Here’s an example of why pulling the plug on the NSA is a worthy and legitimate endeavor. It is simply not moral in any universe to shoot wildly into the dark because you merely think a legitimate target might be there.
It’s akin to saying it’s OK to shoot a Hellfire missile into a shopping mall in Atlanta because you’ve heard there may be five bad guys inside–don’t worry about the 200 innocent people who happen to be around them!
According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device.
The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.
Technology makes killing far too easy, at times, and enables otherwise honorable men to do the unthinkable. No one should ever, ever. ever pull the trigger on a gun without absolutely verifying that the person who will be harmed is an immediate threat to the life of others. And drone operators cannot escape moral accountability—eternal judgment—for killing innocents, simply because they were “following orders.”
Members of the military are obligated to refuse to obey illegal orders. I hope many of them will start doing that, rather than merely talking “anonymously” to the press because their conscience bothers them for taking part in murder.