Secret documents provide glimpse into US drone war

2015-10-15 20:15
The Intercept website

The Intercept website

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Washington - Secret documents from an anonymous whistleblower offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the US government's controversial "targeted killing" drone programme against terrorists, a series of articles published on Thursday on The Intercept website revealed.

The investigative website uncovered details on how the deadly attacks are carried out as well as the programme's weaknesses that human rights groups have criticised. It laid out the US chain of command and what criteria are used to put a suspected terrorist on the so-called "kill list".

The website based its reporting on an unnamed source from inside the US intelligence community. The tell-all web portal has previously released highly sensitive secret documents in regard to the NSA's phone surveillance.

The whistleblower insisted upon anonymity given the sensitivity of the documents and because the US government zealously pursues those who reveal classified information.

The whistleblower decided to act because he thought the public should know how decisions are made at the highest levels of government to carry out assassinations by drone.

"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 anonymous source told The Intercept.

The US has used drones for years in its campaign against terrorists - both as a weapon and for reconnaissance. Drones have been used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen as well as Syria and Iraq. Exact numbers of those killed by US drones remains undisclosed.

Beyond offering a new level of granularity in how the programme functions, detailing turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA, the new documents also offer fresh details on specific missions.

One of the new documents provides new insight into the 2012 drone killing in Somalia of Bilal al-Berjawi, a Briton whose citizenship had been revoked.

A secret 2013 Pentagon report shows that al-Berjawi had been monitored for five years as moved back and forth between Somalia and London, yet apparently no effort was made to capture him before a drone missile destroyed the car he was driving outside Mogadishu.

"The drone campaign right now really is only about killing ... We don't capture people anymore," Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency, now an outspoken critic of the programme, told The Intercept.

"Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington's 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and - due to a preference for assassination rather than capture - an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects," The Intercept concludes.

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