The U.S. government reportedly is ordering some drone strikes based on the location of terror suspects’ cell phones — without necessarily confirming the location of the suspects themselves — raising concerns about missiles hitting unintended targets.
The details were included in a report published Monday by journalist Glenn Greenwald’s newest venture, The Intercept. Though it previously has been reported that National Security Agency data-tracking is used in locating and targeting terror suspects, the Intercept article raised new questions about the accuracy of that data.
The report, citing an unnamed former drone operator and other sources, said the NSA uses a “complex analysis of electronic surveillance” to pinpoint drone strike targets. However, the report said, the CIA and U.S. military don’t always confirm who the target is with informants on the ground. This raises the concern that the flagged phone could be in the hands of someone else — a friend, a family member, someone who’s holding the wrong phone at the wrong time — when the missile is fired.
“It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone,” the former drone operator was quoted as saying. “We’re not going after people — we’re going after their phones.”
The Intercept report also detailed how some Taliban leaders have caught onto the NSA’s methods, and have tried to evade tracking by purchasing multiple SIM cards and mixing them up.
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