Droning Cell Phone Calls

Noah Shachtman is going to convince me to give up my cell phone. Today he notes an AP story reporting that Palestinians believe Israel’s spy drones are jamming cell phone lines and then using them to take out targets.

Palestinians say they know when an Israeli drone is in the air: Cell phones stop working, TV reception falters and they can hear a distant buzzing. They also know what’s likely to come next — a devastating explosion on the ground.

Palestinians say Israel’s pilotless planes have been a major weapon in its latest offensive in Gaza, which has killed nearly 120 people since last week.


Wary Gaza militants using binoculars are on constant lookout for drones. When one is sighted overhead, the militants report via walkie-talkie to their comrades, warning them to turn off their cell phones and remove the batteries for fear the Israeli technology will trace their whereabouts.

The AP goes on to note that the US has used such Predator drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well–though the AP doesn’t explicitly say these drones triggered using cell phone signals.

In January, a missile fired from a Predator killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a top al-Qaida commander, in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of north Waziristan. Coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have launched a number of missile strikes from drones against Taliban and al-Qaida militants hiding on the Pakistani side of the border, but the U.S. military has never confirmed them.

This report follows on one from last week, in which the Taliban demanded cell phone operators in Afghanistan turn off cell signal for 10 hours a day–or they’d take the towers out.

Taliban militants threatened Monday to blow up telecom towers across Afghanistan if mobile phone companies do not switch off their signals for 10 hours starting at dusk.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed said the U.S. and other foreign troops in the country are using mobile phone signals to track down the insurgents and launch attacks against them.

Since that time, the Taliban have taken out at least two cell towers (h/t oscar).

Two mobile phone antennas were destroyed in southern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, after Taliban militants threatened to bring down such masts, alleging they are used to locate hideouts.

A first mast was destroyed in the southern province of Kandahar on Friday, four days after the Taliban warned they would attack the technology because it was being used at night to pinpoint rebel bases.

In the new attacks, armed rebels scaled a mast just outside Kandahar city overnight and destroyed equipment, local police officer Ghulam Hazrat said.

"I’m sure it was the work of the Taliban," he told AFP, adding that guards at the facility had escaped unhurt.

Another antenna was destroyed in the neighbouring Helmand province’s Sangin district, a local official told AFP under condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

It looks like insurgents are going to begin to destroy what little infrastructure exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s tribal areas, Iraq, and Gaza to prevent this from happening. It sure highlights the degree to which telecom infrastructure is the front line of George Bush’s global war.

40 replies
      • emptywheel says:

        Though I should say–the most recent article on the Taliban makes it sound like they’re destroying the towers differently than the Iraqi insurgents have been (where they just take out the tower). The article doesn’t say HOW they’re destroying them, just that it involves someone climbing the tower, which presumably means the tower remains intact.

  1. Ishmael says:

    AP today – “With only 10 months left in his term and Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed over renewed violence, President George W. Bush said Tuesday there is “plenty of time” to get a Mideast peace deal before he leaves.”

    I don’t think he understands that he and Condi are part of the problem, not the solution.

  2. alank says:

    So, anyone with a cellphone in Gaza or Afganistan or Iraq are targets? I take it the occupation and invading hordes do not use cellphones.

  3. JimWhite says:

    I presume the cell phones to be targeted are identified by the US? After all, with all our furrign ta furrign monitoring, shouldn’t we be picking up “chatter” that upsets the Israelis?

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    Well, if you have enemies who are willing and able to assassinate you and you carry around a device that constantly broadcasts its location and unique identity, is it any wonder that it is used against you? I’m not saying it’s moral, but it certainly shouldn’t be a big surprise.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree. Not a surprise.

      Though, in the long run, it may mean this whole FISA battle is for naught. If the cell phone towers go out everywhere the terrahists are, there won’t be much interesting to listen in on.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If you have a newish cell phone and a contract that requires registering your name with the service provider, and the phone’s on (and possibly off if the battery’s connected), its location (and yours) can be determined to within about three meters or ten feet. (I think the govt acknowledges accuracy to within only ten meters or thirty-three feet.) Those nifty little GSP devices can track your movements, too, not just static location.

