The United States Doesn’t Even Know Who It Droned in Pakistan

You looking at me? You want some of this?Credit: Swamibu / Foter.com / CC BY-NCTwo NBC reporters appear to have gotten their hands on some potentially explosive classified documents that indicate the CIA killed people in Pakistan with drones without even knowing who they were.

Their exclusive has just been posted online:

About one of every four of those killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010, and Oct. 30, 2011, were classified as "other militants,” the documents detail. The “other militants” label was used when the CIA could not determine the affiliation of those killed, prompting questions about how the agency could conclude they were a threat to U.S. national security.

The uncertainty appears to arise from the use of so-called “signature” strikes to eliminate suspected terrorists -- picking targets based in part on their behavior and associates. A former White House official said the U.S. sometimes executes people based on “circumstantial evidence.”

Three former senior Obama administration officials also told NBC News that some White House officials were worried that the CIA had painted too rosy a picture of its success and likely ignored or missed mistakes when tallying death totals.

NBC News has reviewed two sets of classified documents that describe 114 drone strikes over 14 months in Pakistan and Afghanistan, starting in September 2010. The documents list locations, death and injury tolls, alleged terrorist affiliations, and whether the killed and injured were deemed combatants or non-combatants.

Though the Obama administration has previously said it targets al Qaeda leaders and senior Taliban officials plotting attacks against the U.S. and U.S. troops, officials are sometimes unsure of the targets’ affiliations. About half of the targets in the documents are described as al Qaeda. But in 26 of the attacks, accounting for about a quarter of the fatalities, those killed are described only as “other militants.” In four others, the dead are described as “foreign fighters.”    

In some cases, U.S. officials also seem unsure how many people died. One entry says that a drone attack killed seven to 10 people, while another says that an attack killed 20 to 22.

Read the full story here.

There was gossip going around the Twitterverse for the past couple of weeks that there was another Obama Administration scandal yet to break. Could this be it? And what is the administration going to do when it gets its hands on these leakers?

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  • Sevo||

    "A former White House official said the U.S. sometimes executes people based on “circumstantial evidence.”"

    You know who else (other sleazy thugs masquerading as 'heads of state') did that?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The governor of Texas?

  • ||

    Perry is a piece of shit but under the way the Texas system is set up he can't prevent an execution without it being recommended to him by a panel.

  • ||

    Between that and their terrible MJ laws, their criminal injustice system is a huge mark against moving to Austin.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    No, but he decides who gets to be on the panel, and has a history of firing the panel members if he gets wind they're planning to issue a critical report:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/.....index.html

  • Generic Stranger||

    *insert list of heads of state*

  • Sevo||

    "*insert list of heads of state*"
    (try to imagine one who wouldn't when given the opportunity; Coolidge?)

  • Generic Stranger||

    Dude was a governor back when damn near the only alternative to circumstantial evidence was direct eyewitness testimony.

    I doubt he stayed the execution of anyone who didn't have a witness to their crime.

  • Sevo||

    And?

  • Hyperion||

    Well, we had to drone someone. If we don't, it could cost our military industrial complex, jerbz, and money. We can't have that.

    And they're just poor brown people we're droning, not like they're real people you know, like in Murika. They don't have family and feelings and stuff like that, like real people in Murika.

    Oh, and for the children.

  • Sevo||

    And because McCain, POW, uh, stuff!

  • Skip||

    If it was a Team Red President killing these brown people, the Obamatards would be saying they were future cancer scientists.

  • ||

    I love the smell of war crimes in the late afternoon!

  • SIV||

    Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius

  • Tman||

    Hey, that peace prize ain't just gonna Nobel itself you know.

  • ||

    Just another notch on the medal.

  • Sevo||

    Hollande just got it for invading Mali! Good company, what?

  • The Rantin Arkansan||

    the CIA killed people in Pakistan with drones without even knowing who they were.

    That's not true. It knew they were brown, Muslim, and probably (maybe sort of kind of) hated America.

  • Jerryskids||

    Hey, I told you back when Obama said he was turning control of the drone program over to the Pentagon that this was coming. Shitweasels gonna shitweasel.

  • Sevo||

    I hope you're not suggesting it would be better if the liar-in-chief were in charge.

