WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Hundreds of private contractors are aiding the US military and Special Operations forces to analyze drone intelligence used to target terrorist groups, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) reported.
“The contractors review live footage gathered by drones and spy planes hovering above battlefields, and help uniformed colleagues decide whether people they spot are potential enemies or civilians,” the BIJ said on Thursday.
The US military is tapping into ex-military and experts working at large and small defense contractors, such as Booz Allen Hamilton and L-3 Communications, to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance analysis, the BIJ added.
As the US Air Force adds to the rising number of contractors, concerns have mounted that non-military officials could ultimately end up deciding when and where to conduct drone strikes. Currently, only military officers have that authority after analyzing intelligence provided by the contractors.
“Though private contractors don’t formally take life and death decisions — only military personnel pilot armed drones and take final targeting decisions — there is concern they could effectively creep in to this function without more robust oversight,” the BIJ said.
The analysis provided by the contractors has life or death consequences for civilians.
According to the BIJ statistics, up to 1,000 civilians have been killed by US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen over the past ten years.
The US drone program has been a point of contention for international lawyers and human rights advocates since its inception.