Former High-Level NSA Official: Drone Strikes by Metadata Alone “Undisciplined Slaughter”

Metadata Alone Doesn’t Insure We’re Targeting Bad Guys

In Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald’s new report based on interviews with drone targeting program whistleblowers as well as Edward Snowden, they point out that targets for drone strikes are picked almost entirely using “metadata” … and that human intelligence isn’t used to confirm that actual bad guys are being targeted.

We reached out to a former top NSA official to get his take on this story:  Bill Binney, the 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, the senior technical director within the agency who managed thousands of NSA employees, and has been interviewed by virtually all of the mainstream media, including CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, PBS and many others.

Washington’s Blog asked Binney:

Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have a new article on drone targeting abroad.

In it, they argue that Sigint [signals intelligence] can be unreliable in targeting drone strikes, without Humint [human intelligence] to corroborate.

Do you have any opinion on this?

Binney responded:

The problem I have with drone strikes using metadata only is that they are not making sure of their targets this way. You need to have content not just metadata to know that it is your target. Humint could point you to a bad guy; but, even then, you still need to have content to insure that is the same guy using the phone or originating the e-mail. This is why I call the strikes by metadata alone a “undisciplined slaughter.”

But also, cell phones can be lent to others and multiple people can use the same computer etc.

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  • Tonto

    These are surgical strikes, even if the majority of deaths are innocent bystanders. A full scale ground invasion seeking to weed out terrorist cells would be far more deadly for the associated population as well as American military personnel.

    I would support drone strikes on the Mexican border as well as the Florida coast to keep out illegal immigrants. Not one illegal coming across the border in an innocent bystander.

    While terrifying, which is a huge psychological plus with a humanitarian impact, drone strikes are a humanitarian improvement over other forms of military force. It’s all ugly business. But it’s got to be done, if the country is going to protect its interest, which include a stable world, and a stable world economy. The superpower business requires the regular use of force.

    It’s time to stop whining about innocents. The innocents being killed are far fewer, than would end up dead, if world war III breaks out. It’s an ugly world out there. The illegals who are flooding into this country are coming here to take jobs and opportunity away from Americans. The terrorists who are being drone-targeted are similarly trying to seize power, something they should not have, because it would be destabilizing. Terrorists, almost by definition, are militarists. Illegal immigrants are thieves, but thieves that come in great numbers like an invading force. Illegals have repeatedly threatened and used violence against this country, when deportation efforts increase.

    We don’t have drone strikes on America hating bloggers. But I would favor deportation where applicable, and long sentences to the gulags where the America haters are disaffected American citizens. New laws that fine or imprison disaffected people for publicly inciting disaffection and anti-Americanism, for people like the America hating Michael Rivero, are already on the books. One cannot stand up in a crowded theater and yell, “Fire!” And that is essentially what Rivero and many other bloggers are doing on a daily basis. Rivero daily urges his fatuous fruitcake followers to abandon the dollar, prepare for the coming “economic collapse”, argue with the police, arm themselves, and to boycott banks.

    Every time there is something anti-American occurring anywhere in the world, Rivero happily reports it on his What Really Happened blog site. Some of Rivero’s uncensored followers are excessively venomous America haters who advocate violence.

    Those same types of people post here too on this blog. These blogs are seething cauldrons of anti-Americanism.

    • mr grey

      Tonto, you are so wrong…… godless, gays, who want to take my (and your) guns that are at the root of the problem. Now there are some worthy targets. They are stealing the really important stuff…..our right to have marriage be between a man and woman. So, I’m saying, if the illegal immigrants are straight, christian-and not one of those weird homo sects like Unitarians, and they are into guns then they are good by me, especially if they want to marry someone of the opposite sex. Get it together Tonto, focus on the whats really important.

    • JoBrown85

      I bet you’d be whining like a bitch if you or one of your loved ones became an “innocent” victim (collateral damage) from a surgical drone strike. How callous of you to poo-poo the protests of the innocents when they are slaughtered. Do us a favour and exterminate yourself.

  • Great post. Remember that today is The Day We Fight Back … go for it.