There’s essentially only two ways to truly know what the federal government is up to, and that’s through the mouth of whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, who bravely exposed the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of the American people, and secondly, the Freedom of Information Request Act (FOIA), which allows the public to access records from any federal agency, a measure instituted to provide government transparency.
While these tools give the illusion that Americans have some power in holding their government accountable for its abuses, the idea that we have transparency in any regard is a complete joke. The government has mushroomed so large that it’s extremely difficult for the public to hold it accountable, particularly regarding its illegal spy programs and war conduct.
With the release of The Intercept’s Drone Papers, for the first time, the public was given insight into the government’s covertly operated drone program, or the method in which it assassinates individuals in the Middle East; the large majority of which we learned are not enemies.
A Pentagon study found that over one five month period during operation Haymaker, close to 90 percent of those killed were not the intended target. That means for every 10 people the U.S. government murders overseas, only one is the enemy. The identities of the remaining casualties are unknown, however, we do know that most of them are innocent bystanders desperately trying to have some quality of life in a war torn country.
Despite funding this program, American taxpayers are largely kept in the dark about the military’s assassination program, and the government wants to keep it that way.
Judge denies ACLU’s request for ‘factual information’ about drone program
A U.S. District judge ruled in June against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after exercising a FOIA request to access documents related to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) targeted drone program, according to a report by Courthouse News Service.
The ACLU request sought documents relating to specifics about the drone program, including “against whom the U.S. considers itself authorized to conduct drone strikes,” as well as information on the following:
• The identity of intended targets
• Assessed number of people killed
• The dates they were killed
• The status of those killed
• Which agencies are involved
• The location of each strike
• The identities of those killed
Judge Rosemary Collyer denied their request saying it was far reaching, adding that “national-security interests justify the CIA keeping all documents related to its targeted drone-strike program secret.”
However, before her ruling, the CIA reportedly “denied the existence of any records on targeted drone strikes, but the D.C. Circuit said this position was ‘indefensible’ given that President Obama has publicly acknowledged using drone strikes against al Qaeda.”
The ACLU refused to give up; breathing wind back into their sails and filing an appeal after The Intercept broke The Drone Papers.
ACLU asks for documents detailing drone program’s ‘effectiveness, lawfulness and morality’
“This case concerns the CIA’s withholding of records that would allow the public to better understand and evaluate the effectiveness, lawfulness, and morality of the government’s drone campaign,” said the ACLU in their 77-page appeal.
“The CIA continues to withhold essentially everything, and public debate about the drone campaign continues to be impoverished and distorted by unwarranted secrecy and selective disclosure.”
The ACLU called Collyer’s ruling an “error,” asserting that the “CIA’s documentation of its legal decision-making process” is not exempt for “national security reasons.”
“Legal analysis is not itself an intelligence activity, source, or method; nor does it fall into any of the other categories of classifiable information set out in the relevant executive order,” says the brief.
“Moreover, as this Court emphasized in its decision two years ago, plaintiffs’ request seeks records concerning the government’s activities, not just the CIA’s; accordingly, disclosure of the summary strike data would not reveal the distinctive role played by the CIA in drone strikes.
“And even if some of the summary strike data could not be disclosed without revealing properly classified information, the district court erred in failing seriously to consider whether this concern could be addressed through redactions,” said the ACLU.