The Intercept says it has obtained documents from an Edward Snowden-style "source within the intelligence community" showing how America's drone program has worked.
The documents show officials acknowledging that the electronic surveillance used in "more than half" the intelligence gathered to hunt down drone assassination targets is often “poor” and “limited,” the Intercept's Jeremy Scahill writes. He says they also indicate that the U.S. government "masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets."
The principal documents show details of America's drone campaigns in Somalia and Yemen as it existed between 2011 and 2013. They show how the chain of command for deciding targets worked during the period, though Scahill writes the procedure is still mostly in place today.
Also included is an assessment of the drone program's effectiveness. Among the evaluations is a "critical shortfall of capabilities providing PID (positive identification) and HVI (high-value individuals)."
"Poor SIGINT (signals intelligence) collection capabilities provide few 'hand-holds' for ISR," the documents say, referring to what Scahill describes as a Pentagon "entity," the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force, that participates in the drone program.
"Shortfalls in [positive identification] and geolocation capabilities impact our ability to fix and finish" targets.
The source says he leaked the documents because he believes America's drone program amounts to assigning individuals "death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield."
“It requires an enormous amount of faith in the technology that you’re using,” the source told Scahill. “There’s countless instances where I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty.”
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.