America's Drone Central: Happy To Be "Semi-Accidently Killing" People
Many lethal drone strikes are not directed against a specific terrorist whose name is known and whose real-time location has been pinpointed. There are a few cases like that, but often the American drones strike more adaptively at what are known as “force protection” and “signature” targets.
b]A signature target can be a house in North Waziristan where many bearded men wearing turbans and carrying arms gather for dinner, chatting on their phones. The U.S. drone operators may listen in and watch over such a suspicious-looking dinner party, and, back at Drone Central, officers on duty may conclude there is sufficient cause to fire missiles at the house—but they could have little or no idea about the names of all the guests. The Americans insist that "signature" drone strikes of this kind are necessary because that is how the United States has regularly, semi-accidentally killed Al Qaeda leaders along the Pakistani border in recent years, resulting in a reduction of Al Qaeda’s global capability. But they have also semi-accidentally killed Pakistanis who are not tied to Al Qaeda.