Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fooling the drones

A group of American soldiers were involved in the death of a disabled Iraqi police officer named Hashim Ibrahim Awad.  Three of the soldiers have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting court martial on murder charges; five of them have entered guilty pleas to lesser charges.  They were supposed to kill, i. e., murder, an alleged insurgent.  Not being able to find him, they snatched Awad, and set up an elaborate crime scene to make it look like he had died in a firefight after firing on the American soldiers.  The fun part is reported by Wired:

“The case is remarkable for the fact that the killers nearly got away with their alleged crime right under the eye of the military's sophisticated surveillance systems. According to testimony, at least three times the warriors took deliberate, and apparently effective, measures to trick the unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs in military parlance – that watch the ground with heat-sensitive imaging by night, and high-resolution video by day.

The images are routinely translated into PowerPoint presentations, systems manufacturers say. The PowerPoint of this particular killing was nearly accepted as proof of a ‘good shoot’ until one of the troops, Navy hospitalman Melson Bacos, stunned investigators with a confession, according to the testimony of Special Agent James Connolly with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS.”


“The men allegedly flexicuffed Awad's hands and marched him about a half-mile to a bomb crater, where they bound his feet and positioned him with a stolen shovel and an AK-47. Then they returned to an attack position and shot him.

On the way, according to testimony, the forward party took at least three steps to disguise its actions from aerial surveillance, steps that initially persuaded investigators the killing was justified. One Marine went forward and dug around in the crater. At the same time, the three other troops crouched with Awad behind a low wall in what Brahms described as a squad in a typical military posture.

They held that pose as the surveillance UAV passed over, creating an infrared tableau of four troops watching a bomber dig a hole along the road.

After the UAV passed, and they dodged being seen by a U.S. helicopter, the four rose from behind the wall to march Awad to the crater, according to the medic's testimony. While they were moving Awad the final 125 yards to his death, according to Bacos, they heard the UAV return. Cpl. Trent Thomas quickly wrapped himself around Awad so that the two men would appear as a single person on the heat-reactive infrared sensors, according to testimony.

Then they put Awad in the hole where the Marine had posed with the shovel seconds before, backed off and signaled. Six of the eight troops opened fire – staging a firefight with a bomb-planting insurgent.

‘Congratulations, we just got away with murder, gents,’ the squad leader told them, according to Bacos' testimony.”

Since the deception was only discovered due to a confession, you have to wonder how many more ‘good shoots’ are actually murders in disguise. 

Of course, as we enter the Orwellian complete surveillance society, the punishment we all receive for swallowing whole Benjamin Netanyahu’s War on Terror (see here to see why the surveillance society doesn’t work to stop terrorism, as it drowns under the weight of its own information, but just serves to increase fear and make money for those who supply the security apparatus), the kind of deception used by the American soldiers is going to become necessary for all of us.