tv Andrew Cockburn on Kill Chain CSPAN May 29, 2015 12:40am-1:46am EDT
continuing series of events. located in the heart of manhattan's upper west side and is rapidly becoming in the institution. this is not a chain store or a citibank branch which means that we need your patronage to thrive. so far the support of our customers has been remarkable. it is my great pleasure tonight to introduce andrew cockburn author of the just published coaching i am lucky to have andrew as i washington editor role that he performs brilliantly with pieces of a quality that you simply can't find anywhere else. andrew is a very rare
combination of outrage journalist and studious crossman and never lets his anger get in the way of scrupulous accuracy and well-written storytelling. detail rendered in sentences that enlightened rather than way down the subject. the april issue of harper's magazine his piece about the history of corruption and loansharking a citibank. i rushed early copies here that i hope you will buy right after you brought coaching. they're going to let andrew explain his thesis that i resist reading a brief passage that i think captures the essence of the story.
kill chain is an exposé of the remote-controlled drone and missile program that nowadays sucks up such an immense amount of money and thought in washington. but it but it is also a history of the peculiar american obsession with assassination and systematize supposedly sanitized military tactics and obsession that works itself out at a dangerous removed from reality on the ground. this obsession is delusional and self-defeating and should have been proven but it was on today similar stronger than ever. but i cannot resist this. reporter to reporter this is a lot harder to get than you may realize. andrew is described a meeting between i guess you
could call them the kind of internal whistleblower who has actually tested the drones and figured out that they are highly inaccurate. in fact, overwhelmingly inaccurate, only about 21 percent of the target in a test in nevada. but he is up against the military-industrial complex in the form of -- i forget what her name is. she is known as the dragon lady of procurement at the pentagon. the principal deputy under secretary of the air force and she would eventually be sentenced to a nine-month prison term for corrupt dealings with the boeing corporation but on that october morning when she went into confront christie to complain about this report that he had written about the inaccuracy of the
drones she was still much feared for her commanding role in negotiating prices and multibillion-dollar contracts. the the pentagon building was still smoking from the devastating impacts of american airlines flight 11 when he marched into the 3rd floor office with four or five sycophantic generals trailing behind her. not known for diplomacy she came straight to the.. what the fark is this she shouted at the testing officer director. what do you mean sending out this funky report saying that predator doesn't work? who is the flocking hassle that wrote this report? i am going to see me view my new fighting acyl. that is the voice of the military-industrial complex.
christie is unfazed. have you found anything to five have you found anything in this report that is wrong? no admitted the official. can you at you at least take the bet out about not operationally suitable? all present were well aware this was as far as most officials would ever read. christie gave no ground. letter and report stood but it did not matter. washington matter. washington was already entranced by the notion of killing people in distance. anyway andrew cockburn. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. they're kind introduction. and you must have broken the four letter barrier by now. together we did.
i am going to start by reading part of the book which is a description of an actual drone strike witches -- it is the account that you will see. it contains the actual -- all the communications. the pilots in nevada and the people on the ground in afghanistan. without further ado on a cold february don in 20102 small suvs and affordable pickup truck headed down a dirt road in the mountains of southern afghanistan. they set out soon after midnight traveling across country reach highway one of the country's principal paved road which would lead them to kandahar and optical found inside more than 30
men, women and children. everyone knew one another. they all came from the same cluster the mountain villages. others were shopkeepers heading to the capitol to buy supplies. the women carried turkeys, gifts for the relatives they were stay with. a number were an ethic minority's of shia muslims. now there and taliban country and therefore dangerous for them. they were short on gas. they met no other cars and little foot traffic. the world around them must have seemed empty but it was not. unbeknownst to them they were being watched and their every movement transmitted across the globe. a ramshackle vehicles one one breaking down and the
other blue attire that along people they would never meet conferred across oceans and continents as to who they were aware they were going to what they were carrying and whether they should live or die. on what they were traveling toward an operational detachment dropped him of the supporting force to attack the nearby village. such work routine. planned and executed by the special operations command that specializes in the pursuit and elimination of high-value targets. someone thought this someone thought this operation important enough to give it the code-named operation noble justice. sunday february 21. m q1 predator. we are eyes on the 1st vehicle trying in the open. stand by for movement. the 27-foot long predator drone was circling at 14,000 feet.
