America's drone program is "absolutely" killing innocent people because it launches strikes solely based on NSA phone metadata and tracking technologies, a former drone pilot tells Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, in the first post for Greenwald's much-hyped new media venture, The Intercept. The NSA's involvement with the drone program has been previously reported, but the Intercept piece focuses on the flaws of the approach, which eschews traditional human intelligence. Most notably: The terrorists appear to have caught on.
Aware that the NSA geolocates cell phones, militants will now carry extra SIM cards, or worse, pass cell phones to civilians, says the drone pilot, who's a Joint Special Operations Command member. He says he's participated in strikes where the target's phone was found, but someone else was killed. "People get hung up that there's a targeted list of people," he says. "It's really like we're targeting a cellphone." But Greenwald does describe him as "adamant" that the tactic has eliminated actual terrorists. Greenwald is largely being touted as the face of First Look Media, a new venture from eBay mogul Pierre Omidyar, a strategy that the Daily Beast worries could prove problematic given Greenwald's aggressive style. In announcing The Intercept, First Look made clear that the Greenwald vehicle would be "the first of what will eventually be a family of digital magazines." (Read more drones stories.)