30 Dec 2013

What Really Happens in the Drone Program from Someone On the Inside

By Michael Krieger: Over the weekend, Heather Linebaugh wrote a powerful Op-ed in The Guardian newspaper lamenting the lack of public understanding regarding the American drone program. Heather should know what she’s talking about, she served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here are some key excerpts from her article:
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”
Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.
I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.
What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.
Moreover, the many civilians being incinerated without a trial are not the only victims here. So are the actual drone operators themselves, many of whom end up committing suicide. Recall my article from December 2012: Meet Brandon Bryant: The Drone Operator Who Quit After Killing a Child. Of course, our so-called political “leaders” never get their hands dirty, other than to take a lobbyist bribe that is.
Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence, Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within a year of leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.
Full article here.
In Liberty,
Mike

Source


X art by WB7


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Drone Analyst Reveals 'Failures' Of Targeted Killings
Heather Linebaugh has opened up about her haunting experience as a drone analyst and how the failures of the targeted killing program result in the deaths of innocent women, children and foreign soldiers.
UK BANNED Press TV: In an article published in the Guardian on Sunday, Linebaugh, who served in the US Air Force from 2009 until March 2012, says few of the US and British military officials who so "brazenly" defend the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program have a real clue how it actually works.
“They feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs,” she writes.
Linebaugh says that whenever she reads comments by politicians defending the drone strikes, she wishes she could ask them a few questions:
I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"
Drone operators, she explains, make decisions based on videos provided by drones, often in such low quality that would make it almost impossible to distinguish a rifle from a “shovel” on the “pixilated feed.”
“What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light,” she writes.
Linebaugh says that as an “UAV analyst” she would always wonder if “we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle” after a strike had been launched. “I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts.”

The stress of having to make decisions that might result in the death of fellow soldiers or innocent people, she writes, creates a “haunting” psychological trauma for drone operators.
As a result, the UAV analyst says, two friends and colleagues of hers committed suicide within a year of leaving the military.
“When you are exposed to [watching people die] over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience,” Linebaugh writes of her experience.
“UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.”
She concludes her revealing article by saying that the assassination drone program in the Middle East poses a “serious threat to the sanctity of human life” and the “public remains ignorant to this.”

Source 

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