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A New Snowden? Whistleblower Leaks Trove of Documents on Drones & Obama’s Assassination Program

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Newly leaked government documents have provided an unprecedented window into the secret U.S. drone assassination program across the globe. In “The Drone Papers,” The Intercept reveals drone strikes have resulted from unreliable intelligence, stemming in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is insufficient. The documents also undermine government claims that the drone strikes have been precise. In Afghanistan, strikes on 35 direct targets killed at least 219 other people. Among other revelations, they also suggest the strikes have hurt intelligence gathering and that unknown male victims have been labeled as “enemies killed in action” unless evidence later proves otherwise. The documents were leaked to The Intercept by an unnamed U.S. intelligence source.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Newly leaked government documents have provided an unprecedented window into the secret U.S. drone assassination program across the globe. In “The Drone Papers,” the website The Intercept reveals drone strikes have resulted from unreliable intelligence, stemming in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is insufficient. The documents also undermine government claims that the drone strikes have been precise. In Afghanistan, strikes on 35 direct targets killed at least 219 other people.

This is Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, which just published an eight-part series on the leaked documents.

JEREMY SCAHILL: But the fact that this is the first time that primary source documents have been published that detail the chain of command for assassinating people around the globe. The banality of the bureaucracy of assassination is so clear in these documents—the cold corporate words that they use to describe killing people. The “basics of manhunting” is one of the terms that they use. The “tyranny of distance” is another term that they use. “Arab features,” you know, to describe people that they’re looking at from thousands of feet above. The corporate coldness of the way that these documents reflect what is actually a process of systematically hunting down and assassinating human beings should send chills through the spine of people who care about democracy in this society.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill. The documents were leaked to The Intercept by an unnamed U.S. intelligence source. The source told The Intercept, quote, “It's stunning the number of instances when I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty, when sources of information used to finish targets were misattributed to people. And it isn’t until several months or years later that you realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this target, it was his mother’s phone the whole time. Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association—it’s a phenomenal gamble,” the source said. We will link to The Intercept’s exposé on “The Drone Papers” on our website.

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