National Security Agency spying programs are used for more than just passive surveillance according to one former drone operator, who says the data surveilled from targets is used in lethal U.S. drone strikes.
The Intercept – a news startup from former Guardian journalist and NSA story breaker Glenn Greenwald – reports the CIA and U.S. military use the metadata and phone location tracking capabilities of the NSA to launch attacks against targets, forgoing any other means of identification and often incurring civilian casualties.
According to the former operator out of Joint Special Operations Command, civilians have “absolutely” been the victims of drone strikes, which have otherwise been effective in neutralizing known terrorist targets in Afghanistan.
“People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” the former drone operator said. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people, we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”
In an effort to avoid surveillance, targets reportedly switch between up to 16 different subscriber identity module (SIM) cards and sometimes leave phones with friends and family members, all of which contribute to the system being considered unreliable.
Another former drone operator said those in control of the unmanned aerial vehicles are often unaware of where their target data comes from at all.
“If the NSA did work with us, like, I have no clue,” Brandon Bryant, another former drone operator, said.