Be careful when you answer the phone.
That’s the message you might heed when considering National Security Operations and CIA operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, according to a new report.
According to documents and an interview with an alleged former drone operator, the United States uses geolocation targeting that tracks the location of mobile phones to plot strikes on targets in countries where it believes militants are hiding out. Trouble is, they’re not necessarily coupling it with information on the ground, meaning that strike targets can be determined by the locations of their phones alone.
What’s more, the fact that the U.S. may rely solely on phone locations means that others can easily become victims of a strike. According the former drone operator quoted in the report, published Monday by Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill in First Look, those who believe they might be targets have taken to sharing SIM cards, meaning the actual identities of those carrying phones are obscured.
“They might have been terrorists,” he says. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”
“Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there,” he continues. “But we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.’ This is where it gets very shady.”
“What’s more…” the reporters write, “the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata.”
“They might have been terrorists,” he adds. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”
The alleged drone operator is identified as a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, a group responsible for identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other countries. He’s quoted as saying he participated in at least one strike where innocent family members were killed independent of the target.
[Image via AFP]