  • ||

    You know, if you have positions of power where those who inhabit them get to order the deaths of people on flimsy or next to no evidence, or positions where someone gets to literally pull the trigger with absolutely no danger to themselves, who do you think will gravitate towards those positions?

  • Sevo||

    They guys who killed too many dogs and finally got tossed off the force?

  • ||

    That's the type.

  • Hyperion||

    I thought that those guys got an extended paid vacation, and a promotion afterwards?

  • RBS||

    Well yeah, that's the vacation.

  • creech||

    "I'm shocked, too. I just learned about this on the evening news."
    O.G.L.

  • Hyperion||

    I wonder if Obama ever secretly imagines himself to be a super hero? Hollywood could even start making a series of films based on Captain Dronebot.

  • Sevo||

    I wonder where all the lefties are calling for war-crimes trials.

  • Hyperion||

    They can't see no evil, hear no evil, or speak of no evil, because their heads are buried up Obamas arse, right beside of Shreeks.

  • Dweebston||

    If they're sincerely anti-war, they're biding time uneasily waiting for a Republican president or Congress.

    If they're adamant leftists, they've accepted the sad realities of twenty-first century remote warfare, at least for the time being.

  • Sevo||

    Dweebston| 6.5.13 @ 8:39PM |#
    "If they're sincerely anti-war, they're biding time uneasily waiting for a Republican president or Congress."

    (very limited) Props to Code Pink; they have been giving him a (very limited) ration of shit.

  • Dweebston||

    Well, yes, and in doing so serving the same function so-cons do for conservatives: embarrassing Dear Leader on behalf of a cause the larger party establishment considers far down the list of priorities.

    Props to Code Pink, but they're saving very little grace for the warmongering left.

  • MWG||

    Sadly, ^This.

  • Calidissident||

    How can this be? I've been assured that the government only drones people who pose an imminent major threat to national security? Are you telling me this isn't true?

  • Agammamon||

    That their definition of "imminent" included stuff that didn't actually mean imminent should have clued us to the fact that not everything was on the up-and-up.

  • ||

    Considering most of us assumed that this was going to be horribly abused from the get-go, this shouldn't be much of a surprise for any of us.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    paging Cyto

  • Cytotoxic||

    I don't care if an AQ or Talib is an 'imminent' threat or not, but I do care if they are actually AQ or Talib. This here vindicates all of the sceptisism of the CIA's ability.

  • Dweebston||

    AQ, Taliban, villagers negotiating mining rights with local militants. You know, bad guys.

  • Sevo||

    Cytotoxic| 6.5.13 @ 9:42PM |#
    "I don't care if an AQ or Talib is an 'imminent' threat or not, but I do care if they are actually AQ or Talib."

    OK, got it.
    You're an asshole beneath consideration.

  • Dweebston||

    Most assholes are, unless they're bleached a rosy hue of pink.

  • Rrabbit||

    I've been assured that the government only drones people who pose an imminent major threat to national security?

    If they were droned, they must have been a major threat to national security. Why else would they have been at the place the drone struck?

  • The Last American Hero||

    I'm not sure this information surprising. We've known since the drone program began that there was collateral damage. Those in favor of the program accept this fact and those against the program are appalled by it. I would be surprised if these revelations change anybody's mind.

  • Agammamon||

    Uh, dude this isn't collateral damage. Collateral damage is when you shoot at a legitimate target and someone else gets in the way.

    What this is is where you shoot at some dude because he looks funny.

  • Agammamon||

    To be clear, a soldier is clearing a building during a firefight, kicks open the door, sprays the room, and finds that a couple of kids were taking cover - that's collateral damage.

    this is the equivalent of shooting someone while he's getting into his car to go to work - sure he *could* be getting ready to set off a car bomb, but what real evidence do you have?

  • Sevo||

    Put another way:
    Collateral deaths are those where someone died by a real mistake; there was no intent to kill that person.
    Aiming a missile from a drone at someone you think has a cousin who might know the barber of...
    AIN'T a collateral death!

  • Jerryskids||

    But what about the vast majority of the American public who had no idea there was even a drone program to be appalled by or accepting of?

