U.S. Considers Killing Another American Citizen With a Drone

The NSA is using electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, to lock on drone targets, an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent people.

Photo Credit:

Some officials at the Pentagon want to launch a drone strike on another American citizen overseas on evidence that is secret.  The Associated Press’ Kimberly Dozier reports that the Obama administration is divided over killing the U.S. citizen, who is accused of planning attacks on Americans.

Currently, Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones are tracking the citizen’s movements.  But the CIA is not allowed to go after a U.S. citizen under new rules on drones issued by President Obama last year.  That’s the military’s job.  But the AP’s Dozier reports that “an official said the president could make an exception to his policy and authorize the CIA to strike on a onetime basis or authorize the Pentagon to act despite the possible objections of the country in question.”  The country the alleged suspect is in is averse to U.S. drone strikes, and the Obama administration is reportedly weary over the domestic and international uproar a drone strike on the alleged suspect is living in.

The Justice Department is building a case against the citizen so officials can review what to do about him.  The Defense Department is divided over whether the alleged suspect is dangerous enough to justify a risky strike.

The U.S. has killed four American citizens using drone strikes in the past, all without trial or releasing evidence.  The same legal process used to decide to kill the preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is being used on this unnamed suspect.  

In addition, it’s possible that National Security Agency-led surveillance is being used to target the U.S. citizen.  In their first story for the new publication The Intercept--a web magazine published by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media--journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald reveal the NSA’s central role in the drone program.  

The NSA uses electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, to locate drone targets--a method that has caused the deaths of innocents, along with alleged terrorists. They work with the CIA and the military to locate the target.

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 NSA helped in the killing of al-Awlaki, Greenwald and Scahill report.  


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018