If you happen to be contacted by a tagged number, the results can be fatal: as a former boss of the National Security Agency has said, "We kill people based on metadata." No charges and no trial. There’s just one problem – the data is often inaccurate and leads to innocent people being placed on the Kill List. They don’t even need to know your name to put you on the Kill List – people can be targeted by drone with just a phone number.
Salim al-Qawli was a university student who worked part-time as a taxi driver to help support his family. In January 2013, he was giving a ride to his cousin Ali and two other customers.
Unbeknownst to either Salim or Ali, one of the two men who paid for a ride that day was Rabae Lahib, an alleged militant on the Kill List. The Government had been repeatedly targeting Lahib – missing him at least once before. That day, a drone strike hit the car and killed everyone inside. Despite the Yemeni government admitting that Ali and Salim were innocent, the White House has never admitted that their deaths were a mistake.
Bilal Kareem is a journalist known for his on the ground reporting in the Middle East. Alongside his reporting, Bilal is an active Twitter user and regularly posts pictures and stories from the countries targeted. Based on these posts, he appears to have been placed on the Kill List and has been targeted at least once by a drone strike. Now he is suing the Government in an attempt to remove his name from the List.
In January 2017, 10-year-old Muhammed Al Khabzi and his 12 year-old brother Ahmad lived in the village of Yakla when it was completely destroyed by a US Navy SEAL raid and drone strike. Terrified of the constant bombing, the boys tried to run to a nearby village.
Unfortunately, the road they took was “tagged” as a road supposedly used by AQAP fighters. As they travelled down the road, they were targeted and killed by a drone strike. The Trump Administration has not acknowledged, let alone apologised, for the deaths of these two children. No one else was killed in the strike.
Jalal Tuaiman was 17-years-old when he lost one of his camels and went driving to find it with his father. They ran out of petrol and ended up spending the night under the stars. At dawn, Jalal and his father were struck by two drone strikes and killed.
Jalal’s brother Muhammed vlogged about living life under drones in Yemen. He was later killed by a drone strike on his way to visit his Aunt. He was 13 years old.
Metadata gathered by a program called “Skynet” tagged Ahmed Zaidan for the Kill List after his phone and travel records showed that he had traveled through areas of known conflict and had been in contact with members of Al-Qaeda. What the metadata doesn’t tell you is that Ahmed is a journalist and Al Jazeera's former Islamabad bureau chief, renowned for producing a ground-breaking documentary on Al-Qaeda in the 1990s and for being the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Laden. Skynet’s algorithms cannot tell the difference between a genuine terrorism suspect and a journalist going after a scoop.
If you’re an unwitting neighbour of someone “of interest” or you happen to be driving behind a target and caught the blast, you’ll also be added to the tally of ‘militants’ killed that day. Guilty until proven innocent, and all for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
To: United States Congress
“I call on Congress to end Donald Trump's secret global drone program that kills the innocent and defenseless, tears communities apart, and hardens anti-US feeling among those who should be our allies.
“I ask my elected representatives to conduct public investigations into Donald Trump’s overseas assassinations, and demand legislative change to stop the Trump Administration killing with impunity”