    A simple grenade, among the smallest of such devices, has a lethal-zone of about five unobstructed meters. So cell phone targeting can be quite effective, even when an intelligence agency is not listening in.

  6. Mary says:

    OT – c-span radio – good program on FISA/PAA Wendy ? (counsel for House Intel Committee) (Wainstein – Mr. “we can stop and frisk any American any time we want with no Probable Cause, so who cares what we intercept and surveill”) have had their spiel, Kate Martin (she’s so good and actually remembers the 4th Amendment) finishing up now – then they will go to Baker(who has now been drafted by Verizon to be on their counsel staff).

    Wainstein has pretty much made it clear – they have a big problem with “agent of Foreign Power” concept and want to be able to surveill anyone, anytime, without having to mee the huge ol burdent of “probable cause to believe” they are an agent of a Foreign power or in contact with an agent of a foreign power.

    I thought that was the issue all along, and he pretty much spells that out. WHile the President “sells” the issue as “if al-Qaeda is calling” Wainstein makes it clear that it’s a matter of “if anyone outside of the US is calling, even a US citizen NOT an Agent of a Foreign Power but outside of the US is calling other US citizens, NOT agents of Foreign Powers, IN the US.” So your child who’s visiting in Spain – all their calls.

    • looseheadprop says:

      Ken wainstein can sell snow to Eskimos (this is not a diss to Alaskan Native Americans).

      So, this FISA bill is probably a done deal.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        And the odds of the current Supreme Court overturning such give-away legislation on Constitutional grounds is what, would you say?

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Odds are rather high that professional targets, such as Mr. bin Laden, and their physically immediate entourage, no longer carry cell phones. Certainly not ones identifiably theirs. With a modest staff, alternate communications techniques are readily available.

    Cell phone targeting, while effective, pretty targets low-hanging fruit. Of course, as our troops know too well, they are also useful for completing any circuit, which can activate other user unfriendly devices nearby.

    But the bread and butter use in the US is still domestic spying on civilians against whom there is no reasonable suspicion, which violates the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Something we should remind our Congress Critters about daily. Like Neville Chamberlain, our darling “representatives” are about to give away essential rights that belong to someone else. Like Chamberlain’s negotiating partner, the administration is intent on taking and keeping them. Just to protect us, you understand.

  8. Mary says:

    OT – Baker up now, he also makes the point that we are talking about ALL foreign persons now.

    He makes the point that there had been a consensus that US citizen surveillance should have a warrant, no matter where the citizen is (he needs to talk to Wainstein and Senate intel) and that there was a consensus that people in the US should have a warrant (again, he needs to talk to Wainstein and Senate intel).

    Foreign to foreign – verbal wire communications. Never needed warrant and still doesn’t need warrant.

    AHHAH He does say that there is a reading of FISA that might indicate that – that foreign to foreign email or foreign to unknown email is the issue. Again, that’s what I thought based on the FISA language.

    He says that when you intercept, you get it before the recipient, so you don’t know until the recipient gets it whether it was foreign or not, and even where the recipient is when they access, or where a cell phone is, can vary now.

    FISA, Exec 12333, TSP – were the three options available after 9/11.

    Baker also says specifically that PAA is much broader than TSP was – bc PAA allows anyone pretty much to be surveilled with no warrant. Not agents of foreign power or those who there is probable cause to believe are in contact with agents of foreign powers – –

    – – but pretty much anyone who is foreign or who is a US citizen but on foreign soil.

  9. Mary says:

    Now asking for input from counsel for Senate Intel committee who happens to be in the audience.

    She’s pretty revealing. Wainstein had yammered on about how overwhelmingly and bipartisan the Senate legislation passed. She says that this is a mischaracterization and that all the Dems and some of the REpubs who voted for the bill in committee all thought it needed improvements and would be improved with amendments.