  • Sevo||

    Jerryskids| 6.5.13 @ 8:15PM |#
    "But what about the vast majority of the American public who had no idea there was even a drone program to be appalled by or accepting of?"

    Which is exactly why the US was formed as a republic.

  • Rrabbit||

    This isn't collateral damage. It works approximately as follows:

    Abdullah and Mohammed like the same girl. Abdullah, the clever businessman, tells the Americans that he saw suspicious activities at Muhammad's house. The Americans monitor Muhammad's house, and see armed people enter and leave the house. Drone strike, and Abdullah pockets a few grand as reward.

  • Agammamon||

    "A former White House official said the U.S. sometimes executes people based on “circumstantial evidence."

    Woohoo! Go America. What a way to be a bright shining example of moral superiority to the rest of the world.

  • Jerryskids||

    My favorite quote: "He also defended the precision of drone strikes in general. “In Afghanistan and Iraq and places where you have troops in combat,” said Blair, “you know better with drones who you’re killing than you do when you’re calling in artillery fire from a spotter [or] calling in an airplane strike.”

    So is he saying that in cases where the CIA uses drones to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen and wherever we want that without the drones we would have been reduced to calling in airstrikes and artillery bombardment? The military using drones in combat is (or should be) something categorically different from the CIA targeting suspected terrorists in sovereign nations.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Look, the fine gentlemen in Pakistani intelligence knew who we were bombing, and that's good enough for us. Maybe it was Al Qaeda, maybe it was some uppity women, but in the end, it's all good for Team America.

  • ||

    But if we don't kill innocent people, psychoticatriotic Canadians will get angry at us!

  • Hyperion||

    The left are going to go completely unhinged, sooner or later. I am surprised that they have maintained what little bit of composure they have left, for this long. And that is only because they see their fearless comrade numero uno and his minions as completely infallible and untouchable, for now.

    Why do I say they will go completely ape shit? Because they have never before in the history of leftism, gained such a high degree of power and have it all threatened the way that they do here and now. They have always had a public that were poor and uneducated to work with, and thus quickly gained a widespread following. The small majority of those who opposed them were summarily slaughtered. See Former USSR, China, Cuba, do I need to go on?

    You can already see them starting to come unhinged. You see calls for the military to attack NRA members, you have the IRS targeting political opponents of the current administration.

    It's going to get really interesting. If the left do not get complete power soon, including the power to pass into law anything they see fit, without Congressional approval, and the power to squash the free speech of anyone who opposes them, they will go completely ape shit because they have no idea of what else to do. It is going to get very interesting, soon.

  • Sevo||

    Hyperion| 6.5.13 @ 8:16PM |#
    "The left are going to go completely unhinged, sooner or later"

    No, they're not. The ability to ignore and excuse Obozo's misdirections, prevarications and outright lies shows entirely too clearly that he could grill and eat babies while the press claimed it showed his commitment to population 'control' and the audience (as evidenced by shreek and shithead) would applaud.

  • Cytotoxic||

    That's not mutually exclusive to what Hyperion is saying. Obama is the avatar of their hopes and dreams. The lightworker must not be opposed.

  • Sevo||

    Go away, asshole.

  • WomSom||

    One thing is for sure, Drone pilots are cowards.

    www.WorldPrivacy.tk

  • ||

    When did WomSom get so political?

  • RBS||

    It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The irony....

  • Sevo||

    "The irony...."
    The willful ignorance...

  • ||

    Don't talk shit about Buster Bluth! He served his country well!

  • sarcasmic||

    I mean, you're like sitting in this air conditioned room and shit, with a Mountain Dew right there, and you see a group of men with AKs on the screen, what the fuck are you going to do?
    You can't identify them as on your team, though you can't identify them as being on the bad guy team, but you can't say they're on your team... Blast them with a missile from 7000 miles away!
    SPLAT!

    I hope our guys are more professional than that. But they are only human.

  • fish||

    ......with a Mountain Dew right there, and you see a group of men with AKs on the screen, what the fuck are you going to do?

    I'm guessing you're going to miss...what with all the caffeine coursing through your system.

  • ||

    Uh, guys, there's an actual war going on next door that certain people in Pakistan tend to support. There's plenty of scope for intel that indicates a certain group of dudes on a drone screen (think signals intelligence or informers) are involved in supporting this fighting against US forces. That's enough to legally kill them, even if their precise affiliation is unknown.

