‘US killer drone programs: Americans, wake up to what government’s doing!’

Annie Machon
Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, inter­na­tional tour and event organ­iser, polit­ical cam­paigner, and PR con­sult­ant. She is also now the Dir­ector of LEAP, Europe. She has a rare per­spect­ive both on the inner work­ings of gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies and the media, as well as the wider implic­a­tions for the need for increased open­ness and account­ab­il­ity in both pub­lic and private sectors.
A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport. © Massoud Hossaini
People in the US and the UK should wake up to what their governments are doing in regards to drones programs where innocent civilians are being killed and whole regions devastated, says Annie Machon, a former MI5 agent.

A cash of newly leaked documents, the Drone Papers, has exposed the failures of one of the US’ highly classified drone programs in Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

READ MORE: Leaked: 'New Snowden' releases Obama's drone program papers

RT:The intelligence community is probably not shocked by the revelations, but the public are going to be shocked, aren’t they?

Annie Machon: I would hope so, yes. It always takes a few brave souls to speak out and take a huge risk of years of imprisonment to actually confirm what is already known, which has already been known for many years and has concerned certain people, but hasn’t caused outrage across the West. For example, there is an organization in the UK, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, which has run a project for a number of years now called ‘Naming the Dead.’ It is aggregating the names and all the deaths across North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia from these illegal drone strikes. They number hundreds and thousands. It’s just awful. It can be innocent wedding parties…whatever. These people are being killed unnecessarily on very dubious and very tenuous intelligence.

RT:The US leadership has been insisting the drone programs are very accurate and that civilian casualties, the so-called “collateral damage,” are kept to a minimum. However, the leaked documents suggest otherwise. Will anything change after its failures were exposed to the public?

AM: I would hope so. You mentioned collateral damage, but I would refer to the first major leak that came from Chelsea Manning - who is now languishing in American prison for 35 years for exposing a video that became known as “collateral murder” which was a precursor to the drone strikes, but which was an Apache helicopter crew shooting up innocent people and children in Afghanistan many years ago. This caused outrage at the time when it came out in 2010. Yet, things seem to have got worse, not better. It’s time that the American people did wake up to what their government is doing. And the UK people - because some of these drone strikes are coming from the UK. They are killing thousands of innocent people – not just based on the say so of junior intelligence officers who put the names forward for these CIA presidentially signed off kill lists every week, but based on very tenuous intelligence coming from electronic surveillance. The mistakes that can come out of that are horrific. Yet, they will devastate whole regions for life.

RT:The drone whistleblower preferred to stay anonymous for fear of government persecution. Is he right to be afraid, is this fear reasonable?

AM: Totally. Obama has been raging a war on whistleblowers trying to prosecute them under this century-old Espionage Act and putting those that he catches in prison for up to 35 years. That is a very high price to pay – you are sacrificing your life effectively to expose the crimes of the US military, US government and intelligence infrastructure. But we need more brave individuals to come forward.

RT:Are we going to see more of it in the future? What do you think this is going to do?

AM: It’s obviously not being stamped out. Edward Snowden came out just as Chelsea Manning was going on trial. This new whistleblower knows what the risks are and still has a conscience that it’s much more important to speak out. There are many of us from the intelligence agencies that have survived the process of whistleblowing. It is possible to build a new life and to be part of a new community of a much more integrity. This is why we reach out to anybody and say, “Please, do the right thing, because if you don’t, then you’re allowing our states to become more fascistic and totalitarian.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.