'New Snowden' Reveals Obama's Secret Drone Assassination Program

It's been just over two years since Edward Snowden leaked a massive trove of NSA documents, and more than five since Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks a megacache of military and diplomatic secrets. Now, as Wired.com explains, there appears to be a new source on that scale of classified leaks—this time with a focus on drones.

On Thursday the Intercept published a groundbreaking new collection of documents related to America’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles to kill foreign targets in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen.


The revelations about the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command actions include primary source evidence that as many as 90 percent of US drone killings in one five month period weren’t the intended target, that a former British citizen was killed in a drone strike despite repeated opportunities to capture him instead, and details of the grisly process by which the American government chooses who will die, down to the “baseball cards” of profile information created for individual targets, and the chain of authorization that goes up directly to the president.


All of this new information, according to the Intercept, appears to have come from a single anonymous whistleblower. A spokesperson for the investigative news site declined to comment on that source.


But unlike the leaks of Snowden or Manning, the spilled classified materials are accompanied by statements about the whistleblower’s motivation in his or her own words.


“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source tells the Intercept. “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”

Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog digs into the dreadful details,

Besides sharing my own personal insight into the goings on in this crazy world we live in, and where I think things are headed, the other primary purpose of Liberty Blitzkrieg is to highlight certain stories that readers may have missed or overlooked while dealing with all the ins and outs of everyday life.

In a perfect world, every American would read the eight articles that comprise the Intercept’s drone investigation published earlier today; however, the reality is that simply isn’t going to happen. As such, I went ahead and read them myself, and what follows are some particularly juicy excerpts that will hopefully inspire readers to investigate further.

The reason I think these articles are so important, is not because they are based on intel leaked by an additional whistleblower (i.e., not Snowden), but because you can’t read the information without concluding quite simply that the U.S. empire is completely and totally out of control. That the plethora of American military adventures overseas are not only not making us safer, but are in fact making us far more vulnerable.

This information will be presented by providing the title of each article with a link, as well as author attribution, followed by relatively brief excepts. I hope you find all of this as interesting and concerning as I did.

1. The Assassination Complex by Jeremy Scahill

When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated. Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings.


The first drone strike outside of a declared war zone was conducted more than 12 years ago, yet it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.


The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.


Additional documents on high-value kill/capture operations in Afghanistan buttress previous accounts of how the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets. The slides also paint a picture of a campaign in Afghanistan aimed not only at eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, but also at taking out members of other local armed groups.


“The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan,” the source said. “But at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”

2. A Visual Glossary by Josh Begley

Over a five-month period, U.S. forces used drones and other aircraft to kill 155 people in northeastern Afghanistan. They achieved 19 jackpots. Along the way, they killed at least 136 other people, all of whom were classified as EKIA, or enemies killed in action.


Note the “%” column. It is the number of jackpots (JPs) divided by the number of operations. A 70 percent success rate. But it ignores well over a hundred other people killed along the way.


This means that almost 9 out of 10 people killed in these strikes were not the intended targets.


Hellfire missiles—the explosives fired from drones—are not always fired at people. In fact, most drone strikes are aimed at phones. The SIM card provides a person’s location—when turned on, a phone can become a deadly proxy for the individual being hunted.


A “blink” happens when a drone has to move and there isn’t another aircraft to continue watching a target. According to classified documents, this is a major challenge facing the military, which always wants to have a “persistent stare.”


The conceptual metaphor of surveillance is seeing. Perfect surveillance would be like having a lidless eye. Much of what is seen by a drone’s camera, however, appears without context on the ground. Some drone operators describe watching targets as “looking through a soda straw.”


As we reported last year, U.S. intelligence agencies hunt people primarily on the basis of their cellphones. Equipped with a simulated cell tower called GILGAMESH, a drone can force a target’s phone to lock onto it, and subsequently use the phone’s signals to triangulate that person’s location.

3. The Kill Chain by Cora Currier

The Obama administration has been loath to declassify even the legal rationale for drone strikes — let alone detail the bureaucratic structure revealed in these documents. Both the CIA and JSOC conduct drone strikes in Yemen, and very little has been officially disclosed about either the military’s or the spy agency’s operations.


The May 2013 slide describes a two-part process of approval for an attack: step one, “‘Developing a target’ to ‘Authorization of a target,’” and step two, “‘Authorizing’ to ‘Actioning.’” According to the slide, intelligence personnel from JSOC’s Task Force 48-4, working alongside other intelligence agencies, would build the case for action against an individual, eventually generating a “baseball card” on the target, which was “staffed up to higher echelons — ultimately to the president.”

