Snowden, Greenwald Protest Phone-a-Drone Program

The anti-NSA duo is warning of deadly data errors.

The U.S. is launching lethal drone strikes based only on cell phone location data, according to new allegations.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Feb. 10, 2014, 11:04 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
Hillary Clinton Accepts the Democratic Nomination for President
5 hours ago

"It is with humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for president," said Hillary Clinton in becoming the first woman to accept a nomination for president from a major party. Clinton gave a wide-ranging address, both criticizing Donald Trump and speaking of what she has done in the past and hopes to do in the future. "He's taken the Republican party a long way, from morning in America to midnight in America," Clinton said of Trump. However, most of her speech focused instead on the work she has done and the work she hopes to do as president. "I will be a president of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving, the successful," she said. "For those who vote for me and for those who don't. For all Americans together."

Protesters Make Good on Threat to Disrupt Speech
5 hours ago

Supporters of Bernie Sanders promised to walk out, turn their backs, or disrupt Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, and they made good immediately, with an outburst almost as soon as Clinton began her speech. But her supporters, armed with a handy counter-chant cheat sheet distributed by the campaign, immediately began drowning them out with chants of "Hillary, Hillary!"

New Survey Shows Clinton Up 9 in Pennsylvania
13 hours ago

If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."

Democrats Beat Republicans in Convention Ratings So Far
14 hours ago

Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."

Catholics, Highly Educated Moving Toward Dems
18 hours ago

Catholics who attend mass at least weekly have increased their support of the Democratic nominee by 22 points, relative to 2012, when devout Catholics backed Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, a Morning Consult poll shows that those voters with advanced degrees prefer Hillary Clinton, 51%-34%. Which, we suppose, makes the ideal Clinton voter a Catholic with a PhD in divinity.