News Release

Killer Drones: Analysis and Protest of the “Bureaucracy of Murder”


A slide from a May 2013 Pentagon presentation shows the chain of command for ordering drone strikes and other operations carried out by JSOC in Yemen and Somalia.

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is available for a limited number of interviews. He is author of the recently released book Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. He said today: “The recent leak of documents from inside the military’s assassination machine to The Intercept have given us an interesting look at the bureaucracy of murder that has grown up in our government in the last 15 years. Most essentially, the slides made public by a whistleblower reveal a record of failure — an operation called Haymaker described in the documents, for example, killed 200 people, of which 35 were the intended targets.

“But why has the assassination program been such a dismal failure in terms of its stated purpose? (It’s been a huge success in further enriching and empowering controllers of the national security apparatus.)

“In discussing problems encountered by the killing machine, the leaked documents continually blame inadequate resources — especially drones that are too slow and too few. In other words they echo the perennial military plea for more money, a doubtless unintended by-product of the leak. Understanding why — after a decade and a half of war in which ‘high value targeting,’ as the official euphemism terms it, has been our principal military strategy — the enemy now rules millions of people in an area the size of Britain, requires knowledge not only of the way the relevant technology works, and doesn’t work, but also the bureaucratic and corporate forces propelling the system.

“In my book Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, I lay out the realities behind the vaunted ‘precision’ of assassination technology — how one of the principle drone cameras has 20/200 vision, which is the legal definition of blindness in the United States; how the U.S. military discovered that killing enemy leaders inevitably generates an increase in enemy attacks, and ignored the intelligence; how and why high value targeting became our key strategy in the drug war, and thereby promoted the supply of drugs; how and why the CIA turned into an assassination machine; how and why the U.S. Air Force evolved a strategy of assassination that predates the appearance of drones.”

MEDEA BENJAMIN, Medea at, @medeabenjamin
ALLI McCRACKEN, Alli at, @AlliMcCrack
Benjamin and McCracken are with CODEPINK and are participating in a series of protests, including outside bases where drones are controlled. This week, it was at bases in upstate New York. Next week, they protest an event at the Air and Space Museum in D.C. featuring James G. “Snake” Clark, “who oversaw killer drone operations while working with the Pentagon.” They then participate in a caravan from San Francisco to a base in Nevada. See details. Benjamin is author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.