carrying a variety of cameras including infrared video that picked up the warmth. almost in an instant but not quite's the images flashed across the world the twin screens inside a metal box roughly the size of a shipping container. facing the screen set a pilot guiding the drawn by remote control. beside him set a sensor operator. in another room set of 3rd member of the crew the mission intelligence coordinator watching the same video images. the pictures headquarters of air force special operations command. the vast the little-known global network referred to as the distributive common ground system. this is a central nervous system of john warfare funneling collating, and sharing the unimaginable
amount of imagery collected around the globe. in theory anyone in any part of the system has access to any information that has been fed into the system wherever they are. thus it was that the images were being watched by dedicated team of young men and women each with specialized tasks and overall charge was an intelligence tactical coordinator supervising to screeners. the chief screener civilian contract from maj. defense corporation heavily involved in drone operations outrank the 2nd imagine your air force officer. also present were to fall motion video analysts while one watch the screen the other typed. conclusions drawn conclusions drawn which were then passed to the screener for onward transmission and to the mission intelligence coordinator. another analyst's generating
relative geographical information made at the couple. the ultimate beneficiary is the sergeant attached to the party known as the joint tax controller responsible for communicating via radio that any and all air support and relaying orders intelligence to and from the young captain commanding the party calling himself jaguar 25 the only link with the team in nevada which in turn was the sole link with the screeners in florida. almost as soon as the party disembarked from the helicopter somewhere out in the darkness handheld radio was switched on. they are here. let us get all the mujahedin together. simple, uncomplicated address to no one in particular's. unlike the system supplied by the us forces americans were bemused by the enemies unconcerned.
overheard by a host of us military intelligence post on the ground in the air. the word was the word was passed to look out for enemy reinforcements. two vehicles in tandem lumbering into the area. suspicions hardened when they flashed lights at each other before continuing on together in the direction of the patrol. 4:15 a.m. mission intelligence coordinator. see if you can zoom in on that. is that a funky rifle? sensor operator just a warm spot from where he been sitting. i was hoping we can make other rifle. nevermind. the only way the only way i have been able to see a rifle as if they move them around when they are holding them. drone operators are not in immediate contact with the real world literally thanks to the phenomenon known as latency.
down again to a ground station switching to a fiber optic cable through which it travels across western europe the atlantic ocean and the continental united states before reaching nevada and the screen in the palace trailer as as the electronic pulses are split are reunited and buckle for assembly microsecond delays steadily accumulate. it means that the scene on a pilot screen is out of date usually two seconds, sometimes as much as five. as the crew reacts to what there saying moving the controls that signal and turn takes two to five seconds to deliver. this time lapse is why drone takeoffs and landings us be handled by a separate team so they can see the planes they are flying in real-time the potential targets on the ground are aware of the delay. members of al qaeda reported
its when's when they hear a drone overhead they move around as fast as possible. their close resemblance. sometimes they are no better than looking through google earth through a straw. most of the time the convoy was under watch the sensor can only focus on two of the three vehicles at a time. the imperfect the imperfect resolution was lost. imagery became less precise. the drone was too high. when the sensor operator cannot focus path to properly's video is even poor. 4:24 a.m. what we are looking for is a quick reaction.
watching from a distance. then came an unwelcome message from florida. mission intelligence coordinator. at least one child there suv bull ship. where? send me affecting still. i no they are shady, but. at least one child. really? military aged male. that means is guilty. maybe a teenager but i haven't seen anything that looks that short's. mission intelligence coordinator. yes. review that ship. possible child. just as the sun rose above the mountains the convoy halted. many passengers get out. 5:10 a.m. pilot they are praying.
