Given the president’s preference for using drones to deliver death to “suspected militants,” it’s reasonable to assume that the video captured by these remote control assassins is broadcast to the pilots over an über-secure frequency accessible only to those controlling the vehicle.
Not so much.
A story published October 29 by Wired magazine online reported:
Four years after discovering that militants were tapping into drone video feeds, the U.S. military still hasn’t secured the transmissions of more than half of its fleet of Predator and Reaper drones, Danger Room has learned. The majority of the aircraft still broadcast their classified video streams “in the clear” — without encryption. With a minimal amount of equipment and know-how, militants can see what America’s drones see.
This is certainly disturbing news considering that first, the drone fleet is by far the most popular weapon in the “war on terror;” second, that the targets of the sorties should not be able to follow the weapons in flight using the very video feed monitored by pilots.
Imagine, for example, if a group of alleged al-Qaeda militants were able to access and avoid the flight plan of a Predator. This criminal cabal could then continue their activities without worrying about a surprise volley of Hellfire missiles lighting up their meeting place.
Michah Zenko, author of the drone war-monitoring blog, “Politics, Power, and Preventative Action,” is quoted by Wired saying, “If somebody could obtain reliable access to real-time Predator or Reaper video — without attribution or alerting U.S. military — that would [be] a tremendous intel coup. There is an insatiable demand from Predator and Reaper imagery in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Any reluctance to use those for spying or missile strikes places operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia at some risk.”
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