A Drone Operator Speaks: "This Is What You Are Not Told"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Over the weekend, Heather Linebaugh wrote a powerful Op-ed in The Guardian newspaper lamenting the lack of public understanding regarding the American drone program. Heather should know what she’s talking about, she served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are some key excerpts from her article:

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I 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?”


Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.


I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

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. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

Moreover, the many civilians being incinerated without a trial are not the only victims here. So are the actual drone operators themselves, many of whom end up committing suicide. Recall my article from December 2012: Meet Brandon Bryant: The Drone Operator Who Quit After Killing a Child. Of course, our so-called political “leaders” never get their hands dirty, other than to take a lobbyist bribe that is. Now more from Heather:

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence, Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within a year of leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

Full article here.

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InjectTheVenom's picture

and , a surprise IRS audit of Ms Linebaugh in 3 ..... 2 ..... 1

Occident Mortal's picture

The only logical reason for the US flying drones is to encourage a MENA group to conduct sophisticated and determined retaliatory action on the US mainland.

Drones exist to incit another 9/11 and to provide Al Qaida with a justification for their existence. There is no other reason for them.

The blowback from US drones will likely dwarf the blowback from the Saudi occupation as drones are a far more potent recruitment tool for the Jihadists.

The biggest weakness of US foreign policy is the inability to see things from the other side. US politicians are unable to empathise, that's why they make so many international blunders.

GetZeeGold's picture



"Anyone who runs is a VC......anyone who stands still.....is a well disciplined VC"


I guess this is what you call.......progress......yes we can. We've got some hope.....but not much has changed.


New England Patriot's picture

Does working as an intelligence analyst count as being a drone operator?

Ying-Yang's picture

A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas wins bid for drone testing

SAN ANTONIO — The Federal Aviation Administration signed off Monday on Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's bid to create the first test site in the state for unmanned aerial systems — a project designed to help advance the U.S. drone industry and bring jobs and investment to South Texas.


In addition to Texas, other states hosting the research sites are Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota and Virginia, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. The competition for a test site was robust, he said, as 25 entities in 24 states submitted proposals.

The approved test sites are the first step toward integrating drones into the nation's airspace, which Congress has mandated to take place by 2015. The sites will provide key proving grounds for drone operators to show that they can operate safely and will allow the FAA to gather data about privacy issues.

Please mark this date down - December 30, 2013, The day Skynet started.

More info from A&M - http://www.tamucc.edu/news/2013/12/123012%20FAA%20test%20site%20designat...

More info from FAA - http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/

Map of test site - http://lsuasc.tamucc.edu/lsuasc_test_site.php

Mission Control Center - http://lsuasc.tamucc.edu/mission_control_center.php

Budd aka Sidewinder's picture

"I got 159 dead gooks killed....and 40 water buffalo too...them's all confirmed"

"Any women?......or children?"

"Yeah sometimes"

"How can you kill women...and children?"

"Easy...you just don't lead 'em so much....hahaha...ain't war hell....hahaha"


GoldRulesPaperDrools's picture

No, it's:

"I got me 157 dead gooks killed ... and 50 water buffalo too ... them are all certified"

Great lines need to be recounted accurately. ;)

Headbanger's picture

Nope.  I see two main reasons for the US drone warfare program.  One is the the American sheeple are sickened (and rightly so) by the deaths and maiming of our troops. Second is drones are a terror weapon to show terrorists that we can terrorize them as well.

While I agree it is sickening and immoral for us to kill innocent people using drones or any other weapon system, the fact is, this is what happens in modern "total warfare".

How many innocent civilians were killed during WW II by Nazi V-1 "Buzz Bombs" or by our carpet bombing then or in Vietnam? Or even by artillery fire and land mines?

I'm not saying there's no difference in killing innocents with drones.  It's just a lot more visible than dropping a dumb bomb or planting a land mine.


ronaldawg's picture

How about the cowardly bombing of Dresden or the fire bombing of Tokyo....