this is definitely it. praying, i mean, seriously. that is what they do. they're going to do something nefarious. all the adults all the adults in the party got out when the convoy stopped at the river. to the infrared camera and so too to the watch as far away the men and women were merely indistinguishable blobs. the party was the party was presumptively one of taliban enforcement no one thought to ponder their gender. an hour later the vehicles turned off in a different direction which led them ultimately 12 miles away an indication that whoever they were the most likely had no hostile intent. nevertheless they assess this as a flanking maneuver to get behind the troops. 6:59 a.m. can't wait until this actually happens.
yeah. though far removed drone crew see themselves in the same martial tradition as fighter pilots. not to mention the combat pay. the trailer chatter that night echo that of combat crews. only once in a while is the record reveal they are firmly on the ground. 7:11 a.m. sensor operator. well would you mind if i take a bathroom break? no not all. the crew spoke the language almost think comprehensible so laden with acronyms that plain english was often supplanted. the military jargon impose another layer between them and the reality on the ground. ..
fad we are rows vehicle alarming those passengers to escape. with the blast growing out the we are window those that were flying the strike 2.7-inch rockets somebody noticed something strange they cannot tell what the fuck they are doing. no female in the group. he is the big girl. with those that receive it
the revolving door of government service. the scene said everybody had taken the table. in the decade since the california was regulated by scandal regulations of torture and focused intelligence to ignore the signs of the pending 9/11 attack even george tenet with those aforementioned scandals as he was said to be introduced deeply composite h with the exception n of turner tavis
rating applies former cia director with robert gates leaving 18 years before the father figure of the institution to cheers so fervently at the ritz carlton. with the determination that is all too evident. the supervisor as an analyst with the intelligence director recalls writing the all consuming ambition is part of the approach. with the confirmation of the cia chief those who work behind the scenes staff directed george tenet then he moved on to beat director
of intelligence programs at white house national security in which capacity he became to know john brennan said they were assigned to brief the white house staffers. to have the appointed chief nurmi reserved with someone with experience. he worked tirelessly to avoid irritating his host. so of those biographical details because he said it would irritate the saudis. brennan spent the next three years with the extremely profitable with a terrorist watch list that they would
pay in 2008 alone but among those useful relationships was a former national security advisor to barack obama the pair bought did immediately and among those points is the approach with the of this test sizing disease for which said drones and he wanted him to be the director because of the torture program and he said he made him an assistant from the oval office.
everybody new at as the custodian on the kill list from the former constitutional insisted on having the last word average reach use in -- chosen meetings. our president has of brutal side had said at the time. now all along with the others you accepted the award for exemplary service after paying tribute to to the california family he spoke of the tragic instance of sacrifice the seven men and women killed by a suicide bomber.
they all without their heads in silent tribute. moving to a more up the topic. to find deep-rooted resistance with the new technology as they still were waiting for fighter plane combat. night and day to fight against terrorism so from now one though watered is drones' baby jonesboro. [applause] does anybody have any questions?
nature of society with girl babies and women they are kept away because the neighbors do not even know you cannot know how many people that you killed. so sure people will lie detector test she would say he's killing civilians but is maybe a little input from questionable in -- sources and it is inevitable to kill civilians from one never obama says. anyone else?
>> is there more killing of civilians and other credits of catastrophe? there are some spectacular ones like it in 2009 with of b-1 bomber that was assured of at taliban concentration in afghanistan that killed between 80 and 120 civilians per girl i should say that people are fascinated by drones but there is a very narrow line between drones that operate with remote control by someone sitting half a world away and the person to presses the button
come out of the sky to blow people away that is my children in pakistan know not to play on a sunny day because of the visibility but they can play when it is cloudy and people don't gather in that society relief for weddings and funerals but now people are scared to go because many of those have been hit with funerals in particular are popular for a drone strike. but from a strike from those that were dispatched because they are equipped to look at the ground to say this is an
innocent farm family taking the animals at night. so they would refuse to bomb pearl the b-1 up above said we are happy to do with they dropped the bombs and it blew away seven people but that was classified. actually that record was stolen then disappeared when they were initially questioned but they said possible seven terrorist. it is the difficult thing to assess. so they have killed more people in one go. but it is more horrifying in a way. >> it strikes me the
instigators like obama are still removed from the action in themselves. to you since themselves to the lower cable because of the drawn strikes and for me and most of us here so far removed anyway even to recognize veterans is soldiers to do these on the ground. perhaps the reason that much more difference because they are drones but there is difference between that conceptual killing whether from of a hand to hand and combat.
