An American whistle-blower, who the media refer to as the “New Snowden,” has released a series of documents that contain highly sensitive intelligence on US drones.
The papers describe the mechanism of targeting suspects slated for assassination and were provided to The Intercept by a source within the US intelligence community.
The documents include two sets of slides that detail the US military's drone operations in Somalia and Yemen between 2011 and 2013, by the secret Task Force 48-4.
Other records detailing drone operations in Afghanistan, reveal that the White House has categorized unidentified people killed in drone strikes as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets. This way they could hide the true numbers of civilian casualties.
One top-secret document shows how the terror “watchlist” appears in the terminals of US military personnel conducting drone operations. On the watchlist, unique codes associated with cellphone SIM cards and handsets are linked to specific individuals in order to geolocate them.
Hiding extent of civilian casualties
One of the documents, for instance, highlights the excessive number of causalities in Operation Haymaker, in 2012, where a US drone strike, killed more than 200 people in northeastern Afghanistan, only 35 of them confirmed targets. It is also noted in the document that, during one five-month period of the operation, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.It is noted in the documents that more than half of these attacks are carried out based on "poor" or "limited" intelligence gathered using metadata from phones and computers, as well as communications intercepts.
In Yemen and Somalia, where the US has far more limited intelligence capabilities to separate civilian casualties from the intended targets, the equivalent ratios are much worse.
According to one of the secret slide, as of June 2012, President Obama had authorized the US special operations forces to assassinate 16 people in Yemen. In Somalia, there were four. However, data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows that in 2012 alone, there were more than 200 people killed in operations in Yemen and between 4 and 8 in Somalia.
'US has developed addiction to drones'
The source wished to remain unknown because of his fear of harsh prosecution by the US government. He said the American public has a right to become aware of the process through which people are placed on kill lists and assassinated upon orders by Washington officials.
“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — 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,” the source told The Intercept.
He slammed the US military for insisting to use the technology in the current fashion, while they can easily opt for alternatives. “The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit.”
The whistle-blower added that, at this point, the US military commanders “have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”
According to The Intercept, the CIA and the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conduct separate assassination programs using drones, and the secret documents should be viewed in the context of an intense internal turf war over which entity should have supremacy in those operations.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some 2,500 people have been killed by US drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones since President Barack Obama took office six years ago.