NSA Involved in US Drone Strikes, Snowden Leaks Show - Report
WASHINGTON, October 17 (RIA Novosti) – Emails and other communications secretly monitored by the US National Security Agency (NSA) play a crucial role in American overseas drone strikes against accused terrorists, The Washington Post has reported, citing documents disclosed by fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
The drone operations have largely been understood to be the exclusive domain of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but the documents reveal that the massive amounts of electronic, phone and other communications monitored by the NSA are used to locate targets, the Post reported on its website Wednesday evening.
The NSA is "focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets," an NSA spokeswoman told the Post in a statement, adding that its operations "protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
According to documents leaked by Snowden, who received temporary asylum in Russia earlier this year, the NSA was able to kill al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan after the agency obtained an email from his wife that provided sufficient information to confirm the location of his household, the Post reported.
Washington has not publically acknowledged that it is responsible for Ghul's death, but the documents disclosed by Snowden confirm that he was killed in the drone strike in the Pakistani town of Mir Ali, according to the report.
The report is the latest in a series of revelations based on reams of classified NSA documents leaked by Snowden to the media about the US government's vast surveillance of electronic communications.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, fled the United States where he is wanted on espionage charges.
Critics say these surveillance programs constitute an illegal intrusion into individuals' private lives. The administration of US President Barack Obama has defended them as a crucial aspect of the nation's global antiterrorist operations and that there are checks and balances in place to protect against abuse of the data the government vacuums up.
Human rights activists have also decried US drone operations as extrajudicial and inconsistent with America's stated commitment to the rule of law.
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