    For example, if you see dudes carrying military supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail, it wasn't necessary to determine whether they were North Vietnames regulars or South Vietnamese Vietcong to try to kill them - their activity and demonstrated threat, not their precise "affiliation," is what made them a valid target.

  • ||

    The analogy is particularly apropos given the legal, ah, "uncertainties" surrounding stuff like the bombing of Laos. All that's new here is that there's more legal justification, a more precise weapon system, and more (tacit, if not public) support from the nation that nominally owns and sort of controls that area.

  • Sevo||

    I present the following as evidence of how far we are removed from the claims of the legitimacy of the US military actions:

    ..."That's enough to legally kill them, even if their precise affiliation is unknown."

  • ||

    Dude, they're saying they know they're anti-US militants, they just don't know which anti-US militant group they are part of. It's like shooting back at an enemy aircraft in the Mediterranean in 1942: it doesn't matter whether you identify it as German or Italian, it's enough to know it's trying to kill you.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Excellent points.

  • Sevo||

    Cytotoxic| 6.5.13 @ 9:45PM |#
    "Excellent points."
    Gettin the hots, are you, cyto?

  • Sevo||

    Zakalwe| 6.5.13 @ 9:42PM |#
    "Dude, they're saying they know they're anti-US militants, they just don't know which anti-US militant group they are part of."

    Dude, that's a nice story. Any evidence?

  • Dweebston||

    You mean the word of intel staffers and administration officials isn't sufficient evidence? They promised!

  • Sevo||

    Yeah, that's pretty much what I mean. Zaka and Cyto got their war boners going since Obozo assures us he'd only murder people who deserved to be murdered.
    I mean murder is something you can do if thee murdered are part of a religion you don't like, right, cyto? Or, well, someone wrote an article that said they deserved to be murdered, right, Zaka?

  • Fluffy||

    By "other militants", they mean anyone armed in any geographic area not controlled by the Pakistani central government.

    The same rule almost certainly applies in Yemen.

    The entire reason those two governments allow us to operate in their territory is BECAUSE we're randomly killing and terrorizing everyone in areas outside central government control. That's the price of admission we pay to be there.

  • ||

    It's not random. I remember seeing an article a year or two ago about the extensive informants and, uh, other measures, that they use to pick their targets.

  • Sevo||

    Zakalwe| 6.5.13 @ 8:56PM |#
    "It's not random. I remember seeing an article a year or two ago about the extensive informants and, uh, other measures, that they use to pick their targets."

    Yeah, I remember seeing all sorts of....
    WHAT? Did you RTFA?
    "A former White House official said the U.S. sometimes executes people based on “circumstantial evidence.”
    You're right in that it's not "random". It's damn well targeted at someone with no knowledge of whether that person is a danger to any US citizen.

  • ||

    I don't think you know what circumstantial evidence is. With enough of the right kind you can easily determine a certain fact (guilt in a US criminal trial, positive ID of a terrorist capability and intent) to a sufficiently high enough probability. Many, many people are (rightly!) convicted of crimes under a "reasonable doubt" standard here in the US with nothing but circumstantial evidence.

    Example: You see a lot of Pakistani youths near the Afghan border training with military weapons and with members crossing the border. The Pakistani military verifies they are not part of a valid Pakistani defense force or legitimate organization with legal authorization to have those heavy weapons. Conclusion: they're Taliban or a similar group fighting Afghan/NATO forces. Result: BOOM!

    Yes, there's a small chance of an implausible and unlikely scenario where it's all innocent. (They're actors putting on a play...?) But it's not likely enough to make the strike illegal.

  • ||

    FUCK. Am I becoming the military Dunphy? Damn you all.

  • Sevo||

    Zakalwe| 6.5.13 @ 9:51PM |#
    "I don't think you know what circumstantial evidence is"
    Yes, I do, and yes, it looks like you're doing a fair imitation of Dunphy.
    You seem convinced that the people killed represent some threat to US citizens.
    Now maybe you're a spook and have privileged info about that. OK, in which case, put a sock in it, since all you can do is claim authority, and I don't care to hear it.
    Beyond that, if you have evidence that those deaths are anything the US should have caused, as a US citizen who is paying for it, I want to see it.