GetZeeGold's picture



They shot at us......so we shot back.


You probably won't learn that in public education in America.

Headbanger's picture

Agree with both of you.   Warfare really is hell and our use of drones is making that  all the more visible.

Which is an unfortunately "good" thing about them because it makes killing much more up close and personal like using swords.


I am more equal than others's picture




How about the cowardly bombing of Dresden or the fire bombing of Tokyo....

Compared to the heroic killing of jooos, gypsies, and gays in concentration camps .... and the merciful rape of Nanking. 

I'd call you an idiot but that would be disrespectful to those born mentally deficient.  It would appear you are acquiring mental deficient ways and soon will be indiscernible from those who are genetically so.  Carry on, it is working.



JailBank's picture

You know how the cowardly firebombing of Tokyo could have been avoided Ronny? Not atacking the US. Japan got what they deserved.

RafterManFMJ's picture

Japan desperately tried measure after measure to avoid war with the US; Roosevelt did everything in his power short of shitting in the Emperor's mouth to maneuver Japan into war.

Learn your history.

donsluck's picture

Ultimately, if you allow yourself to be manuevered into killing thousands, that is your fault. Except for defense. We all bear the cross of Iraq.

rbg81's picture

Anyone who imagines you can wage war with zero collateral damage does not understand the nature of war. It is not just winning engagements against military forces (grunts); you also have to break the will of the enemy.  Of the two. the latter is far more important.  This includes the leadership and the population that supports it.  

A central truth is this:  A war is not over until the LOSER decides he has lost To win a war, you have to kill people and break things to bring that realization to the loser.  In short, the winner has to be cut lose to win.  Otherwise, you will have never ending conflicts.  In the long run, its better to have a short, but very violent conflict than one which tries to minimize collateral damage, but stretches out for decades.

Unfortunately, almost no one in our society understands this and even fewer can stomach it.

New England Patriot's picture

It helps to have a clearly articulated military objective.

rbg81's picture

Tactically, yes.  Strategically, that is difficult.  In WWII, our clearly articulated strategic military objective was "unconditional surrender".  You could argue that we had no such thing in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq II.  We clearly have no such objective against Al Qaeda.  And, even if you have one, the question is:  Is it the right objective?  That is, will it lead to a real victory?

moneybots's picture

"And, even if you have one, the question is:  Is it the right objective?  That is, will it lead to a real victory?"


What is a real victory?  Abe is pushing to militarize Japan again.  Merkel or some other European leader warned that if the Euro fails, Europe could be at war again.

"Who lost China" has now become who lost American manufaturing to China?



rbg81's picture

What is a real victory? 


Good question--and a tough one.  Every conflict is different.  At least England and France have stopped fighting.

donsluck's picture

Your logic on who wins ignores our current experience of remote warfare. The basis of your argument assumes nation-to-nation warfare. What we are now doing is essentially raising criminal actions to war status. The fact is criminality will always exist, and there is no surrender when there is no commanding structure. How do all bank robbers surrender? The police action we are ingaged in is not appropriate. Police action should only occur on your own soil. As for drones, I hate the idea of constant surveylance and constant buzzing, but there is no stopping it.

psychobilly's picture

"Anyone who imagines you can wage war with zero collateral damage does not understand the nature of war."

Nice straw man. 

"This includes the leadership and the population that supports it."  

As if it's only supporters who are affected when civilians are intentionally targeted, which is hardly "collateral" in nature.  Yours is the sort of cowardly mental pathology that leads to "total war", the intentional targeting of civilian populations, and hundreds of millions of (mostly civilian) corpses (20th Century).     


rbg81's picture

And you counterexample is what exactly?  Give me one case where a "pinprick" war succeeded.  And don't say Iraq II because the jury is still very much out on that one.  Panama probably comes the closest, but they were extremely weak and we still had to invade and dismantle the Noreiga regime.

