Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Civilian Contractors Playing Key Roles in U.S. Drone Operations - LA Times 29 Dec 2011

Relying on contractors has brought companies that operate for profit into some of America's most sensitive military and intelligence operations.

Personnel at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County last year control a Predator drone flying over Ft. Irwin, northeast of Barstow. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times photo)

By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times

December 29, 2011, 10:34 p.m.
Reporting from Washington­
After a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed at least 15 Afghans in 2010, the Army officer investigating the accident was surprised to discover that an American civilian had played a central role: analyzing video feeds from a Predator drone keeping watch from above.

The contractor had overseen other analysts at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida as the drone tracked suspected insurgents near a small unit of U.S. soldiers in rugged hills of central Afghanistan. Based partly on her analysis, an Army captain ordered an airstrike on a convoy that turned out to be carrying innocent men, women and children.

"What company do you work for?" Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale demanded of the contractor after he learned that she was not in the military, according to a transcript obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

"SAIC," she answered. Her employer, SAIC Inc., is a publicly traded Virginia-based corporation with a multiyear $49-million contract to help the Air Force analyze drone video and other intelligence from Afghanistan.

America's growing drone operations rely on hundreds of civilian contractors, including some ­ such as the SAIC employee ­ who work in the so-called kill chain before Hellfire missiles are launched, according to current and former military officers, company employees and internal government documents.

Read the entire story HERE

It appears some of the kill decisions in U.S. drone activities are being made by civilian contractors. This is one step beyond the passive role contractors are usually constrained to in security operations. Is the US violating international law?? The rules of war may need an overhaul in the emerging age of digital warfare. This LAT article will really open a can of worms, will probably lead to some investigations in Congress.


Today's Bird HERE


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