US drones could be killing the wrong people because of metadata errors

The Intercept, the "fearless, adversarial journalism" venture launched by Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, launched with a big boom today.

Lead story on the site right now, which is https by default (and straining under launch day load at the moment) explores "The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program."

The Intercept will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and this is one such story.

"The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes," Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald report, "An unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people."

As Redditor actual_hacker said in a thread, the big point of this article: "The US has built a SIM-card kill list. They're shooting missiles at cell phones without caring about who is holding the phone. That is why so many innocent people keep getting killed. That is what this story is about. The next time someone says "it's just metadata," remember this story. Innocent people die because of NSA's use of metadata: the story cites 14 women and 21 children killed in just one operation. All because of metadata."

Like the NSA, you can follow the journalists at The Intercept on Twitter, via this handy list.

Notable Replies

  1. Is there a difference between "killing the wrong people" and it being "wrong to kill the people" to begin with? It is not like any of these people get to see a day in court.

  2. miasm says:

    See, I have this hammer...

  3. Glitch says:

    Don't worry - it's not like they use drones to kill white people. All the victims "enemy combatants" murdered "brought to justice" so far have been unambiguously brown.

    ...or perhaps, actually ambiguously brown? Either way, they look foreign, or at least have names or relatives who do. Or rather did, before we bombed them via remote control.

  4. No, see, criminals deserve a day in court, but these people don't need one because they haven't committed crimes yet. Also, whatever possibility there might be of hitting the wrong targets, we can simply trust the military isn't because it would be a waste of money and bad publicity if they were.

    I was explained both in detail on this thread, which I offer here as an insight into the amazing arguments used to excuse this sort of thing.

  5. I have to admit, I think about this sort of thing every time someone starts talking about the Olympics and Russia's human rights abuses. I'd never say that a conversation about gay rights isn't a valuable one to have, but as a U.S. citizen, amidst all the looking-down-our-noses at Russia, I can't help but think, "But wait--don't we keep a forever-prison (or several) on foreign soil? And for those enemies we don't hold without due-process, we execute them without trial using robot planes? And the massive spying?" Glass houses and stones and all that...

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