent people unluckily located in blast radius.
The government's response to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill reveals that the drone assassination program amounts to bomb first and ask questions later.
In describing the administration’s policy on targeted killings, Hayden would not say whether strikes are ever ordered without the use of human intelligence. She emphasized that “our assessments are not based on a single piece of information. We gather and scrutinize information from a variety of sources and methods before we draw conclusions.”With no meaningful accountability for the government officials who ordered and carried out torture, the current senior government officials who consistently mislead the public about the drone program's effectiveness have little to fear in the way of professional fallout, much less civil or criminal accountability. (The one person to go to jail in connection with the U.S. torture program - the whistleblower who helped expose it - John Kiriakou.)
Hayden felt free, however, to note the role that human intelligence plays after a deadly strike occurs. “After any use of targeted lethal force, when there are indications that civilian deaths may have occurred, intelligence analysts draw on a large body of information – including human intelligence, signals intelligence, media reports, and surveillance footage – to help us make informed determinations about whether civilians were in fact killed or injured.”
There is perhaps no meme more corrosive to representative democracy than: "Just trust your government." After a decade of trusting a burgeoning national security state operating in secret and seeing proven cases of abuse of power followed by zero accountability for officials who ordered and participated in torture and domestic warrantless wiretapping, the U.S. has a President who claims the unilateral authority to target and assassinate in secret U.S. citizens using drones and faulty intelligence from a secret NSA mass surveillance apparatus.
We owe it to the courageous whistleblowers who informed the American public of the pervasive abuse of power to take a stand against secret abuse of power. Tomorrow is the Day We Fight Back against mass surveillance. Go here to participate.