Here’s what this “killing chain” of command looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.04.35 AM

To quote Star Wars:

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

In practice, the degree of cooperation with the host nation has varied. Somalia’s minister of national security, Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, told The Intercept that the United States alerted Somalia’s president and foreign minister of strikes “sometimes ahead of time, sometimes during the operation … normally we get advance notice.” He said he was unaware of an instance where Somali officials had objected to a strike, but added that if they did, he assumed the U.S. would respect Somalia’s sovereignty.

Don’t make me laugh. A more idiotic statement has never been uttered.
Obama administration officials have said that in addition to being a member of al Qaeda or an associated force, targets must also pose a significant threat to the United States.
The study does not contain an overall count of strikes or deaths, but it does note that “relatively few high-level terrorists meet criteria for targeting” and states that at the end of June 2012, there were 16 authorized targets in Yemen and only four in Somalia.


Despite the small number of people on the kill list, in 2011 and 2012 there were at least 54 U.S. drone strikes and other attacks reported in Yemen, killing a minimum of 293 people, including 55 civilians, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. In Somalia, there were at least three attacks, resulting in the deaths of at minimum six people.


Some of those Yemen strikes were likely carried out by the CIA, which since mid-2011 has flown drones to Yemen from a base in Saudi Arabia and reportedly has its own kill list and rules for strikes.


The large number of reported strikes may also be a reflection of signature strikes in Yemen, where people can be targeted based on patterns of suspect behavior. In 2012, administration officials said that President Obama had approved strikes in Yemen on unknown people, calling them TADS, or “terror attack disruption strikes,” and claiming that they were more constrained than the CIA’s signature strikes in Pakistan.


The study refers to using drones and spy planes to “conduct TADS related network development,” presumably a reference to surveilling behavior patterns and relationships in order to carry out signature strikes. It is unclear what authorities govern such strikes, which undermine the administration’s insistence that the U.S. kills mainly “high-value” targets.


Another factor is timing: If the 60-day authorization expired, analysts would have to start all over in building the intelligence case against the target, said a former senior special operations officer, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing classified materials. That could lead to pressure to take a shot while the window was open.


A September 2012 strike in Yemen, extensively investigated by Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Foundations, killed 12 civilians, including three children and a pregnant woman. No alleged militants died in the strike, and the Yemeni government paid restitution for it, but the United States never offered an explanation.

4. Find, Fix, Finish by Jeremy Scahill

The CIA had long dominated the covert war in Pakistan, and in 2009 Obama expanded the agency’s drone resources there and in Afghanistan to regularly pound al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, and other targets. The military, tasked with prosecuting the broader war in Afghanistan, was largely sidelined in the Pakistan theater, save for the occasional cross-border raid and the Air Force personnel who operated the CIA’s drones. But the Pentagon was not content to play a peripheral role in the global drone war, and aggressively positioned itself to lead the developing drone campaigns in Yemen and Somalia.


In September 2009, then-Centcom Commander Gen. David Petraeus issued a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order that would lay the groundwork for military forces to conduct expanded clandestine actions in Yemen and other countries. It allowed for U.S. special operations forces to enter friendly and unfriendly countries “to build networks that could ‘penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy’ al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to ‘prepare the environment’ for future attacks by American or local military forces.”

Ah, our old friend General David Petraeus. Who recently left “public service” to make his riches on Wall Street, and who also recently suggested America ally itself with al-Qaeda to fight ISIS. Just in case you’re still confused as to just how deranged and inept U.S. foreign policy has become.

In December 2009, the Obama administration signed off on its first covert airstrike in Yemen — a cruise missile attack that killed more than 40 people, most of them women and children. After that strike, as with the CIA’s program in Pakistan, drones would fuel the Joint Special Operations Command’s high-value targeting campaign in the region.


When Obama took office, there had been only one U.S. drone strike in Yemen — in November 2002. By 2012, there was a drone strike reported in Yemen every six days. As of August 2015, more than 490 people had been killed in drone strikes in Yemen alone.


