According to documents Edward Snowden provided to The Washington Post, the NSA is heavily involved in U.S. drone strikes against members of Al-Qaeda.
Until now, the drone program has been considered a CIA campaign, but the new documents make it clear that the CIA relies on data from emails, phone calls, and other pieces of intelligence that the NSA collects.
The NSA is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets,” an NSA spokeswoman said in a statement provided to The Post on Wednesday, adding that the agency’s operations “protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Post is “withholding many details about those missions, at the request of U.S. intelligence officials who cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security.”
Dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan have been under NSA surveillance, and this cyber-spying helped locate a senior Al-Qaeda figure, Hassan Ghul, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2012, according to The Post.
Ghul was captured in 2004 and helped expose bin Laden’s courier network before spending two years at a secret CIA prison. In 2006, the U.S. delivered him to Pakistan, where he was released and returned to al-Qaeda.
An email from Ghul’s wife “about her current living conditions” was intercepted by the NSA and included enough details to confirm the location of their home. The leaked document states that the information enabled a “capture/kill operation against an individual believed to be Hassan Ghul on October 1.”
The NSA then used surveillance to confirm that Guhl was indeed the one killed:
“Even after Ghul was killed in Mir Ali, the NSA’s role in the drone strike wasn’t done. Although the attack was aimed at “an individual believed to be” the correct target, the outcome wasn’t certain until later when, “through SIGINT, it was confirmed that Hassan Ghul was in fact killed.”
The U.S. government has never publicly acknowledged killing Guhl.
The Post says independent surveys indicate that the drone campaign has killed an estimated 3,000 militants and hundreds of civilians.
In his article Five Reasons Drone Assassinations are Illegal, Bill Quigley says:
There is incredible danger in allowing US military and civilians to murder people anywhere in the world with no public or Congressional or judicial oversight. This authorizes the President and the executive branch, according to the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.
The use of drones to assassinate people violates US and international law in multiple ways. US military and civilian employees, who plan, target and execute people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are violating the law and, ultimately, risk prosecution. As the technology for drone attacks spreads, protests by the US that drone attacks by others are illegal will sound quite hollow. Continuation of flagrantly illegal drone attacks by the US also risks justifying the exact same actions, taken by others, against us.
How long until drones are used to kill American citizens?
Earlier this year, a confidential Justice Department white paper revealed that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there isn’t any evidence indicating that they are involved in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The paper states:
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
An “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
ABC News covered the story a few months ago:
Considering how widespread NSA spying in America has become, could it be only a matter of time until the information gathered is used to kill U.S. citizens?
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”