Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US 'Assassination Complex'Based on cache of secret slides leaked by national security whistleblower, stunning exposé by The Intercept reveals inner workings—and failures—of the U.S. military's clandestine efforts in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia
by Nadia Prupis
Oct. 15, 2015
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A stunning new exposé by The Intercept, which includes the publication of classified documents leaked by an intelligence source, provides an unprecedented look at the U.S. military's secretive global assassination program.
The series of articles, titled The Drone Papers, follows months of investigation and uses rare primary source documents and slides to reveal to the public, for the first time, the flaws and consequences of the U.S. military's 14-year aerial campaign being conducted in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan--one that has consistently used faulty information, killed an untold number of civilians, and stymied intelligence-gathering through its "kill/capture" program that too often relies on killing rather than capturing.
"The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America's assassination program," writes the investigation's lead reporter, Jeremy Scahill. "This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal."
The source of the documents, who asked to remain anonymous due to the U.S. government's aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, said the public has a right to know about a program that is so "fundamentally" and "morally" flawed.
"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," he told The Intercept. "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."
As outlined by The Intercept, the key revelations of the reporting are:
But as the documents reveal, assurances from the Obama administration that drone strikes are precise and used only in cases of "imminent" threats are themselves based on intentionally vague definitions of "imminence."
"Privately, the architects of the U.S. drone program have acknowledged its shortcomings," said Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Intercept. "But they have made sure that this campaign, launched by Bush and vastly expanded under Obama, has been shrouded in secrecy. The public has a right to know how the US government has decided who to kill."
As the source himself said, "We're allowing this to happen. And by 'we,' I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it."