I contend we would be unable to win a WWII like war today with the current political & cultural attitudes.

psychobilly's picture

In the case of the US, I'd be hard pressed to think of a single war that was morally legitimate (i.e., defensive in nature).  As a famous soldier once said: War is a Racket; even WWII (dutifully cherished by the governemnt-school-indoctrinated masses), which rendered much of the world safe for Communism.


rbg81's picture

Defensive in nature?  Try the War of 1812.  

Methinks you need to brush up on your history.

psychobilly's picture

Yes: that's the first one that comes to mind.  At least that one was fought on N. American soil.  However, you have to ignore US ambitions with regard to annexing British North American (Canadian) territory, which were hardly "defensive."

moneybots's picture

"I contend we would be unable to win a WWII like war today with the current political & cultural attitudes."


Likely true, but attitudes change.  It was stated by some commentator around the time of WW2, that Americans wouldn't have the stomach for war.  Too soft. 

Pat Tillman could be playing football today and be a multi millionaire, but he died as a soldier in Afghanistan.  A former cheerleader was just praised by the team, for her military exploits.

Even President Peace Prize has a love of drones.

A WW2 war comes around and things will change, just as Roosevelt ran in 1940 on staying out of Europe's war, due to American's isolationist attitude, then driving The Greatest Generation toward a victory he would not see in 1945.

Even with total victory, Stalin walked off with half of Europe, leaving half a million American soldiers in West Germany for decades after.



rbg81's picture

Good point, but a number of things were different in WWII:

1.  People had more common sense back then and were more willing to endure hardship.  I wouldn't bet a wooden nickel on the American people's willingness to endure any kind of hardship today.

2.  The MSM back then were very supportive and WANTED us to win.  Today, most of the MSM would root for us to lose (at least privately).

3.  We have [intentionally] shipped a lot of our manufacturing base to our potential adversaries (e.g., China).  This could be overcome, but it would take time.


The one thing that probably kept WWIII from breaking out is our overwhelming nuclear arsenal (and that of the Soviet's too).  Mutual Assured Destructions (MAD) is distasteful, but it worked.

donsluck's picture

My rebuttal:

1. Your reference to "common sense" is incorrect. We were attacked. Today, most people know that wars are fought for banks and the military industrial complex.

2. The MSM has cheerleaded every war of choice we have entered. Until it turns sour, which it does when it is not defensive.

3. "We" white man? Who controls the tax structure that allows off-shoring? Hint: it's not you and it's not me.

As for the success of MAD, the jury is still out and won't be back for thousands of years, or however long it takes for the affects of Fukushima et al to dissipate.

TheReplacement's picture

Total war ended those wars you jackass.  It was various isms that started them (national socialism, communism, imperialism, colonialism...)

A Lunatic's picture

Where is this WAR I keep hearing so much about....??

moneybots's picture

"A central truth is this:  A war is not over until the LOSER decides he has lost To win a war, you have to kill people and break things to bring that realization to the loser.  In short, the winner has to be cut lose to win.  Otherwise, you will have never ending conflicts."


Immediately following Total War with Germany, we had a Cold War with Russia.  Conflict continued uninterupted, though in a different manner.

Each war has an effect on the next war.  After the slaughter of WW1, the French were not keen on egaging the Germans in another.  A sitzkreig ensued until Germany attacked in 1940.

WW2 affected the Korean War, once China stepped in.  Vietnam also bordered China, so U.S. ground troops never ventured into North Vietnam, as they had in the Korean War, prior to China entering the war.  Vietnam affected Gulf War 1.  The cake walk in Gulf War 1 lead to similar attitude toward Gulf War 2, even without a half million troops available the second time around.  A cavalier attitude resulted in near disaster.

As a result, Americans spoke up against bombing Syria.



donsluck's picture

I believe the Russians saved Syria from the US.

Dungeness's picture

The objective of war is never to win.