  • Dweebston||

    Sevo, Obama said some very stern words about the ambiguities posed by remote warfare, and then promised that his Top Men are really, really good at what they do. What more do you want?

  • Sevo||

    Oh, well, in THAT case, nothing! If Obozo PROMISES to do something, why, shreek will be claiming it to be done INSTATNTLY!

  • Inigo M.||

    Kinda off topic, but I don't think circumstantial evidence is limited to this sort of thing. It's used a lot in ordinary criminal cases. How many people have been convicted based on circumstantial evidence and a lack of a good alibi?

  • Cytotoxic||

    we're randomly killing and terrorizing everyone

    Only in your fevered dreams Fluffy, as much as you would like it to be true.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'd like to take this opportunity to give belated thanks to the droners who killed that Pakistani Taliban jerk a while back. They not only blew him up, but also derailed peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistan. Whatever keeps our enemies fighting.

  • SIV||

    Large amounts of US cash keeps our enemies fighting. Sure, they'd kill each other on their own dime but it takes serious CIA moolah to hire enough guys to fuck with the USA.

  • Sevo||

    Yeah, that boner is hot stuff!

  • Michael S. Langston||

    I wonder when they'll start writing failure of leadership editorials - it seems quite obvious at this point that either Obama is full-on directing the CIA, the IRS, the DOJ, directly and with the zeal of any other autocrat....

    Or, hiring a guy with no executive experience ever - public or private - & only having experience in academia and politics (which is by consensus) - is poor training for the toughest executive job in the world.

    & this is likely why he seems dumber than anyone first thought - with war factions within side the executive branch there is no "consensus" - only waring factions, with ever changing allies, and competing priorities.

    So even when being questioned on these things, he's unsure how to answer.

    Hmmm....

  • Michael S. Langston||

    preview - preview - preview... but I think idea is there

  • Sevo||

    Michael S. Langston| 6.5.13 @ 10:16PM |#
    "I wonder when they'll start writing failure of leadership editorials - it seems quite obvious at this point that either Obama is full-on directing the CIA, the IRS, the DOJ, directly and with the zeal of any other autocrat...."

    Can't be. He's only the President. He's not in charge of anything.

  • Inigo M.||

    No offense, but he always seemed to be not nearly as super-intelligent as most everyone said. You could tell by the very obvious differences between reading from a teleprompter (excellent oratory skills) and speaking extemporaneously (sounds at best very average). Being able to recite well does not make someone exceptional smart. It's why brilliant Shakespearian actors are not themselves brilliant playwrights like Shaskespeare.

    That said, I don't buy for a moment he's not smart enough to understand what's going on and is genuinely shocked by hearing it on the news. Sorry, but that's simply not credible.

  • Inigo M.||

    I'm surprised NBC broke this story. I know they're dumb, but even they surely heard about the AP wiretap and the Fox reporter who was named as a co-conspirator for talking to a leaker. Do they believe their diligent White House ass-kissing in the past is somehow going to give them a get-out-of-jail-free card over this? I don't think it will.

  • JeremyR||

    Let's be honest - do people care enough about this for it to be a scandal?

    Most of the left doesn't because it's Obama. Maybe if it were a Democrat like Lieberman, they might criticize him, but he is their messiah.

    Most of the right doesn't care because let's face it, many of them like bombing countries. They complain about Obama because he's not starting enough wars (Iran is the one they are really jonesing for, but also Syria).

    So maybe what, 5% of the country cares?

    Yes, personally it makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it. But more people are concerned with lizard people running the country than stuff like this. (I wish I were making that up, but apparently it's so).

  • Sevo||

    JeremyR| 6.6.13 @ 1:56AM |#
    "Let's be honest - do people care enough about this for it to be a scandal?"

    Well, Cyto and Z here care and they think it's GREAT!
    And then we haven't heard from them on the issue, but shreek and shithead will undoubtedly inform us of "BUSH!"
    As for the remainder, well, it's some rethuglican effort to keep the chosen one from saving the earth and all the world's people!
    I'm pretty sure...

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