Leaked documents detail U.S. drone strikes on terror targets 

The Drone Papers

A new investigative report looks at leaked military documents detailing the U.S. military’s drone program. (Photo: The Intercept)

New classified documents leaked from within the U.S. intelligence community offer a detailed look into the military’s White House-sanctioned drone assassination program.

Published in 10 parts on The Intercept – an online publication launched last year, having since repeatedly reported on information leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden – the intelligence details operations targeting terror suspects in Yemen and Somalia and came to light the same day President Obama announced the U.S. would maintain a military presence in Afghanistan.

The Intercept received the documents from a source who requested anonymity for fear of U.S. policy against whistleblowers. The source told the publication he wanted to leak the documents because of the public’s right to know the U.S. government’s assassination process.

“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting – of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield – it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source told The Intercept.

Further, government officials’ statements in recent years minimizing the number of civilians killed by drone were exaggerated at best, “if not outright lies,” the source said.

A team of reporters at The Intercept spent months analyzing the documents, which were mostly internal recommendations for improving the unconventional U.S. warfare.

What’s more important is the mentality reflected in the documents, the source told the publication.

“This process can work. We can work out the kinks. We can excuse the mistakes. And eventually we will get it down to the point where we don’t have to continuously come back … and explain why a bunch of innocent people got killed.”

According to the investigative report, 155 people were killed in Northern Afghanistan between May and September 2012. Just 19 of those were intended targets, or “jackpots,” as they’re classified by the military. The rest of the 136 people were considered “EKIA,” or enemies killed in action – another term for unintended target.   

Though Obama didn’t order strikes on individuals, he did sign off on a 60-day authorization giving the military discretion in carrying out the attacks, according to a Pentagon study obtained by The Intercept. The same study detailed the chain of command through which the drone strikes were to be carried out.