Grass, Bugs, and Apple

The Drone Papers put together by journalists from The Interception are indeed a terrible read in its own right, demonstrating how much resources the US has used in order to find and kill suspected terrorists which also has led to the death of a vast number of innocent civilians.

"The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeting killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse." From The Huffington Post

However, you get another kind if insight reading the story written by one of the people on the death list, Malik Jalal:

"I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again. Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.

I don’t want to end up a “Bugsplat” – the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone. More importantly, I don’t want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized."

The Drone Papers form the basis of the recently published book The Assassination Complex by Jeremy Scahill and The Staff of The Intercept. The foreword is written by Edward Snowden.

"We are witnessing a compression of the working period in which bad policy shelters in the shadows, the time frame in which unconstitutional activities can continue before they are exposed by acts of conscience. And this temporal compression has a significance beyond the immediate headlines; it permits the people of this country to learn about critical government actions, not as part of the historical record but in a way that allows direct action through voting — in other words, in a way that empowers an informed citizenry to defend the democracy that “state secrets” are nominally intended to support. When I see individuals who are able to bring information forward, it gives me hope that we won’t always be required to curtail the illegal activities of our government as if it were a constant task, to uproot official lawbreaking as routinely as we mow the grass. (Interestingly enough, that is how some have begun to describe remote killing operations, as “cutting the grass.”)"

From Sundsby Säteri 2016
There have been several attempts to publish apps tracking the number of deaths caused by US drone strikes such as Metadata+ and Ephemeral+. However, they have been removed by Apple as noticed by The Guardian. This made Mike Elgan at Computerworld wonder if Apple and Facebook are bad for democracy:

"This trend transfers the job of gatekeeper of what political information reaches the public from publications, editors or news directors to the likes of Apple and Facebook -- the companies that choose, in Apple's case, which apps are allowed and which are banned or, in Facebook's case, which news stories or sources are favored by its secret algorithms.

What that means -- and there's no gentle way to put this, so I'm just going to say it -- is that the people in charge of what voters and citizens know are people motivated by selling tiny computers with "selfie cameras" or ads for tiny computers with "selfie cameras" (Samsung is currently the biggest advertiser on Facebook)."

With the US presidential election coming up, it is interesting to see that the drone programme is not a major theme for the debates between Clinton and Trump. Maybe that's because they both agree on lawn mowing or because it's been filtered out by Apple and Facebook.

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