>> but the insidious thing that has happened is they think they are in touch with the famous picture of the osama bin lauded raid all love life house staff take the afternoon off to watch the enemy being killed so they all watched a video with that was taken from the stealth drone. so they feel that they are in realtime and excited there watching live tv that is happening more and more to you give the illusion to be close to the action that may not have had for those troops that were relying on written reports with some of
four-star generals in day firefight but of course, of all sorts of reasons they are not issue the entirely fault -- false picture with a wait-and-see and the picture is much more blurry and there is no context so this general increasing distance from reality rather real picture is exemplified by the strike got in the farmhouse for those who could not see the ground. and it is happening on the ever larger scale. obama thinks in people are
recommended for death that is arranged by a huge democracy he goes through the pictures but he will say him, him, not him he thinks he is controlling the whole thing. but the fact it is said to him the intelligence people give him the illusion. it is a long winded the answer but to me that is one of the most basic points of what is wrong with what is going on. this -- the illusion of contact. >> if i can fly a passage. >> one more question. >> anybody in congress
trying to do anything about this? >> yes they are. not to be enough. it is popular generally. of the and the most eloquent the announcers is rand paul. who made the most eloquent statement when it came out to the release to be extremely squishy legal opinion on which they use to give themselves permission to kill american citizens. ha it is actually a courageous that day made a federal judge runneth the opinion and there was cobble together.
with that is really justification in quantity and rand paul cannell with the eloquent statement to say this is completely enrages the president has the power to kill anyone he wants any time. there are a few others berbera who was a congresswoman from berkeley the only one to get use of military force for growth so there still is a reputation but tv a liberal senator on the intelligence community -- committee. it is so precise but we are
study done in iraq by somebody that i know by interesting analyst worth of fighter pilots. and he went to investigate the policy based on which fell whole world was based to talk about those ineffective fixes for the homemade bombs. could no mistaking who control that principal strategy. most of that equipment was pretty beat up as they pass through the gates of the military headquarters during the occupation.
one single story close to rude general odierno office everything was brand-new the most up-to-date computers, servers and plasma screens you could tell they had priority. this was the home of the high-value targeting to a the pentagon. analysts tracked individuals on a list of others would go through reports sightings of wanted men to be added to the joint priority list the master list of targets listed for elimination for colorado and afghanistan every unit maintained its own list of high-value targets each recorded as they were called may 5th may 5th, a 2006 report of
the shooting from the observation posts then shot as he tried to was cape was summarized 187 op is engaged in and killed one of the battalion. the longest of code words but that high-value target industry to hunt down the leaders of the ied network would assassinate hitler from the years gone by so since that elimination since they payable will dividend lois was ever expanding. to the end of 2007 began to reveal if the strategy would work. the with full access to the database is extracted the records or high-value targets were killed or
captured. then he went through the records again. this is the crucial question. had it made a difference? to encounter the number of attacks from the 30 days following h targets or rest within a given distance to compare to the number of the 30 days before. repeating the procedure would flock from one axis saw the kraft to the distance of the other when complete there was the message the strategy indeed was but not the one intended the actually increase them it quickly prompted mayhem attacks shot up by
40 percent with a radius of 5 kilometers it was still up 20% so to summarize these findings for general odierno had a punchline conclusion the strategy of iraq is counterproductive and needs to be relied rated. so to removal of the sea attack just as the field officers were reprimanded for that trip usually in 24 hours for always 48. for a variety of reasons there would always be pushed to press harder in addition having just succeeded to the command they feel the need to prove themselves especially due to battle fatigue and there were always more deadly when we
later he asked general odierno but through plant -- he replied there is a limit to what i can do. >> as nonmilitary, non international question, if you think back years ago people were about the proliferation of handguns now people on the street have ak-47s. now i already read that drones are being used to deliver packages and farmers using them and photographers , in the new non dash near future will they be in use by
professional hit men type for those who fight against each other? is that the inevitable result? >> it is possible there are efforts already to smuggle drugs across the mexican border but it turns out they keep crashing. it isn't reliable so with that border area between mexico and the u.s. for those that try to help themselves to a crystal meth [laughter] because we had the case of another debt of the drought intelligence officer for tries to throw out - - applied the drug into the white house at 3:00 in the morning and crashes into a tree. it is made capable by the gps.