    She also says that the immunity opposition isn’t so much about getting the carriers, as that those who oppose are concerned that the administration will never have liability.

  10. alank says:

    Using the GPS for People Tracking

    Until recently, tracking people with Global Positioning System technology required purchasing expensive hardware and software. Now, complete solutions are available through cellular service providers. Here is background info and a few options for keeping up with the whereabouts of your family, friends and employees.
    GPS-Enabled Cell Phones

    The increased demand for enhanced 911 (e911) emergency calling capabilities, stimulated by the events of 11 September 2001, has pushed forward GPS tracking technology in cell phones. At the end of 2005, all cell phone carriers were required to provide the ability to trace cell phone calls to a location within 100 meters or less.

    To comply with FCC requirements, cell phone carriers decided to integrate GPS technology into cell phone handsets, rather than overhaul the tower network. However the GPS in most cell phones are not like those in your handy GPS receiver that you take hiking. Most cell phones do not allow the user direct access to the GPS data, accurate location determination requires the assistance of the wireless network, and the GPS data is transmitted only if a 911 emergency call is made.

    So, in general, you can not track someone using their cell phone, unless the person you want to track has the right kind of cell phone, connected to the right network, with the right service.
    Wireless Networks

    Here in the United States, the wireless networks used for GPS tracking are primarily those operated by cell phone carriers. It is not likely that you as an individual will negotiate network access with a carrier. It is more likely that you will select a solution including a cell phone provisioned to communicate in a certain way on a specific wireless network. List below are a some carriers I recomend for use with GPS cell phones and services.

    T-Mobile / Cingular / AT&T – The Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications as adopted by these carriers represents the network with the largest coverage footprint. Roaming agreements between these carriers provide end users with service throughout the country. GSM is also the prominent cellular network abroad.

    Sprint / Nextel, not so much because of coverage, but because of their emphasis on data. Nextel has created their own data formats and communication protocols for high bandwidth mobile electronics applications. This company, who gave new meaning to the term “walkie-talkie”, provides the most flexibility for the communication of GPS data between cell phones and location-based service providers. Recent co-operation between Sprint and Nextel has increased this network’s footprint.

    GPS Cell Phones:

    Motorolla iDEN, Boost Mobile, Blackberry phones operate on the Nextel network.

    Disney Mobile offers Pantech DM-P100 and LG DM-L200 operating on the Sprint Network

    Wherify Wireless offers its own “Wherifone” operating on the GSM network.

    Location-Based Services (LBS)

    LBS providers have agreements with the wireless network carriers to receive data from a cell phone and make it accessible to you via an Internet web site or call center. Most all LBS providers will be able to tell you the approximate last known location, but beyond that, services offered will vary, depending on the type of cell phone and the capabilities of the service provider.

    Disney Mobile

    Disney Mobile operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing the enhanced Sprint Nationwide PCS Network. Designed for families, Disney Mobile features Family Locator ™ allowing adults to locate kids phone by viewing map on the adults phone or on the Disney Mobile web site. Ref: DisneyMobile.com


    Accutracking is a full-featured low-cost LBS provider using Motorolla, Boost Mobile and Blackberry phones operating on the Nextel network.
    See Accutracking.com

    Nextel’s Mobile Locator

    Nextel’s Mobile Locator is a service used in conjunction with Nextel calling plans with Nextel GPS-enabled phones. Mobile locator allows you to view and monitor your peoples’ location in real-time, either singly or within a group, on a zoomable, online map. The web interface allows you to view location history, based on your most recent queries. See: Nextel/Mobil_Locator web site for more info

    Mapquest Find Me

    Using certain models of Nextel phones, you can view a group of your peoples’ locations on one map, or you can view a track of an individual’s location history. Powered by uLocate, Mapquest provides a web interface for mobile devices like PDAs as well cell phones. Other features include in-depth location history detail. See http://www.mapquestfindme.com

    Wherify Wireless

    Developers of the “Wherifone” designed specifically for children and seniors. The Wherifone is supported solely by Wherify’s Global Location Service Center. See: Wherify.com

    Other Things to Keep in Mind

    Here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding what products and services are right for you:

    Permissions and Privacy

    Simply put, tracking someone without their knowledge can get you in trouble. Typically, the subscriber must give permission and the cell phone must be enabled for tracking. Consult with your service providers for more detail.

