The Intercept has obtained a new cache of top secret documents detailing how the U.S. government hunts and kills suspected terrorists from the sky. It reveals a sprawling, labyrinthine machine for remote executions—and one that leaves unintended bodies by the craters.
When drone operators hit their target, killing the person they intend to kill, that person is called a “jackpot.”
When they miss their target and end up killing someone else, they label that person EKIA, or “enemy killed in action.”
That’s right: if a Hellfire missile hits someone it wasn’t supposed to hit, that corpse is classified as an “enemy,” as this graphic from the cache shows:
But the pages also contain EKIA and “jackpot” numbers from a five-month period in northern Afghanistan:
As Begley points out, this is a lot of EKIAs and not very many jackpots:
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.
Drones are touted by the Pentagon (and accepted by the public) as surgically accurate, the smartest and most humane way to kill someone with a button-press. And that’s not wrong—they are the most accurate way to kill someone from the sky. But this accuracy means nothing if the button-pressers are operating in a system where the guy standing next to the target becomes an enemy the moment they’re both vaporized.