Former US Drone Operators Back Lawsuit Over Targeted Killing Program

An MQ 9 Reaper drone. A new poll shows most Americans support U.S. drone strikes on American citizens. (Photo: USAF)

An MQ 9 Reaper drone. (Photo: USAF)

Three former drone operators backed a lawsuit against the U.S. drone program on Thursday to push for more accountability in deadly drone strikes.

The case was filed by Faisal bin Ali Jaber, whose brother-in-law and nephew were killed in 2012 in a drone strike, the details of which have not been released. After the strike, Jaber said that he was handed US$100,000—but that he refused the money and instead demanded an apology from the U.S.

The veterans— Cian Westmoreland, Lisa Ling and Brandon Bryant—all worked on drones for either the Air Force or the Air National Guard.

After a lower court threw out Jaber’s case, he submitted an appeal last month, which the veterans supported with a filing that says they “witnessed a secret, global system without regard for borders, conducting widespread surveillance with the ability to conduct deadly targeted killing operations.”

They admit that the two civilian deaths could have been a mistake, since even unknown victims are classified as “enemy kills.”

The Obama administration made a push for transparency by releasing the number of civilian deaths from drone strikes and publishing the “playbook” of a top drone operating body, but activists and experts say that the numbers are severely underreported and that the strike process remains top secret and immune to scrutiny.

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