Revealed: The private firms tracking terror targets at heart of US drone wars
The overstretched US military has hired hundreds of private sector contractors in the heart of its drone operations to analyse top secret video feeds and help track high value terror targets, an investigation has found.
Contracts unearthed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveal a secretive industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, placing a corporate workforce alongside uniformed personnel, analysing battlefield intelligence.
While it has long been known that US defence firms supply billions of dollars’ worth of equipment for drone operations, the role of the private sector in providing analysts to comb through military surveillance video has remained almost entirely unknown until now.
Approximately one in 10 people involved in the effort to process data captured by drones and spy planes is estimated to be non-military. And as the rise of Islamic State fuels what military commanders describe as an “insatiable demand” for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), the Air Force is considering a further expansion of its contractor workforce, a spokeswoman confirmed.
Companies that stand to reap the benefits include BAE Systems and Edward Snowden’s former employer Booz Allen Hamilton.
Some individual analysts even publicly advertise their skills on sites such as LinkedIn, with one boasting of helping with the “kill/capture of high-value targets”.