The objective of war is always to continue the war.

pazmaker's picture

Headbanger your a sick dude.   a chickenhawk warmongerer I must say.

Headbanger's picture

Please explain asswiper.


donsluck's picture

I think his point is that rationalizing the killing of thousands of non-combatants because we all ready do it is not thoughtfull. It's pathological. And as such, counter productive, to put it mildly.

Random's picture

You keep saying "We" but maybe you want to say "I" or "Me". We (as in a couple of my friends and I) don't like to kill other people. On the other hand you (as you and some of your buddies) want to kill (or at least accept it as unavoidable) and/or terrorize innocent people (with drones or the old fashioned way of boots on the ground).

Considering all of the above i wish you a sincere Fuck YOU (see above).

Headbanger's picture

Another fucking idiot douche ball who can't comprehend what I said.

Fuck you

Would you fucking douche balls like it better if we back to using Napalm like in Vietnam  and blocking media coverage like in Desert Storm??

Or keep the killing of innocents more visible with drones??

Occident Mortal's picture

Al Qaida's stated goal is the draw the US into a never ending war.

They run around caves and mountainsides in Central Asia with horses and AK47's and the US responds with a space program, industrial scale R&D, dozens of satellites and intercontinental UAV's.

Are you really too stupid to see what the Jihad strategy is?

The US is measuring the war in lives, the Jihadists are measuring the war in USD. For every $1m the Jihadists spend on the war the US spends $1bn. They don't want to invade to US mainland they want to bankrupt it.

Sad to say, but since Greenspans 9/11 put, they're winning.

MachoMan's picture

Of course, their strategy aligns perfectly with the MIC's general strategy, which is the cause for rampant speculation as to their origins and continued operations...

A Lunatic's picture

I see you've managed to justify it, as sickened as you are by it and all.........

Mercury's picture

Post-Vietnam there was very little public tolerance for US casualties in military conflicts.

Drones have reduced US casualties.

Post Vietnam (or even Post-Korea) it became politically unfashionable for victory (ie what Gen. MacArthur said there was no substitute for) to be the goal of any US military conflict.

So, those entities who typically stand to benefit the most from US military conflicts refashioned their business models around prolonged, non-victorious military campaigns not unlike other endless, boundless government programs larded with crony-capitalist pork.

Outcomes have been pretty much unfolding as the underlying incentives would predict.

Perhaps ironically, Clinton's Bosnia War has been the most successful and admirable post-Vietnam US conflict from a traditional war fighting perspective: maximizing technology to eliminate US casualties and minimize civilian casualties on the other side, executing a widely condoned, morally grounded, pre-defined goal in a timely matter and quitting the area in a timely manner.

robobbob's picture

and the planned pipeline route of the time was just a mere coincidence. as was securing territory for the muslims.

i did uparrow u for the rest of the post

psychobilly's picture

"... executing a widely condoned, morally grounded, pre-defined goal..."

Your cartoon version of Balkans' history is idiotic.  The ICTY tribunal was a ridiculous fraud.  There were no moral actors in that conflict.  All sides were equally guilty of war crimes.  That's especially true of NATO and the US-backed KLA terrorists.  For example, NATO's targets during 79 days of bombardment in Yugoslavia were 60 percent civilian, including 33 hospitals, 344 schools, and 144 industrial plants.


Mercury's picture

Well, relatively speaking anyway. And obviously all wars are bad for the innocent casualties. You might find it hard to identify an ideal war based on your criterea.

I don't make the rules but wars simply aren't fought by men in dressed in colorful costumes  marching in straight lines and confined to open battlefields anymore.

psychobilly's picture

"You might find it hard to identify an ideal war based on your criterea."

I'd settle for a war fought for strictly defensive purposes.

TheReplacement's picture

It's a shame you can't see things from the other side.  Do you really think our current crop of politicians care and this isn't all part of some grand scheme?