Unjustified Killing by Proxy – The Drone Papers

I heard parts of this story on radio and wondered how it has not shown up as a major news story. Sadly I think U.S citizens have such low expectations of their government they expect such dire consequences or have super high expectations and don’t believe whistle blowers.

almost 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes were not the intended target. Nine to Noon speaks to Andrew Cockburn, the Washington Editor of Harper’s Magazine and author of Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.

Listen to the full interview below.

In NYMAg The Drama of the Drone Paper – Benjamin Wallace-Wells notes

for every intended or authorized target the United States kills in distant drone strikes, it also kills about six other people who are not intended or authorized targets…..
“Most of those people the United States kills in the drone programs, it now seems, are not targets carefully selected for assassination, but people who are simply in the vicinity, about whom neither the intelligence analysts nor the drone operators really know anything at all.”…
One question — maybe the most pressing question — is how the public feels about that brutal ratio of one targeted death to five or six unintended. The evidence so far is that the public is more or less okay with it.

Though these numbers are more concrete than we’ve had before, and though the Intercept has done admirable work in further detailing how the decision to assassinate is made and put into operation, the basic story — that the aerial assassinations are not really so surgical — is pretty familiar.

“Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit,” Scott Shane of the Times put it, summing up a decade’s worth of findings this April.”

To quote Cora Currier – The Kill Chain ( Part 3 of the drone Papers)

“Yet the overall conclusion is that getting accurate positive identification is a “critical” issue for the drone program in the region, due to limitations in technology and the number of spy aircraft available. The military relies heavily on signals intelligence — drawn from electronic communications — and much of it comes from foreign governments, who may have their own agendas.
Identifying the correct target relates directly to the issue of civilian casualties: If you don’t have certainty about your target, it follows that you may well be killing innocent people.”

Back to the interview with Andrew Cockburn. In practical terms what happens after a drone strike is a posthumous re-classification of victims as targets to justify their mistakes.
Make no mistake – killing by drone is part of an illegal action especially in countries like Somalia and Yemen where no actual war has been declared.

Yes there are in theory a number of qualification processes to make sure such strikes are legit but mostly this action happens as covert action and so can’t be justified by any official processes. Certainly when 90% of those being killed are “collateral damage” it is time to speak up.


Graffiti denouncing strikes by U.S. drones in Yemen. Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/Corbis

Why we should ban killer robots – the short version. AI professor Toby Walsh explains why Killer Robots are a problem.

Objection 1. Robots will be more effective than humans.
Objection 2. Robots will be more ethical.
Objection 3. Robots can just fight robots.
Objection 4. Such robots already exist and we need them.
Objection 5. Weapon bans don’t work.

Of course none of these objections make any real sense and are all completely wrong.

“The history of warfare is largely one of who can more efficiently kill the other side. This has typically not been a good thing for mankind.”
The recently leaked Drone Papers suggest nearly nine out of ten people killed by drone strikes weren’t the intended target. This is when there’s still a human in the loop, making the final life-or-death decision. The statistics will be much worse when we replace that human with a computer.

Here is the actual video of Toby giving his talk at TEDxBerlin.

It’s 2015. In an era of global trade no one needs war to take over any country. Just use regular capitalism to buy up all the good companies and sue those who don’t play according to your rules. If that fails make them sign a free trade treaty.

There are some lines in Terminator 2 that I think are apposite here. Ironically when a robot speaks the truth – we are in serious trouble.

John Connor: We’re not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean. 
The Terminator: It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves. 
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?