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The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program

a book by Jeremy Scahill

(our site's book review)

U.S. Killer Drone Operations Are Unconstitutional and Counterproductive and Kill Hundreds of Innocents

Major revelations about the US government’s drone program—bestselling author Jeremy Scahill and his colleagues at the investigative website The Intercept expose stunning new details about America’s secret unconstitutional and counterproductive assassination policies carried out via killer drone campaigns. The only good thing one can say about them is that they actually wasted a few bad guys and the Predator drones themselves generally work effectively.

The unelected elites are the lords of secrecy—they are unaccountable, secret, and beyond our reach, yet they run things
The unelected elites are the lords of secrecy—they are unaccountable, secret, and beyond our reach, yet they run things

(Note: "Last year was a bad one for military drones. According to documents obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, the United States Air Force suffered 20 large drones casulties in 2015, affected units either having been completely lost, or having sustained over $2 million in damage. Worse, hunter-killer Reaper drones are apparently vulnerable to mysterious electrical failures that threaten to knock them out of the sky without warning." [Source: Mysterious Problems Bring Air Force Drone Crashes to a Record High])

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 cutting edge journalistic team at The Intercept expose the shocking dystopian powers the United States and President Obama in particular have so roundly abused. The Democratic president, they say, has gotten away with crimes and repressive policies that liberals never would have let a Republican carry out. Among the many revelations in Scahill's book is that during a five-month period in a U.S. program in northeastern Afghanistan called Operation Haymaker, almost 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes were not the intended targets. Documents detailing a 14-month kill/capture campaign in Afghanistan show that while the U.S. military killed 35 of its direct targets with air strikes, 219 other individuals also died in the attacks.

Washington’s fourteen-year targeted drone-based 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
Washington’s fourteen-year targeted drone-based 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

Extraordinary Leaked Documents Show Assassination to Be Central to U.S. Counterterrorism Policy

The online magazine The Intercept exploded the US government’s drone program 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 book tells the true story of America's drone strikes, based on extraordinary leaked documents. From the author of the bestselling Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Predator drone operators; the targeted drone-based killing campaign suffers from an overreliance on flawed signals intelligence and an apparently incalculable civilian toll
Predator drone operators; the targeted drone-based killing campaign suffers from an overreliance on flawed signals intelligence and an apparently incalculable civilian toll. Video gamers alert: there's an acute shortage of pilots for the remote-controlled drone aircraft, and a huge demand from military commanders for airborne surveillance.

Brave Whistleblowers Help Postpone the Day When the Oligarchical U.S. Becomes a Tyranny

" . . . unlike Dan Ellsberg, I didn’t have to wait 40 years to witness other citizens breaking that silence with documents. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971; Chelsea Manning provided the Iraq and Afghan war logs and the Cablegate materials to WikiLeaks in 2010. I [Edward Snowden] came forward in 2013. Now another person of courage and conscience has made available the extraordinary set of documents published in The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program, the new book by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of the The Intercept. We are witnessing a compression of the timeframe in which unconstitutional activities can continue before they are exposed by acts of conscience." (Source: Edward Snowden: ‘Governments can reduce our dignity to that of tagged animals’)

Edward Snowden: ‘Governments can reduce our dignity to that of tagged animals’
Edward Snowden: ‘Governments can reduce our dignity to that of tagged animals’

Terrorists Are Targeted by Their SIM Cards (But When They Loan Phones to Moms—Oops! Good-Bye Mom!)

The classified documents reveal that Washington’s fourteen-year targeted drone-based 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: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program 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 includes original contributions from Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. It's a facts-driven indictment of America’s drone wars and their implications for U.S. democracy and foreign policy. The human source of the leaked documents the book is based on has asked to remain anonymous due to the U.S. government's aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, said the public has a right to know about a program that is so "fundamentally" and "morally" flawed. See Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden.

Edward Snowden, the brave whistleblower hero
Edward Snowden, the brave whistleblower hero

The Known or Suspected Terrorist List Is Growing Like a Weed

In 2001 there were 16 names on the Known or Suspected Terrorist list. In 2013 there were 469,000 and there are now more than 680,000. These are no-fly-list people singled out for extra security at airports, like Senator Ted Kennedy who was prevented from boarding several flights, and a cub scout named Mikey Hicks, who got the treatment the first time when he was just two. (Better check his rattle and pacifier for bombs!) It also includes the president of Bolivia and the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament. Membership in a terrorist organization is not required—or even likely. Once on the list, directives request every conceivable scrap of information, even biographical data on co-travelers. Mere death is not an acceptable reason for removal from the list, and neither is acquittal by a jury. To get off a list, all 19 American security agencies have to agree, and the subject will not be informed. And that’s just one list.