It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” said Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama’s former director of national intelligence, explaining how the administration viewed its policy at the time. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”


During the period covered in the ISR study — January 2011 through June 2012 — three U.S. citizens were killed in drone strikes in Yemen. Only one, the radical preacher Anwar al Awlaki, was labeled the intended target of the strike. The U.S. claimed it did not intend to kill Samir Khan, who was traveling with Awlaki when a Hellfire hit their vehicle. The third — and most controversial — killing of a U.S. citizen was that of Awlaki’s son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki. He was killed two weeks after his father, while having dinner with his cousin and some friends. Immediately after the strike, anonymous U.S. officials asserted that the younger Awlaki was connected to al Qaeda and was 21 years old. After the family produced his birth certificate, the U.S. changed its position, with an anonymous official calling the killing of the teenager an “outrageous mistake.”


Lt. Gen. Flynn, who since leaving the DIA has become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, charges that the White House relies heavily on drone strikes for reasons of expediency, rather than effectiveness. “We’ve tended to say, drop another bomb via a drone and put out a headline that ‘we killed Abu Bag of Doughnuts’ and it makes us all feel good for 24 hours,” Flynn said. “And you know what? It doesn’t matter. It just made them a martyr, it just created a new reason to fight us even harder.”


Glenn Carle, a former senior CIA officer, disputes Flynn’s characterization of the Obama administration’s motive in its widespread use of drones. “I would be skeptical the government would ever make that formal decision to act that way,” Carle, who spent more than two decades in the CIA’s clandestine services, told The Intercept. “Obama is always attacked by the right as being soft on defense and not able to make the tough decisions. That’s all garbage. The Obama administration has been quite ruthless in its pursuit of terrorists. If there are people who we, in our best efforts, assess to be trying to kill us, we can make their life as short as possible. And we do it.”


The study, which utilizes corporate language to describe lethal operations as though they were a product in need of refining and upgrading, includes analyses from IBM, which has boasted that its work for the Pentagon “integrates commercial consulting methods with tacit knowledge of the mission, delivering work products and advice that improve operations and creates [sic] new capabilities.”


As the Obama era draws to a close, the internal debate over control of the drone program continues, with some reports suggesting the establishment of a “dual command” structure for the CIA and the military. For now, it seems that the military is getting much of what it agitated for in the ISR study. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military plans to “sharply expand the number of U.S. drone flights over the next four years, giving military commanders access to more intelligence and greater firepower to keep up with a sprouting number of global hot spots.” The paper reported that drone flights would increase by 50 percent by 2019, adding: “While expanding surveillance, the Pentagon plan also grows the capacity for lethal airstrikes.”

5. Manhunting in the Hindu Kush by Ryan Devereaux

This piece requires a brief intro. It deals with U.S. covert operations on the Afghan/Pakistani border, a place where America had considerable ground support and intel. Nevertheless, what ended up happening is that the U.S. merely resorting to going after everyday street thugs they didn’t like who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. All this did was create a vast army of newly created enemies.

Despite all these advantages, the military’s own analysis demonstrates that the Haymaker campaign was in many respects a failure. The vast majority of those killed in airstrikes were not the direct targets. Nor did the campaign succeed in significantly degrading al Qaeda’s operations in the region. When contacted by The Intercept with a series of questions regarding the Haymaker missions, the United States Special Operations Command in Afghanistan declined to comment on the grounds that the campaign — though now finished — remains classified.


The secret documents obtained by The Intercept include detailed slides pertaining to Haymaker and other operations in the restive border regions of Afghanistan, including images, names, and affiliations of alleged militants killed or captured as a result of the missions; examples of the intelligence submitted to trigger lethal operations; and a “story board” of a completed drone strike. The targets identified in the slides as killed or detained represent a range of militant groups, including alleged members of the Taliban and al Qaeda — but also local forces with no international terrorism ambitions, groups that took up arms against the U.S after American airstrikes brought the war to their doorsteps.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

The frequency which “targeted killing” operations hit unnamed bystanders is among the more striking takeaways from the Haymaker slides. The documents show that during a five-month stretch of the campaign, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not the Americans’ direct targets. By February 2013, Haymaker airstrikes had resulted in no more than 35 “jackpots,” a term used to signal the neutralization of a specific targeted individual, while more than 200 people were declared EKIA — “enemy killed in action.”


In the complex world of remote killing in remote locations, labeling the dead as “enemies” until proven otherwise is commonplace, said an intelligence community source with experience working on high-value targeting missions in Afghanistan, who provided the documents on the Haymaker campaign. The process often depends on assumptions or best guesses in provinces like Kunar or Nuristan, the source said, particularly if the dead include “military-age males,” or MAMs, in military parlance. “If there is no evidence that proves a person killed in a strike was either not a MAM, or was a MAM but not an unlawful enemy combatant, then there is no question,” he said. “They label them EKIA.” In the case of airstrikes in a campaign like Haymaker, the source added, missiles could be fired from a variety of aircraft. “But nine times out of 10 it’s a drone strike.”


