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“A searing, facts-driven indictment of America’s drone wars and their implications for US democracy and foreign policy. A must-read for concerned citizens” (Library Journal, starred review) from bestselling author Jeremy Scahill and his colleagues at the investigative website The Intercept.
Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination. But drone strikes often kill people other than the intended target. These deaths, which have included women and children, dwarf the number of actual combatants who have been assassinated by drones. They have generated anger toward the United States among foreign populations and have even become a recruiting tool for jihadists.
The first drone strike outside a declared war zone was conducted more than twelve years ago, but it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. However, there was no explanation of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried, even if that suspect is an American citizen. The implicit message of the Obama administration has been: Trust, but don’t verify.
The Assassination Complex reveals stunning details of the government’s secretive drone warfare program based on documents supplied by a confidential source in the intelligence community. These documents make it possible to begin the long-overdue debate about the policy of drone warfare and how it is conducted. The Assassination Complex 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—“readers will be left in no doubt that drone warfare affronts morality and the Constitution” (Kirkus Reviews).
According to this scattershot expos from the Intercept, the drone strikes conducted by the U.S. military and CIA in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia 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. Drones track cell phones and SIM cards based on often vague or mistaken information that the people carrying them are terrorists, and the ensuing Hellfire missiles usually kill people hundreds of them, altogether other than intended targets. Meanwhile, the authors argue, cell phone surveillance and promiscuous terrorist watch lists have spilled over into domestic American policing. The authors provide a fragmented rundown of the drone strike "kill chain" of command up to the Oval Office Greenwald denounces President Obama for betraying liberal principles by expanding drone strikes and include vignettes about innocents killed by drones. There's nothing revelatory here the drone assassinations and their problems are well-known but this pointillistic portrait provides illuminating new detail and insight. Photos.