Better check babies' rattles and pacifiers for bombs—many are toddler terrorists!
Better check babies' rattles and pacifiers for bombs—many are toddler terrorists!

Our drone-based killing programs 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. (Source: The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program, Publishers Weekly)

Congressional oversight over drone killings seems to have been malfunctioning egregiously since 9/11—they see no evil hear no evil and say no evil, i.e., they're blind, deaf, and mute
Congressional oversight over drone killings seems to have been malfunctioning egregiously since 9/11—they see no evil hear no evil and say no evil, i.e., they're blind, deaf, and mute

Unconstitutionally Unchecked Power: Giving Oneself Authority to Execute Individuals Outside Battlefields and Without Involving Judicial Processes

" . . . there is no greater or clearer manifestation of unchecked power than assuming for yourself the authority to execute an individual outside a battlefield context and without the involvement of any sort of judicial process. But now the government has decided – without the public’s participation, without our knowledge and consent – that the battlefield is everywhere. Individuals who don’t represent an imminent threat in any meaningful sense of those words are redefined, through the subversion of language, to meet that definition."—Edward Snowden, a man of conscience acting in lieu of our Congressional oversight which somehow has seemed to be malfunctioning egregiously since 9/11. They see no evil hear no evil and say no evil, i.e., they're blind, deaf, and mute.

The idea of sloppy, over-worked, trigger-happy US police with electronic surveillance technology is not a happy one
The idea of sloppy, over-worked, trigger-happy US police with electronic surveillance technology is not a happy one

So far as is known, civilian police in the USA are not using armed drones, but they are using the same electronic surveillance technology, and the idea of sloppy, over-worked, trigger-happy US police with even that much power is not a happy one.

Killer drone
Killer drone

Extrajudicial killing is a routine daily activity, with hundreds of civilians killed for every suspect targeted. (Obama makes jokes about learning he is good at killing—it's like a giant video game.) This drone-based killing includes children, pregnant women, American hostages and whole families. Weddings have been particularly fruitful. American drones have deployed all over Africa and the Arab crescent, and now various other countries from France to China want to replicate this murdering with drones. Since the U.S. has proven the way to get to pretty much anyone is to track them through their telephone SIM card, everyone on the planet is fair game, and there is absolutely no need to be sure of the target—just be sure of the SIM card. One suspect’s mother was bombed to death because her son lent her his phone. Many "kills" were errors because terrorists exchange or destroy SIM cards just to screw with the surveillers.

Maintenance of killer drone
Maintenance of killer drone


American drones have deployed all over Africa and the Arab crescent, and now various other countries from France to China want to replicate this murdering with drones
American drones have deployed all over Africa and the Arab crescent, and now various other countries from France to China want to replicate this murdering with drones

Barack Obama Is a Complete Hypocrite, Outdoing Dubya Bush in Ignoring the Constitution and Human Rights

The epilogue devotes itself to showing Barack Obama as a complete hypocrite, outdoing Dubya Bush in ignoring the constitution and human rights. Candidate Obama said “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency” but after being elected he said “Courts have no role reviewing the president’s war on terror killings.” See The Obama Administration's Broken Promises. It is merciless, bold-faced hypocrisy; once in power, they all revert to type, removing rights, invading privacy and limiting freedoms. In the “war on terror” suspects of any kind have no rights whatsoever. Everyone is a potential suspect, and you have no choice but to play.

Obama and Dubya love playing God, swatting to death anyone they don't like the looks of
Obama and Dubya love playing God, swatting to death anyone they don't like the looks of


Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy
Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy

Jeremy Scahill is one of the best investigative journalists that we have ever had in America—a precious resource the likes of which we have far too few of. Most people, and most reporters, subscribe to the "go along to get along" school of pseudo-ethics. Not Scahill. He has been relentless exposing reality on the ground and exposing the consequences of our misguided policy of assassinations by drones or other means. This book is a must read for anyone who cares to gain information behind the conventional mainstream media coverage or the pentagon talking points.