New NSA Revelations: Drone Strikes Deliver ‘Death by Meta-data’

Alex Wolff

Glenn Greenwald—the reporter who broke news of U.S. government surveillance in The Guardian last year—launched a new online magazine Monday morning with fresh revelations regarding the National Security Agency’s role in the federal government’s drone strike program.The Intercept debuted with an article that exposes the government’s reliance on complex electronic data analysis—rather than human intelligence—in its determination of drone strike targets.A former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command credits this approach with instigating the deaths of innocent or unidentified civilians, raising grave questions of reliability. The Intercept reports: The agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.Many targets have become privy to this practice of “geolocation” and taken measures to evade attack, sometimes at the expense of individuals who aren’t considered “unlawful enemy combatants.”The piece was based on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. The Intercept will continue to focus on reporting more of his disclosures in the short-term.

Alex Wolff is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.
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