Leaked Military Documents Expose the U.S. ‘Assassination Complex’
THOSE at The Intercept have recently obtained leaked documents from an anonymous intelligence source that provides an in-depth look into the U. S. military’s secretive global assassination program. The Drone Papers, as the series of articles is called, outlines the “flaws and consequences” of the aerial campaign that is being conducted by the U. S. military in the Middle East.
The Obama administration has portrayed drones as an effective and efficient weapon in the ongoing war with al Qaeda and other radical groups. Yet classified Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that the U.S. military has faced “critical shortfalls” in the technology and intelligence it uses to find and kill suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia.
According to The Intercept, “the documents are part of a study by a Pentagon Task Force on Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.” In particular, the documents provide details into how targets in Yemen and Somalia were marked, tracked, and killed by the Joint Special Operations Command ( JSOC), often sentencing people to death without “establishing checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.” At the time the study circulated, the Obama administration was considering the idea of switching the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon, and the military was all too “eager to make the case for more bases, more drones, higher video quality, and better eavesdropping.”
In a statement from the source: “It’s stunning the number of instances when I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty, when sources of information used to finish targets were misattributed to people, and it isn’t until several months or years later that you realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this target, it was his mother’s phone the whole time. Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association— it’s a phenomenal gamble.”
Those at Global Research have compiled a list of key revelations as outlined by The Intercept:
- Assassinations have depended on unreliable intelligence. More than half the intelligence used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia was based on electronic communications data from phones, computers, and targeted intercepts ( known as signals intelligence) which, the government admits, it has “poor” and “limited” capability to collect. By the military’s own admission, it was lacking in reliable information from human sources.
- The documents con t rad ic t Administration claims that its operations against high- value terrorists are limited and precise. Contrary to claims that these campaigns narrowly target specific individuals, the documents show that air strikes under the Obama administration have killed significant numbers of unnamed bystanders. Documents detailing a 14-month kill/ capture campaign in Afghanistan, for example, show that while the U.S. military killed 35 of its direct targets with air strikes, 219 other individuals also died in the attacks.
- In Afghanistan, the military has designated unknown men it kills as “Enemies Killed in Action.” According to The Intercept’s source, the military has a practice of labeling individuals killed in air strikes this way unless evidence emerges to prove otherwise.
- Assassinations hurt intelligence gathering. The Pentagon study finds that killing suspected terrorists, even if they are legitimate targets, “significantly reduce[ s]” the information available and further hampers intelligence gathering.
- New details about the ‘ kill chain’ reveal a bureaucratic structure headed by President Obama, by which U. S. government officials select and authorize targets for assassination outside traditional legal and justice systems, and with little transparency. The system included creating a portrait of a potential target in a condensed format known as a ‘ Baseball Card,’ which was passed to the White House for approval, while individual drone strikes were often authorized by other officials.
-Inconsistencies with publicly available White House statements about targeted killings. Administration policy standards issued in 2013 state that lethal force will be launched only against targets that pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U. S. persons,” however documents from the same time reveal much more vague criteria, including that a person only need present “a threat to U.S. interest or personnel.”
-New details of highprofile drone kills, including the 2012 killing in Somalia of Bilal alBerjawi, which raise questions about whether the British government revoked his citizenship to facilitate the strike.
-Information about a largely covert effort to extend the U.S. military’s footprintacross the African continent, including through a network of mostly small and low- profile airfields in Djibouti and other African countries.
Although the documents contain recommendations for improvement, one of the most crucial aspects is the mentality reflected in the documents, which according to the source is: “This process can work. We can work out the kinks. We can excuse the mistakes. And eventually we will get it down to the point where we don’t have to continuously come back… and explain why a bunch of innocent people got killed.” As those at The Intercept points out, the architects of this global assassination campaign don’t seem to care about the enduring impact, or moral implications of their actions. The source states:
“All you have to do is take a look at the world and what it’s become, and the ineptitude of our Congress, the power grab of the executive branch over the past decade. It’s never considered: Is what we’re doing going to ensure the safety of our moral integrity? Of not just our moral integrity, but the lives and humanity of the people that are going to have to live with this the most?”