Tags: Drone | campaign | leaked | documents | airstrikes

Leaked Documents Detail Expansive Drone Campaign

Image: Leaked Documents Detail Expansive Drone Campaign

By    |   Thursday, 15 Oct 2015 11:36 AM

Secret government documents show the nation's increasing reliance on drones comes despite their "shortcomings and flaws," including the killing of innocent civilians, the Intercept reports.

"It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan," a source who provided the documents to the Intercept tells the news outlet.

"But at this point, they 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."

The Intercept said the documents also "outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program."

"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 Intercept quotes its source saying.

Included in the data were illustrations that the unintended casualties of drone strikes sometimes far outweigh those of the intended targets, the Intercept reports.

"[D]ocuments detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets," the Intercept reports.

"During one five month period of the operation, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets."

The Hill notes the Obama administration has often heralded the minimal number of civilians killed during drone strikes – but it has tended to consider unidentified people near or associating with identified targets to be suspected terrorists. 

People killed in targeted strikes who were not specifically targeted by the attacks are nonetheless labeled "enemies killed in action," the leaked documents show.

The Intercept also reports the military has faced "critical shortfalls" in the technology and ability to find suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, illustrating the limits to U.S. U.S. intelligence resources.

The documents cover the years 2011 through 2013, when President Obama released for the first time a set of guidelines and standards to cover drone warfare.

"America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute," Obama said in a speech at National Defense University on May 23, 2013. 

"To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties — not just in our cities at home and our facilities abroad, but also in the very places like Sana'a and Kabul and Mogadishu where terrorists seek a foothold."

"Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. So doing nothing is not an option."

A senior administration official tells The Hill the guidelines enacted then "remain in effect today."

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Secret government documents show the nation's increasing reliance on drones comes despite their "shortcomings and flaws," including the killing of innocent civilians, the Intercept reports.
Drone, campaign, leaked, documents, airstrikes
Thursday, 15 Oct 2015 11:36 AM
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