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 - an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
Here is one of the first explosive exposes by Glenn’s new journalism outfit, First Look Media. Go read the whole thing, but I wanted to point out a few items here.
First, how bad-ass is it to see a byline of BOTH Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill? For a news/journalism junkie such as myself, this represents a “dream team” I thought I would never be lucky enough to see. What makes it even better is the deep bench these guys have accumulated behind them.
Second, this story is ground-breaking in multiple ways, but it does something that I’ve rarely seen in journalism today. That is, calling out another large journalistic institution for parroting the government line:
In July, the Washington Post relied exclusively on former senior U.S. intelligence officials and anonymous sources to herald the NSA’s claims about its effectiveness at geolocating terror suspects.
Within the NSA, the paper reported, “A motto quickly caught on at Geo Cell: ‘We Track ’Em, You Whack ’Em.’”
But the Post article included virtually no skepticism about the NSA’s claims, and no discussion at all about how the unreliability of the agency’s targeting methods results in the killing of innocents.
Finally, the meat of the story itself. Again, go read the entire thing, but the gist of it is that our federal government’s lovely assassination program (going strong for at least a decade) has become more and more reliant on “SIGINT,” or “signals intelligence.” This type of data, whether gathered via the NSA’s metadata collection or getting vacuumed up by a drone flying over the multiple countries in which we do our dirty business, is highly prone to disruption and can be unreliable. Therefore we get drone pilots knocking off people in Afghanistan because of the SIM card they may have in their pocket. In other words, the usual high standard we’ve come to expect from the intelligence community when it comes to killing people.
And this is just the first story I’ve read. I think we may have entered a new era of accountability (and the other dreaded word, “activist”) journalism.