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Former US drone operator speaks out against how the program is handled

30 December 2013, 8:06 pm EST By Vamien McKalin Tech Times
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A BQM-74E aerial drone is launched from the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) to simulate an incoming missile for a weapons firing exercise during the Atlantic phase of UNITAS 52 off the coast of Brazil.  ( U.S. Navy photo | Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stuart Phillips )

There have always been reasons to believe U.S. drone strikes are not always hitting the intended target. The U.S. army has done little to prove to the public that mistakes are not made on a regular basis, and now with a new report from the Guardian, the army might not be able to stand 100 percent behind the accuracy of its drones anymore.

The piece the Guardian has published is an unprecedented and unexpected voice on the matter, and comes from the mouth of a former U.S. drone operator who questions the program openly.

Heather Linebaugh was an imagery analyst for the U.S. Air Force from 2009 to 2012. She claims the people behind the decision making where the drone program is concerned, are ignorant of the number of innocent lives lost during drone attacks. "I wish I could ask them a few questions," Linebaugh writes. "I'd start with: 'How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?'" It's a valid question, as many reports in the past have claimed that U.S. drone strikes have killed civilians on several occasions. Sometimes a report will claim that not a single member of any particular terrorist cell were among the dead.

Furthermore, Linebaugh states that the imaging quality of drones are so low that operators at times can barely tell if a person on the ground is holding either a rifle or a shovel, which cast doubts on every drone strike. "We always wonder if we killed the right people," she writes, "if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle." This is very terrible handling of the program, and these drones should be placed on hold until imaging quality is improved greatly.

Linebaugh also said two of her colleagues committed suicide due to the drone killings and the mental stress it left on their minds. In addition, she states that the army does not report on suicides for precisely this reason.

Earlier this month, a drone strike in Yemen claimed the lives of 13 civilians who were attending a wedding ceremony, according to a Reuters report. The ceremony was mistook for an Al Qaeda gathering, proving that the image quality on drones are very low and not fit for combat.

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