According to the documents, raids performed on the ground during Haymaker were far less lethal than airstrikes and led to the capture of scores of individuals. Research by Larry Lewis, formerly a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, supports that conclusion. Lewis spent years studying U.S. operations in Afghanistan, including raids, airstrikes, and jackpots, all with an eye to understanding why civilian casualties happen and how to better prevent them. His contract work for the U.S. military, much of it classified, included a focus on civilian casualties and informed tactical directives issued by the top generals guiding the war. During his years of research, what Lewis uncovered in his examination of U.S. airstrikes, particularly those delivered by machines thought to be the most precise in the Pentagon’s arsenal, was dramatic.


He found that drone strikes in Afghanistan were 10 times more likely to kill civilians than conventional aircraft.

“We assume that they’re surgical but they’re not,” Lewis said in an interview. “Certainly in Afghanistan, in the time frame I looked at, the rate of civilian casualties was significantly higher for unmanned vehicles than it was for manned aircraft airstrikes. And that was a lot higher than raids.”


“When viewed from absolutely the wrong metric, the Americans were very successful at hunting people,” said Matt Trevithick, a researcher who in 2014 made more than a dozen unembedded trips to some of Kunar’s most remote areas in an effort to understand the province, and American actions there, through the eyes of its residents. The problem, he said, is that savvy, opportunistic strongmen maneuvered to draw U.S. forces into local conflicts, a dynamic that played out again and again throughout the war. “We knew nothing about who we were shooting at — specifically in Kunar,” Trevithick said. He understands the frustration of conventional U.S. forces who were dropped in places like Kunar. “I don’t blame them,” he said. “They’re put in an impossible situation themselves. But what happens is everyone starts looking like the enemy. And that means you start shooting. And that means people actually do become the enemy.”

This is precisely why the Foundering Fathers warned us not to become involved in foreign entanglements. They are easy to start, far harder to get out of.

After nearly a decade of war, thousands of operations, and thousands of deaths, some within the special operations community began to question the quality of the United States’ targets in Afghanistan. “By 2010, guys were going after street thugs,” a former SEAL Team 6 officer told the New York Timesrecently. “The most highly trained force in the world, chasing after street thugs.” Concerns that the U.S. was devoting tremendous resources to kill off a never-ending stream of nobodies did little to halt the momentum.


Still, the documents’ assessment of Haymaker’s effectiveness was frank. A slide detailing the campaign’s “effects” from January 2012 through February 2013 included an assessment of “Objectives & Measures of Effectiveness.” The results were not good. Disruptions in al Qaeda’s view of northeastern Afghanistan as a safe haven and the loss of “key” al Qaeda members and enablers in the region were deemed “marginal.” Meanwhile, a comparison of Haymaker 1.0 (August 2011) with Haymaker 2.0 (February 2013) noted that al Qaeda faced “little to no local opposition” and enjoyed “relatively free movement” to and from Pakistan. Kinetic strikes, the slide reported, “successfully killed one [al Qaeda] target per year,” allowing the organization to “easily” reconstitute.


Until recently, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan had largely receded from public conversations in the U.S. This month, an American airstrike on a hospital run by the international organization Médecins Sans Frontières, offered a forceful reminder that the war, despite the Obama administration’s declaration in 2014, is far from over. Unleashed in the early morning hours of October 3, in the province of Kunduz, the U.S. attack killed at least a dozen members of the humanitarian group’s medical staff and 10 patients, including three children. A nurse on the scene recalled seeing six victims in the intensive care unit ablaze in their beds. “There are no words for how terrible it was,” the nurse said. MSF denounced the strike as a war crime and demanded an independent investigation.

So how does Obama celebrate this war crime? By halting a withdrawal of troops from the country, announced today.

Apparently, Obama wants to leave no hospital unbombed before retreating.

