The U.S. increasingly is targeting lethal drone strikes based on cell-phone location data rather than on-the-ground intelligence, according to the latest allegations from journalist Glenn Greenwald and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A former drone operator told Greenwald that the military uses the National Security Agency’s controversial phone metadata program to locate suspected terrorists. That intelligence is then used to call in drone strikes, which has led to civilian deaths when the phone is no longer in the possession of the original target.
From the report:
Some [targets] have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses, and family members.
Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. “They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator says. “That’s how they confuse us.”
The former drone operator alleged that the military has carried out strikes without verifying that the phone being tracked is still being used by the original target. “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,” he said.
In some cases, the drones themselves help find terrorists’ phones, acting as fake cell-phone towers to grab the signal of a target’s device. Once the phone is found, it can be tracked to within 30 feet. That tactic is especially common in Yemen, where on-the-ground intelligence is hard to come by.
Meanwhile, AP reports that an American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is possibly being targeted for a drone strike. It’s unclear if phone metadata is being used to track the suspected terrorist.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."