    Tracking Application “Persistence”

    Again, the tracking application on a cell phone typically must be enabled by the user. Depending on your equipment, the application may persist – remaining enabled when the phone is turned on after having been turned off. This feature is particularly handy if you do not want to instruct the person using the phone how to turn tracking on and off.

    Passive Tracking

    Some tracking devices will record location data internally so that it can be downloaded later. Also referred to “data logging,” which can provide location data even when the device has traveled outside the wireless network. Passive tracking is not a common feature built-in to cell phones (at the time this article was published), but more sophisicated java-enabled cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices may have this feature. You should ask your LBS provider if their appilication can accomodate passive tracking data from the more sophiscated tracking devices.

    Assisted GPS (AGPS)

    Some cell phones can receive ephemeris information on the GPS satellites, which speeds up the initial position fix. AGPS information may also help in finding satellites and getting positions in difficult conditions. To have AGPS features, your services must be set up to provide AGPS information to your cell phone and your cell phone must be able to process AGPS information.

    Tower reports

    In the absence of an accurate GPS location, service providers may record the location of the nearest cell tower. Check with your LBS to determine if Tower locations are used to determine cell phone locations.


    GeoFencing is a term used to describe a feature that enables the cell phone to only start tracking when it has entered or exited a predefined region, avoiding unnecessary tracking when your people are close to home, office, or school. Or GeoFencing may also mean that an alert is sent when their phone crosses a virtural fence. For example, AccuTracking will send email or SMS message when they move across the designated areas.

    Speed Alerts

    Some LBS providers provide email or SMS message alerts when specified speed limits are exceeded.

    Tracking Map Quality

    Most location services do not produce their own maps. Instead they purchase or license mapping products from other companies. Several popular services use Mapquest maps. Indeed, Mapquest can produce a map for just about anywhere in the world, but your service provider’s license may be limited to United States. Microsoft MapPoint and Tiger map data are also popular for applications in the United States. If choosing between LBS providers, compare what the maps will look like.

    Aerial photos – You can’t get street names from an aerial photo but you can get a better idea of the surrounding environment. The better location services will provide both maps and aerial photos.

    Usage Costs

    The costs associated with using the GPS for people tracking, include equipment costs, setup/activation fees, and usually network access subscriptions. In addition, your location service may charge for each location report or allot you a limited number of reports and charge you a premium for overages. For example Disney Mobile includes 5 location reports each month, but unlimited reporting is available as an optional plan.

    Mobile to Mobile Tracking

    Some tracking solutions enalbe you to access tracking maps on a mobile device. The ability to track someone using a using a cell phone, by using another cell phone, conjures up a chase scene from an old movie, where our hero is sitting in the back seat of a moving car with a radar-type device in a briefcase, shouting turn-by-turn directions to the driver in hot pursuit of evil villains.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Among other observations:

      1. 911 calls were the public reason given for mandating that GPS devices be included in newly manufactured cell phones. It was really for “national security” reasons. The cell phone “parc” was turned over, so that most devices are new and therefore “GPS compliant”, via a series of government instigated high-pressure marketing incentives.

      2. The information blurb notes limits on GPS devices applicable to personal use. Publicly stated device and use “limitations” would not apply to the US government.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      My observation is that the stated limits of GPS devices installed on newly manufactured mobile phones understates their capabilities. The device “limitations” that may inhibit accurately locating your teen at midnite on Friday do not necessarily match the accuracy the device is capable of producing for an intelligence agency. One of the many ways in which big telecoms are in bed with the administration.