The Kunduz attack underscored an ugly reality: After nearly a decade and a half of war, more than 2,300 American lives lost, and an estimated 26,000 Afghan civilians killed, the nature of combat in Afghanistan is entering a new, potentially bloodier, phase. In August, the United Nations reported that civilian casualties in Afghanistan “are projected to equal or exceed the record high numbers documented last year.” While most civilian casualties in the first half of 2015 were attributed to “anti-government” forces, 27 deaths and 22 injuries were attributed to airstrikes “by international military forces,” a 23 percent increase over last year, most of them, unlike the air raid in Kunduz, carried out by drones.
Afghanistan’s northeastern border with Pakistan remains an active area of focus for the remaining U.S. special operations forces in the country. The Pech Valley, once a hotspot during the Haymaker campaign, continues to host a constellation of armed groups. Al Qaeda, the organization used to justify both the invasion of Afghanistan and the Haymaker campaign, reportedly enjoys a more pronounced presence in the valley than ever. “The al Qaeda presence there now,” according to a report by the United States Institute for Peace, “is larger than when U.S. counterterrorism forces arrived in 2002.”


With JSOC and the CIA running a new drone war in Iraq and Syria, much of Haymaker’s strategic legacy lives on. Such campaigns, with their tenuous strategic impacts and significant death tolls, should serve as a reminder of the dangers fallible lethal systems pose, the intelligence community source said. “This isn’t to say that the drone program is a complete wash and it’s never once succeeded in carrying out its stated purpose,” he pointed out. “It certainly has.” But even the operations military commanders would point to as successes, he argued, can have unseen impacts, particularly in the remote communities where U.S. missiles so often rain down. “I would like to think that what we were doing was in some way trying to help Afghans,” the source explained, but the notion “that what we were part of was actually defending the homeland or in any way to the benefit of the American public” evaporated long ago. “There’s no illusion of that that exists in Afghanistan,” he said. “It hasn’t existed for many years.”

6. Firing Blind by Cora Currier and Peter Maas

report last year by retired Gen. John Abizaid and former Defense Department official Rosa Brooks noted that the “enormous uncertainties” of drone warfare are “multiplied further when the United States relies on intelligence and other targeting information provided by a host nation government: How can we be sure we are not being drawn into a civil war or being used to target the domestic political enemies of the host state leadership?”

Indeed, we know this happens all the time. Again, another reason to not get involved in micromanaging the affairs of other nations.

In 2011, for example, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that they had killed a local governor because Yemeni officials didn’t tell them he was present at a gathering of al Qaeda figures. “We think we got played,” one official said. (The Yemeni government disputed the report.)

7. The Life and Death of Objective Peckman by Ryan Gallagher

This one also needs an intro. It deals with a UK citizen who had his passport revoked before being killed in a drone strike in Somalia.

Kat Craig, a lawyer with the London-based human rights group Reprieve, told me that she believed there was “mounting evidence” that the British government has used “citizenship-stripping” as a tactic to remove legal obstacles to killing people suspected of becoming affiliated with terrorist groups.


“If the U.K. government had any role in these men’s deaths — including revocation of their citizenship to facilitate extra-judicial killings — then the public has a right to know,” Craig said. “Our government cannot be involved in secret executions. If people are accused of wrongdoing they should be brought before a court and tried. That is what it means to live in a democracy that adheres to the rule of law.”


Since 2006, the British government has reportedly deprived at least 27 people of their U.K. citizenship on national security grounds, deeming their presence “not conducive to the public good.” The power to revoke a person’s citizenship rests solely with a government minister, though the decision can be challenged through a controversial immigration court. When cases are brought on national security grounds, they are routinely based on secret evidence, meaning the accusations against individuals are withheld from them and their lawyers.


“The net effect of the practice,” according to Craig, is “not only to remove judicial oversight from a possible life and death decision, but also to close the doors of the court on anyone who seeks to expose some of the gravest abuses being committed by Western governments.”


There have reportedly been at least 10 British citizens killed in drone attacks as part of a covert campaign that, between 2008 and 2015, has gradually expanded from Pakistan to Somalia and now to Syria. Most recently, in late August, Islamic State computer hacker Junaid Hussain, a former resident of Birmingham, England, was assassinated on the outskirts of Raqqa, Syria, by a U.S. strike. Several days earlier, in another attack near Raqqa, the U.K. government deployed its own drones for the first time to target British citizens, killing Islamic State recruits Ruhul Amin and Reyaad Khan while they were traveling together in a car.


It remains unclear whether, like Berjawi and Sakr, these targets had their British passports revoked before they were killed. Stack, the Home Office spokesperson, would not discuss the citizenship status of Hussain, Amin, Khan, or other Brits killed by drones. “We don’t talk about individual cases and also we don’t comment on matters of national security,” he told me.

