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When the US government discusses drone strikes publicly, it offers assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to troops on the ground and are authorized only when an "imminent" threat is present and there is "near certainty" that the intended target will be killed. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been trust, but don't verify.
The online magazine The Intercept exploded this secrecy when it obtained a cache of secret slides that provide a window into the inner workings of the US military's kill/capture operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be employed, these documents show assassination to be central to US counterterrorism policy.
The classified documents reveal that Washington's fourteen-year targeted killing campaign suffers from an overreliance on flawed signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been deliberately obscured from the public and insulated from democratic debate. The Assassination Complex allows us to understand at last the circumstances under which the US government grants itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.
The book will include original contributions from Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden.
- ISBN-13: 9781501144134
- ISBN-10: 1501144138
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: May 2016
- Page Count: 256
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-02
- Reviewer: Staff
According to this scattershot exposé from the Intercept, the drone strikes conducted by the U.S. military and CIA in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia are a fiasco marred by targeting mistakes, heavy civilian casualties, and infringements of civil liberties. Relying on leaked intelligence documents and interviews with a drone operator and other informants, Scahill, Glenn Greenwald, and other Intercept journalists (plus whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who contributes a foreword) paint the drone program as a contradictory mix of all-seeing surveillance, blinkered error, and indiscriminate killing. Drones track cell phones and SIM cards based on often vague or mistaken information that the people carrying them are terrorists, and the ensuing Hellfire missiles usually kill people—hundreds of them, altogether—other than intended targets. Meanwhile, the authors argue, cell phone surveillance and promiscuous terrorist watch lists have spilled over into domestic American policing. The authors provide a fragmented rundown of the drone strike "kill chain" of command up to the Oval Office—Greenwald denounces President Obama for betraying liberal principles by expanding drone strikes—and include vignettes about innocents killed by drones. There's nothing revelatory here—the drone assassinations and their problems are well-known—but this pointillistic portrait provides illuminating new detail and insight. Photos. Agent: Anthony Arnove, Roam Agency. (May)