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Death By Metadata: The NSA's Secret Role In the US Drone Strike Program 202

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-d-for-drone dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Glenn Greenwald reports at his new independent news site 'The Intercept' that according to a former drone operator for the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the NSA often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. In one tactic, the NSA 'geolocates' the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist's mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. The technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against US forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have 'absolutely' been killed as a result of the NSA's increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic. One problem is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA's reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system while other top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA's targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which uses a conservative methodology to track drone strikes, estimates that at least 2,400 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have been killed by unmanned aerial assaults under the Obama administration. Greenwald's source says he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata. 'People get hung up that there's a targeted list of people. It's really like we're targeting a cell phone. We're not going after people – we're going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.' Whether or not Obama is fully aware of the errors built into the program of targeted assassination, he and his top advisers have repeatedly made clear that the president himself directly oversees the drone operation and takes full responsibility for it."
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Death By Metadata: The NSA's Secret Role In the US Drone Strike Program

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday February 10, 2014 @08:15PM (#46213899)

    The story of al-Awalaki's 16 year old son doesn't get enough coverage. Presumably, he's one of the 4 americans that have been (officially) killed by drone strikes.

    Obama's campaign staff said that the boy should've "had a more responsible father."

    http://www.theatlantic.com/pol... [theatlantic.com]

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday February 10, 2014 @08:48PM (#46214065)

    Well...

    His Executive Order for closing same pretty much had all the loopholes it needed, since it required that prisoners be returned to their countries of origin if possible (and most of the countries of origin didn't want those guys back).

    Plus there was the part about "The Department of Defense has determined that a number of the individuals currently detained at GuantÃnamo are eligible for such transfer or release.", which implies strongly that there are also a number NOT so eligible.

    Then there's the "This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations." part, which provides plenty of cover for the DoJ to determine that any particular inmate is NOT eligible for release.

    In other words, the Executive Order was written so as to cover Obama's ass first and foremost, with the actual closing of Gitmo a bonus, if it happened.

  • by tsqr (808554) on Monday February 10, 2014 @09:55PM (#46214439)
    10% collateral damage is remarkably low. Estimates for WWII are 40 - 60%, and that ignores the 20 million Russian civilians who died along the way. NATO's bombing campaign in Kosovo was around 80%.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday February 10, 2014 @11:36PM (#46214923) Journal

    I know about the divisions of the world in Islam etc. I also know about their practical place in the hierarchy of things. What your theory doesn't explain is why Muslims fought each other all along - not just Sunni vs Shia, but Sunni vs Sunni as well. Ottoman claims to Caliphate were, shall we say, contentious for quite a long time.

    In truth, Muslim nations are like all other nations. They also have nationalism, for which Islam is, at best, a notable but not overwhelming part of their national identity. Arabs revolted against Ottoman Caliphs numerous times for these reasons, and Turks themselves always had a nationalist streak that ultimately lead them to rediscover themselves as a nation in their own right, and substitute "Turkishness" for Islam.

    The only Muslims today who care about all that Dar al-Harb stuff and who actually have any specific plans for the re-establishment of the Caliphate are Salafi, but they're also the ones who don't recognize the vast majority of Caliphs since Muhammad as rightful rulers (in particular, Ottomans), because they deviated from the pure original Islam. I mean, we're talking here about people who deem Saudi Arabia to not be sufficiently Islamic, on the basis that they don't solely base their jurisprudence on Sharia, but have a few other written laws as well as the ability of the king to pardon people duly convicted by a sharia court.

    However, Salafi are a minority among the Sunni. They are a dangerous minority, yes, and they will stir trouble, but the idea of enemy at the gates of the Western civilization is absurd in this context, and any parallels with the Ottoman conquests with Europe are superfluous. Salafi jihadists are a small group of fanatical rabble. By treating them as an army, and by advocating for the response on the scale that you do, you give them far too much credit and dignity. In practice, they are less dangerous to our civilization than, say, Mexican cartels.

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