this technology is esoteric. people worry about other countries standard attacks but for the momentum of think any other country has the global command-and-control system that we built up with a staggering cost to enable them to drone operations on the other side of the world as the complicated business that is extremely expensive. there are other things we could worry about in the meantime. >> digests started to read it and it is very illuminating and interesting. i have to question in this. first, i want to a sharper sense that it seems there are two critiques. one is about technological
failure that says they cannot see as clearly as they claim as they kill too many civilians but the other is that we need more transparency and accountability to fit within the american empire to make it more efficient. the other critiqued is more about political principles to see them working at top form that they can see quite well they don't kill civilians. is it okay? is just seems we tend to not question the politics of the issue for another reason i ask is i have spoken with survivors of the attacks.
with i speak to them they're not talking vatican and stability in transparency but wanting them to end by which the logic of the u.s. allowed themselves that gives them solves the right to attack so where do you place yourself? project they do work a lot of the time. i am not trying to say it is like to rock falling out of the sky. but the report said that it fails in the air force chief was very angry but remember it is all about money and people make a huge amount of money that is what you get a
faulty system like this. to give one quick example of the imperative the drone got the congress to tell border control to put in the appropriation to buy six drones so they flew them there is a little over 5,000 illegal border crossers. but some person rented a plane been doing scripted with a simple error for read scope -- and for red scope and the drones with each capture $7,000 if you broke it down.
the cessna is $230. so whereupon the inevitable result that congress immediately decided to order more. so think about what drives this? of decisions that get made. >> let's assume that it worked. then is it okay? >> it does work a lot of the time. in the results are interesting. the last thing a red talks about a high value targeting there are hundreds of successful missions and what should the result the? not victory. this is the of principal weapons with the war on
terror. and the result has been in 2001 al qaeda square there hiding in caves in afghanistan with the famous video that was to scare us showing them training but when they did that they had so few people they had to rent a neighboring tribe. but now we have borne presiding over an area the size of texas with recruits beating in every week and the ground operation starting elsewhere. so when it works, there are
drones from yemen yemen, somalia, cause the. they are all working. but the results. >> do you identify a turning point? through 2007 the air force chiefs were not wild about drums at all. when gates became secretary of defense you wanted to order more because every ground commanders said i need more but it was just to
see we're the plans we're going and the chief of staff , forced them to buy them. they were fired mainly because they were resistant to get drones. really that is all it was. but was it generational? a new kind of their force officer to come along the chief of staff is replaced for special forces? is that it? what was going on politically your bureaucratically to change the whole dynamic? >> the chief of staff was fired but he was not keen on drones so there were different constituencies but
in july 2008 he didn't got bush to relax that now they were allowed to attack people whose identities were unknown. even if they just was looking guilty. so if you're short space of time when in a truck headed to afghanistan qualified as the target. and this was the infamous straight -- signature strikes yes she did face opposition but he was forceful as secretary of defense but once he was prepared then there was a big change of opinion in the air force. at that time there was another factor to bear in
mind it was all about money. the airforce was thinking of other things. with of fighter that is set at $400 million a copy but then to name those big manufacturers ever interested because you have three and $400 million drone's which makes it more attractive to the industry. so it does escalate but i would say 2008 then when obama comes they are off to the races because of their decisions came into play
because of, said they would close guantanamo. so that led to the incentive. i also will say quickly it is not all about drone's but it is those critical nodes to dismantle the enemy machine to hit those specific targets. it never works it never has worked it was pursued in vietnam's there is the chapter to talk about the route control where -- or fair -- warfare where they try to kill saddam hussein and drones made this more attractive to make it easier.