The Intercept has come up with a blockbuster report about the US drone killing program that demonstrates the many lies used by the government to justify its killings. The series of articles by Jeremy Scahill, Cora Currier, Josh Begley, Ryan Devereaux, Ryan Gallagher, and Nick Turse are based on secret documents released by an internal whistleblower who, like Edward Snowden, felt that what the US government was doing was wrong and that the public needed to know what was being done in its name.
As Scahill’s article The Assassination Complex states:
The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.”
The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “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 said.
The report describes how the many claims by the US government about the precautions it takes in its drone killing program are simply false. Human rights and civil liberties groups have called for immediate investigations into the report’s charges.
Among the revelations included in the documents, provided to The Intercept by an anonymous source, are that U.S. drone strikes routinely kill far more people than their intended targets, that drone operators frequently conduct strikes based on unreliable evidence, and that individuals killed in strikes whose identities are unknown are posthumously counted as “enemies killed in action,” without any evidence that they had actually been combatants.
The disclosures have undermined the Obama administration’s claim that its strikes are being conducted with respect for civilian life. “A review of the lethal force program must be transparent and include disclosure of the United States’ compliance with its legal obligations,” said Hina Shamsi of the ACLU’s National Security Project. Shamsi added that, given the nature of the revelations published today about the nature of the criteria used for drone targeting, the administration must disclose “the criteria it uses to determine civilian or ‘militant’ or ‘combatant’ status, the identities and numbers of civilians killed and injured in its operations, and an assessment of the strategic consequences for national security of this unprecedented lethal force program.”
In a post on the ACLU’s website, Shamsi added, “These eye-opening disclosures make a mockery of U.S. government claims that its lethal force operations are based on reliable intelligence and limited to lawful targets.”
Citing the distance between the administration’s public statements about the drone program and the apparent reality of how it operates, Omar Shakir, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-author of Stanford University’s 2012 study Living Under Drones, said that “these new documents underscore just how much we’ve been intentionally misled about this program.” He added that “the basis for identifying targets, authorizing strikes, and investigating civilian harm all raise serious questions about potential violations of international law. … If a subsequent investigation finds credible evidence of unlawful killings, those responsible need to face legal accountability.”
But ‘legal accountability’ is what The Most Transparent Administration in History avoids at all costs. Watch the Obama administration’s well-oiled machine of denials and stonewalling begin to operate in earnest.