This is What Really Happens in the Drone Program from an Insider

Over the weekend, Heather Linebaugh wrote a powerful Op-ed in The Guardian newspaper lamenting the lack of public understanding regarding the American drone program. Heather should know what she’s talking about, she served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are some key excerpts from her article:

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

Moreover, the many civilians being incinerated without a trial are not the only victims here. So are the actual drone operators themselves, many of whom end up committing suicide. Recall my article from December 2012: Meet Brandon Bryant: The Drone Operator Who Quit After Killing a Child. Of course, our so-called political “leaders” never get their hands dirty, other than to take a lobbyist bribe that is. Now more from Heather:

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence, Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within a year of leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

Full article here.

In Liberty,

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  1. Powerful stuff. Thanks for the link, Mike.

  2. this article reads like a hippy paein to bygone times when men thrust swords into one another. no, drones aren’t bad because they kill people. people kill people. drones are, by definition of the term ‘drone’, NOT meaningfully autonomous. this article is an example of why women should not serve in the military and why a compulsory draft should be required. neither will happen though as they don’t fit the politically correct corpratist notions of freequality for everyone.

    however there exist a few decent arguments against the unchecked proliferation of drones for violence

    1) because of their effectiveness, they can help centralize power more than ever before. this is only arguably a problem with control over domestic government. you can only argue drones should be prohibited for military use when the military is deploying them for domestic purposes, because those purposes are overtly and inherently politcal in nature as applied to americans. forget democracy. drones could easily be used to kill a domestic governor or domestic dictator who voices any politcal opposition to continuing debasement funded guns and butter policy, let alone , voicing opposition to strategic petro-war. the drones could accomplish this through killing someone, but they also ALREADY accomplish this by 24-7 survelliance. new york city is watched from a gorgon stare digital system by a military drone circlin the city at over 20,000 feet. always watching everyone outside. and sending the feed to a recording and analysis center. now, the argument against drones in this context is again, just one of potential abuse. the tool is too powerful not to corrupt the heart of those who wield it, something like the ring of invisibility in the lord of the rings.

    2) in the future, as probabilistic computing chips are commercialized and integrated into an ‘internet of thing’ as well as into complex robots providing them with autonomous thinking and navigation capabilities-at low power consumption———–drones will proliferate by becoming gradually more autonomous. the synapse project and its fruit, like the quallcom xeroth processor and advent of passive low power, or power scavenging , sensors are bringing forth the dawn of low power consumption fault tolerant computing chips optimized for pattern recognition. over time these chips will help engineers evolve through versions of drones yielding a more autonomous set of control systems for many types of drones. youtube famous robots like ‘big dog’ will be shown for the fraudulent pieces of shit that they are as these newer ‘neuromorphic’ chips provide for control systems that allow for robots that can walk with completely ‘natural’ low power gait—-rather than walking as schizophrenic meth head zombies. the difference? efficiency fuel consumption and noise and reliability increasing by orders of magnitude.

    as this occurs, drones NO LONGER remain drones, they become more like autonomous zombies. and then eventually maybe in the distant future like 100 years from now, some develop cat and dog like consciouness. that would be an insane revolution. LITERALLY replicating the robot dogs in ra bradburies faranheit 451.

    this long term argument against drones is that with our help they inevitably develop more sentience and become unpredictable at times and thus prone to more accidents or deliberate malice. but that argument is far from having any traction right now. it is coming though.

    this is not so much an argument agianst drones, but agianst un’regulated’ or unrestrained development of technology.
    but this was always the story of icarus–and pandoras box. engineers and humanity at large will always build out and invent whatever it can think up without concern to the consequences. in the x.0 dawn of technoutopianism stretching from the industrial revolution , bubble after technological bubble, to the present, human invent and build whatever they can , and history chooses winners and losers later.

    try sending an editorial to china or russia about the evils of drones…..
    global geo-politics, and the technological competition inherent to civilization are a prisoners dilemma.

  3. Paean | Define Paean at

    When you take off the fancy wrapper it is about power and control over others through force & fear coupled with the abandonment of moral principles by the controllers…

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