Drone strikes lead to deadly reprisals for spies

The New York Times details how al-Qaida tracks down, tapes and murders CIA's low paid informants

By Natasha Lennard
December 30, 2012 9:27PM (UTC)
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The New York Times' Saturday highlighted another dark product of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. Local informants who aid the CIA are tracked down and slaughtered by al-Qaida militants. According to the Times:

For several years now, militant enforcers have scoured the tribal belt in search of informers who help the C.I.A. find and kill the spy agency’s jihadist quarry. The militants’ technique — often more witch hunt than investigation — follows a well-established pattern. Accused tribesmen are abducted from homes and workplaces at gunpoint and tortured. A sham religious court hears their case, usually declaring them guilty. Then they are forced to speak into a video camera.

The taped confessions, which are later distributed on CD, vary in style and content. But their endings are the same: execution by hanging, beheading or firing squad.

Drone strikes have directly killed 473 civilians since 2004. The Times also reported that civilians are caught up in militant reprisals, nothing that "drone-fearing militants have turned to the local community for reprisals, mounting a concerted campaign of fear and intimidation that has claimed dozens of lives and further stressed the already fragile order of tribal society."


The Times reviewed 20 taped confession videos of CIA informants -- all of which ended with gruesome deaths -- which indicate how local tribesman work with the U.S. agency to coordinate attacks, risking everything (as the videos prove) for low pay:

The jittery accounts of the accused men reveal dramatic stories of espionage: furtive meetings with handlers; disguising themselves as Taliban fighters, fruit sellers or even heroin addicts; payment of between $150 and $450 per drone strike; and placing American-supplied electronic tracking devices, often wrapped in cigarette foil, near the houses and cars of Qaeda fugitives.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Al-qaida Drone Attacks Drones Pakistan The New York Times