  11. Mary says:

    More OT – Question – Scope and Duration: How can Congress do anyting with immunity without knowing scope and duration and affidavits in Qwest litigation indicate that the program started before 9/11.

    (MOderator – How can Congress legislate in that area at all – the Title I area? Who in Congress has been given what information?)

    Wendy ? – Says that Senate had information and access to documents on program (
    Says only in late Jan that House Intel and part of House Judiciary committee given access, and only now that full House Judiciary committee given access to documents.

    **No one is answering why they should believe the documents and information given to them, based on so much disinformation.

    Wainstein – not amnesty – immunity. Really important to him not to assume violations. Says that Both House and Senate committees now have had full access to infomration, so that’s how they can give immunity. Wainstein indicates that after years to purge and propagate the document trail they want, DOJ has been able to make the committees happy and that the purpose of committees is so that Congress as a whole doesn’t have to worry itself with whether it knows about the program. Ignorance for the bulk of Congress is a good thing.

    He goes back to the audience member/atty for the Senate Intel committee and mumbo jumbos her points about the bill needing to be improved and says, wah wah, we didn’t get everything we wanted either. And besides, there is this HUGE depth of understanding among Congressional Committees, at least some of them. At least some of them on certain individual topics. Although none of them on all of it, bc it is too complex for Members of Congress to understand.

    Kate Martin on the What Does Congress KNow issue – says that it would be pretty helpful to discuss what do AMERICANS know too. Says we have a President who claimed secret powers to spy on Americans and keep American info intercepted and we don’t know anything about why FISA court said no to the Admin or its legal reasoning this spring, and there is no Nat Sec reason to keep the legal reasoning of Admin and FISC secret from American public.

    She’s so good.

    Kate Martin – trial lawyers have nothing at stake unless there is a Really Good Case against the telecoms that a Federal Court would uphold and that a three member Ct of Appeals would uphold, etc. She says that while she thinks they did violate the law, she thinks any lawsuit would be tremendously uphill AND that the Gov is sayign they didn’t break the law, so isn’t the discussion bizarre.

    Q: Modernization needed bc of email – foreign to foreign email is within the scope of FISA if US switch even if you know it if foreign to foreign.
    Wire and radio – asking Wainstein if it isn’t true that those things are not subject to FISA and never have been. Wainstein admits that it is only an email issue.

    Q: FISA was supposed to be a BRIGHT LINE – and there was a STATUTORY RESPONSIBLITY for the telecoms to say NO, why not bifurcate the issues of liability for old possible violations that may have impacted US citizens – – why must the Admin sensationalize to add immunity on to the going forward portions of foreign to foreign aspects of the legislative changes and why shouldn’t Congress be allowed to take its time on reveiw of what has happened in the past and see what is the appropriate response to handling that – esp since House committees have only received info in late Jan and some only last week/this week?

    Wainstein, oh well, we’ve talked about immunity for a long time, no big deal that no one has seen the info until now. And also says, golly, we don’t want’ to have to just “compel” telecoms, we want to be pals with them. If they have this huge (and he forgets to add OLD) set of lawsuits hanging over them, they will be less likely to be comfy being our partners in the future and will be more risk averse (even though the future stuff DOES HAVE IMMUNITY) so we have to be able to induce a more zenlike state in the telecom lawyers’ minds by releasing them from the negative vibes of worry about old lawsuits.

    Something like that at least.


  12. Mary says:

    16 – Luckily, I’m not an Eskimo. *g* I have deal with a lot of horse traders, though, and they’d snort in his general direction.

    Sounds like it is a done deal in many ways, sounds like the staffers (the one with the House on the panel and the one with the Senate from the audience) aren’t all that happy about it, while Wainstein is being a smug snot.

