The National Security Agency's secrets continue to stun. The Washington Post reported Monday that the agency has long been collaborating with the CIA to use surveillance technology to improve the aim of drone strikes.
Just hours before, a leaked Pakistani report revealed that civilian drone casualties outnumber America's estimates: according to the document, drones have ended the lives of nearly a hundred Pakistani children.
The NSA has reportedly been supporting the CIA's antiterrorism efforts since 2001, and the agency's sophisticated surveillance technology — which pays no heed to the content of conversations, but stores "metadata" — has been integral to the plotting of drone strikes.
Drone attacks are allegedly planned with careful reliance on this data — since, in simple terms, if a cellphone is owned by a suspected terrorist and you can track its whereabouts, it should make drone attacks more accurate. Drone attacks are controversial for a myriad of reasons: they deny suspected terrorists a trial; the U.S. doesn't reveal many details; and civilians become accidental targets.
The U.S. estimates that civilian deaths are "exceedingly rare," perhaps because of the refined technology. The leaked report from the Pakistani government, however, has a different impression. Between 2006 and 2009, it claims, 749 died in 70-plus drone strikes. At least 147 were civilians, the document continues, and 94 were children.