Drone analyst reveals ‘failures’ of targeted killings
Heather Linebaugh has opened up about her “haunting” experience as a drone analyst and how the “failures” of the targeted killing program result in the deaths of innocent women, children and foreign soldiers.
In an article published in the Guardian on Sunday, Linebaugh, who served in the US Air Force from 2009 until March 2012, says few of the US and British military officials who so “brazenly” defend the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program have a real clue how it actually works.
“They feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs,” she writes.
Linebaugh says that whenever she reads comments by politicians defending the drone strikes, she wishes she could ask them a few questions:
I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”
Drone operators, she explains, make decisions based on videos provided by drones, often in such low quality that would make it almost impossible to distinguish a rifle from a “shovel” on the “pixilated feed.”
“What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light,” she writes.
Linebaugh says that as an “UAV analyst” she would always wonder if “we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle” after a strike had been launched. “I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts.”
The stress of having to make decisions that might result in the death of fellow soldiers or innocent people, she writes, creates a “haunting” psychological trauma for drone operators.
As a result, the UAV analyst says, two friends and colleagues of hers committed suicide within a year of leaving the military.
“When you are exposed to [watching people die] over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience,” Linebaugh writes of her experience.
“UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.”
She concludes her revealing article by saying that the assassination drone program in the Middle East poses a “serious threat to the sanctity of human life” and the “public remains ignorant to this.”