On Thursday, The Intercept published “The Drone Papers,” an eight-part investigation into the U.S. drone program.
The documents were provided by an anonymous inside source who has worked on the program. Jeremy Scahill, one of the Intercept co-founders, says that the source wanted to expose the information because he believes that the American public should know who the government chooses to assassinate, and how.
The chain of command starts with the Joint Special Operations Command task force, which will make a case for targeting a certain individual; that case is then passed along up the chain, eventually reaching President Obama, the final tier of authorization. At any point in the process, if an official disagrees that the target should be assassinated, it stops.
The White House and Pentagon have described the program to the American public as precise with minimal casualties, but the statistics say otherwise. The Drone Papers specify a period between January 2012 and February 2013 in northeastern Afghanistan during which these airstrikes killed over 200 people; only 35 of those killed were the intended targets. Around 80% of those killed by drone strikes were not the intended target, though the source says that they weren’t all necessarily innocent civilians. The Intercept’s source calls it “a phenomenal gamble.”
As for who this source is, Laura Poitras’ 2014 documentary confirms a second source in tandem with the Edward Snowden leak, but it’s unclear whether or not the same source is responsible for leaking the Drone Papers.