    Some of what I suspected did get made more concrete (you wish the damn committee hearings were as worthwhile as this ABA luncheon) No, the FISC ruling didn’t involve verbal communications – Baker and Wainstein, without flat out referring to the FISC ruling, pretty much admitted by reference over and over that email was the “technology” problem and that since the carve out wasn’t there for email that exists for spoken, (Baker – might be an interpretation of FISA; Wainstein – some approaches might put constraints on our intelligence gatherers for email that had NEVER BEEN INTENDED by FISA)the FISC was telling them they had to get a warrant. Of course, for the types of things that they mentioned — taking a laptop from a captured terrorist and going through his email list – I can’t imagine there is that big an issue. Baker did also make some points that I think he might have wanted to expand upon re: content capture and data (or EW’s meta data) capture and referencing a bit to pen register type data.

    Another big issue is what I thought on the agent of foreign power aspect. Whatever they are doing, it is a program that is not based on picking up calls of those who they have probable cause to believe are agents of foreign powers or in contact with agents of foreign powers (and, for that matter, it’s not necessarily a program where they can weed out US persons, be they citizens on US soil or otherwise, before they intercept and capture.

    While Wainstein yapped about how it was “never intended” for FISA to govern ANY ‘foreign to foreign’ he sidestepped all the US citizen issues and also the facts that Martin and Baker came back to on FISA not authorizing all foreign intercepts for good reasons including abuses known to the Church committee after its investigations. Also, Wainstein never even tried to explain how there would be a national security intel need or exception for intercepting outside the agent of foreign power category (and that language, btw, comes for the Sup Ct in the Keith case and the court did NOT say ALL foreign persons) and he never dealt with the lack of teeth for minimization or what is happening with and will happen with US citizen info — what John Bolton and the RNC and Rove don’t already have that is.

  13. Mary says:

    My last OT on this – sorry. The question no one asked and that is very central is: how does anyone on any of the Congressional committees know they have received truthful and accurate information with respect to the information actually given to them?

    Because, we already know that members of DOJ have lied to and misled Congress already, under oath; we know that they have particpated directly and by omission in the conduct of crimes; and that, as those who signed off on and solicited the programs, they have a vested interest in only showing Congress information that reflects well on themeselves.

    We also know that, with all kinds of legislation pending, in part what Congress is doing with immunity is making it OK for DOJ and the telecoms to have lied to the Courts. Talk about overstepping separation of powers.

    • bmaz says:

      The question no one asked and that is very central is: how does anyone on any of the Congressional committees know they have received truthful and accurate information with respect to the information actually given to them?

      And we have a winner! Come on down and collect your prize! Exactly. And exactly what I have been saying for a long, long time. In the first place, culling and cherry picking information, documents and legal arguments, to present only what is helpful to them, is the hallmark of the Bush Administration. When have they NOT done that? Secondly, if you read their statements made around the time they first made their disclosure to the Senate Intel Committee, it is quite clear that they refused to state that they had made a full and complete disclosure. Obviously, they did not. Before Congress acts, they should have either a sworn statement, or sworn testimony, that at a minimum, the respective Intel Committees and/or Gang of Eight have been provided full and complete disclosure of all legal opinions, agreements with telco and other providers, FISC documents and rulings and all other pertinent information. The Bushies are gaming this the way they do everything else; how can Congress not assume this and act accordingly in light of the history?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        This Congressional “debate” has become a farce; the Dems are really demanding nothing from this administration and getting less. Forgive me if I conclude from that that this Democratic leadership is going out of its way to avoid the very inquiry that should be tops on its list.

        Presumably, they are doing so in order to argue that they acted “in good faith” but were “fooled” by that nasty Bush, rather than that they agree with these extra-constitutional domestic surveillance powers, which their new Democratic president surely won’t abuse.

        This has become a farce. The public has been put into the position of being the youngest sailor on board, terrified and bent over a barrel while two old salts argue over who gets to explain to him what two years before the mast really means.