Shouldn’t they have to prove these are matters of “national security” to the public. Otherwise, they can just constantly make shit up. Which seems to be what all governments habitually do. It’s in their DNA.

8. Target Africa by Nick Turse

This article details the ever increasing U.S. military presence in Africa.

Since 9/11, a multitude of other facilities — including staging areas, cooperative security locations and forward operating locations — have also popped up (or been beefed up) in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, GabonGhana, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, and Uganda. A 2011 report by Lauren Ploch, an analyst in African affairs with the Congressional Research Service, also mentioned U.S. military access to locations in Botswana, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Zambia. According to Sam Cooks, a liaison officer with the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has struck 29 agreements to use international airports in Africa as refueling centers. These locations are only some of the nodes in a growing network of outposts facilitating an increasing number of missions by the 5,000 to 8,000 U.S. troops and civilians who annually operate on the continent.


Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts — like a simple count — let alone just how many are integral to JSOC operations, drone strikes, and other secret activities. “Due to operational security, I won’t be able to give you the exact size and number,” Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, an Africom spokesperson, told The Intercept by email. “What I can tell you is that our strategic posture and presence are premised on the concept of a tailored, flexible, light footprint that leverages and supports the posture and presence of partners and is supported by expeditionary infrastructure.”

If you search Africom’s website for news about Camp Lemonnier, you’ll find myriad feel-good stories about green energy initiatives, the drilling of water wells, and a visit by country music star Toby Keith. But that’s far from the whole story. The base is a lynchpin for U.S. military action in Africa.


“Camp Lemonnier is … an essential regional power projection base that enables the operations of multiple combatant commands,” said Gen. Carter Ham in 2012, then the commander of Africom, in a statement to the House Armed Services Committee. “The requirements for Camp Lemonnier as a key location for national security and power projection are enduring.”


Located on the edge of Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, Camp Lemonnier is also the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), which includes soldiers, sailors, and airmen, some of them members of special operations forces. The camp — which also supports U.S. Central Command (Centcom) — has seen the number of personnel stationed there jump around 450 percent since 2002. The base has expanded from 88 acres to nearly 600 acres and has seen more than $600 million already allocated or awarded for projects such as aircraft parking aprons, taxiways, and a major special operations compound. In addition, $1.2 billion in construction and improvements has already been planned for the future.


As it grew, Camp Lemonnier became one of the most critical bases not only for America’s drone assassination campaign in Somalia and Yemen but also for U.S. military operations across the region. The camp is so crucial to long-term military plans that last year the U.S. inked a deal securing its lease until 2044, agreeing to hand over $70 million per year in rent — about doublewhat it previously paid to the government of Djibouti.

All of that money spent in Africa, while the citizens struggle back home and the middle class evaporates. This is the true cost of empire.

One of the things I learned during my decade on Wall Street was the importance of management skills. Fortunately for me, most of my managers were exceptionally competent and knew how to deal with someone like me. A good manager doesn’t micromanage his or her people. A good manager is someone who viscerally understands people and can get the best out of each individual employee based on what makes them tick. They never employ a one size fits all approach.

The worst type of manager is a micromanager. Everyone hates a micromanager, and that’s essentially what U.S. leadership does around the world. They are a bunch of middle management, micro-manager types pulling the strings of the strongest military on earth. The results of their incompetence and lack of wisdom are all around you.

We as American citizens shouldn’t put up with it.

*  *  *

For related articles, see:

Further Details Emerge on the Epic U.S. Foreign Policy Disaster that is Syria

Additional Details Emerge on How U.S. Government Policy Created, Armed, Supported and Funded ISIS

America’s Disastrous Foreign Policy – My Thoughts on Iraq

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Slams U.S. Foreign Policy in Farewell Speech

“Stop Thanking Me for My Service” – Former U.S. Army Ranger Blasts American Foreign Policy and The Corporate State

More Foreign Policy Incompetence – U.S. Humanitarian Aid is Going Directly to ISIS

Turkey Bombs Kurds Fighting ISIS, Then Hires Same Lobbying Firm Supporting U.S. Presidential Candidates

How the Policies of U.S. Ally Egyptian Dictator, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Have Led to a Surge in ISIS Recruitment

Accusations Emerge That the U.S. Is Aiding ISIS – The Latest “Conspiracy Theory” Circulating in Iraq

The Forgotten War – Understanding the Incredible Debacle Left Behind by NATO in Libya