U.S. military drones are killing many civilians in strikes against Islamic areas, according to a major new investigative report aided by a government whistleblower describing CIA and Defense Department Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) actions.
As many as 90 percent of U.S. drone killings charted in one confidential study over a five-month period were not the intended target. That was one finding by The Intercept, an investigative website, as part of The Drone Papers, its eight-part series Oct. 15.
The series has been at least a year in the making and is based in significant part on the revelations of an unnamed whistleblower from the intelligence community whose findings were briefly summarized on last year’s Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour.
The movie scene included Edward Snowden, the former NSA government contractor who leaked classified documents in 2013 about surveillance programs to journalist Glenn Greenwald
Snowden, who now lives in Russia, shared his reaction to the drone series on Twitter with his 1.5 million followers:
“In an astonishing act of civil courage, one American just shattered an unspeakable lie,” Snowden wrote of the new whistleblower while also citing their Pentagon Papers predecessor Daniel Ellsberg. “When we look back on today, we will find the most important national security story of the year. Today, @DanielEllsberg is smiling.”
Snowden, shown on his Twitter photo, joined the messaging service in late September. Intercept co-founder Greenwald was a Brazil-based columnist for the Guardian when he broke the Snowden revelations in 2013 with film maker Laura Poitras, producer of last year’s award-winning Citizen Four.
One of the film’s final scenes shows Snowden examining a version of the “The Chain of Command” chart at right, created with the new whistleblower’s help to show the path of drone decision-making leading to the president’s decisions to launch deadly strikes.
Neither the White House nor other agencies commented in detail.
“The Drone Wars” series was promptly panned, however, by a writer affiliated with several of the many organizations in the nation’s capital that argued for aggressive U.S. military actions, especially in the Middle East. They generally advocate for the war and intelligence industries by using quasi-academic arguments regarding the dangers of terror.
Writing for the “Lawfare” blog published by the Brookings Institution, Adam Klein thus published A Response to the “Drone Papers”: AUMF Targeting is a Deliberate Process with Robust Political Accountability.
Klein also is a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs fellow and a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The latter organization was co-founded in 2007 by future Obama administration CIA Director David Petraeus, a Republican, and has been a perch for many neoconservatives and neoliberals rotating through the Obama administration.
Obama has resisted some of most aggressive pressures from the military-intelligence sector to ramp up U.S. ground forces in war zones and he forced a Petraeus resignation in 2012 because of doubts about the CIA director’s loyalty to the administration, as we reported in our 2013 book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters and elsewhere.
But Obama’s own career was fostered by the military-intelligence-banking-and-foundation world in ways still-hidden from most in the public. And even now, when he resists the more extreme calls for troops and relies instead on drones, his presidential powers are far more circumscribed than commonly understood. The president himself, like his predecessors, faces powerful and little-seen opposition when he chooses a policy that is restrained compared to the more radical alternatives he is pressured to undertake.
So, as Snowden underscored, the Intercept’s pathbreaking series is extremely important — and, this column argues, parallels other major revelations during recent days regarding Western foreign policy.
The Justice Integrity Project began a series of reports on Oct. 18 about these epic breakdowns with our column NY Times Features Challenge To Obama Bin Laden Raid Story. We continued the next day with Memo Exposes Former British PM Tony Blair As Liar, Bush Stooge On Iraq. Separate reports soon here shall cover:
- Prosecuted CIA, NSA Whistleblowers Deserve Public Support As Political Prosecution Victims;
- A Closer Look At Madeleine Albright’s Career and Continuing Impact;
- Russia’s recent initiatives in Syria, including reports that it has used advanced technology to create a zone in Syria where Western electronics do not function; and
- Continuing controversies over a London subway bombing in 2007 that constituted UK’s “9/11” and the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2103.
We examine The Drone Papers, more specifically below, with an appendix providing a direct link to each installment as well as a range of reaction so far.