    • JohnLopresti says:

      Probably this Wyndee: “Wyndee R. Parker, general counsel of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”
      Somewhat more OnTopic, probably predator technology is different from gps, but gps helps; p3c’s have been vacuuming cell calls since 1990s; that onboard capability is what caused WClinton such agitation when one craft made emergency landing in area China controlled; China complained it knew of us activity, flying outside coastal waters but at altitude sufficient to have line of sight reception onshore. China argument was planes were over territory in sense that the sphere of influence extends 100s of miles offshore. There had been online information on a military website for several years following the incident, until shortly following the nyc TowersDebaclein 2001, but it was erased from that website; until then, the site contianed photos of the airplane after it was shipped back to Seattle for reverse detective work to see how many consoles the crew had no time to destroy during descent. Likely the techonolgies are miniaturized in predator.

  14. alank says:

    Actually, what seems to be happening in Gaza at least is radio frequency jamming. That’s how the Israelis disabled the U.S.S. Liberty according to accounts of survivors of that incident in 1967. The jamming was followed by swift destruction of all antennae mounted on the ancient victory hull frigate. It has an incapacitating effect. I think the cell phone locator capability is probably exaggerated.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      In this specific case, I suspect you are correct. Using cell locators wouldn’t interfere with TV reception. The Israelis seem more interested in disrupting any potential reaction. Of course, the suspicion that they can locate their enemy serves their purpose quite well.

  15. Mary says:

    Back on topic – this Salon piece: “Killing ‘Bubba’ From the Skies” from 2-15 ties in with the American aspects.

    While there are some impressive capabilities, the profligate use is pretty disturbing. And the fact that they remove the killing, even further – giving it that 24esque “hollywood” setting, isn’t all that reassuring either.

    The cavernous control room used by the U.S. Air Force to manage the air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan looks exactly how you’d expect it to look in a Hollywood movie.

    To the left and right of those large maps are four smaller screens. Each is about 5 feet wide, displaying remarkably clear live footage from cameras mounted on the Air Force’s un-manned Predator drones that buzz incessantly above Iraq and Afghanistan. The Predator drones, however, are not filming a raging firefight, or a bridge about to be strafed from the air.

    They are stalking prey.

    Targeters here show me recent footage of two men on the ground in Iraq. The two men, far below the Predator drone’s gaze, appear to be setting up a mortar on a city street. They are in the shadow of a building just feet away. Suddenly, the two men explode.

    How comfortable would you be with that going on in America? Especially with the track record for getting things right that the Bush Admin brings to the table. Obama better be careful about that traditional dress thing.

  16. Mary says:

    26 – Bush has the “one man, one vote” part down.

    Related to topic on the Palestinian front, this month’s Vanity Fair has a pretty eye popping piece about Rice and Bush and Abrams and Gaza and merry little plots for civil war.

    After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

  17. alank says:

    This Predator cattle’s business has been going on for far too long. This practice was graphically portrayed in the 2005 movie, Syriana. It’s the frozen limit in air warfare. Pretty soon even national DJs will be able to bomb their competitors from the safety of their family values room in the basement.

  18. Mary says:

    32 – OOPS! Sorry – I didn’t scroll back first.

    31 – bmaz, that is what is making me nuts. For one thing, if they’ve been briefed, by now they absolutely know for a fact that the public representations of Hayden and Bush about a “targeted” program that only involves situations where “al-Qaeda is calling” is nonsense. Utter claptrap. And yet, nothing prevented them from saying it and no one has ever corrected what they said.

    They know that they are talking to people who have vested interests. They have NOT asked to speak with either Lamberth or Kollar-Kotelly in closed sessions to discuss the classified info shared with them and the way the program was being run. They haven’t had the kind of under oath closed sessions with Hayden, Wainstein, online analsysts at NSA, telecom frontline guys actually handling the program, etc. and they haven’t turned an IG or anyone with any kind of authority loose to get all the info they need.

    33 – Poor you. I wouldn’t say you are off at all.

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