Defending Rights and Dissent believes the voices of drone whistleblowers deserve to be heard. We have convened a panel consisting exclusively of veterans of the drone program to discuss the Kabul strike and how it compares to what they know about the US drone program’s impact on civilians.
On August 29, 2021, a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including 7 children. While the Pentagon initially insisted it was “righteous strike,” they backtracked after media investigations exposed their statements as false.
For years drone whistleblowers have tried to alert the world to the high civilian cost of the US drone program. Yet, while the media and decision makers are reckoning with the Kabul strike, the voices of drone whistleblowers have been conspicuously absent from these national discussions.
Lisa Ling is a former Air Force technical sergeant who worked with the drone program. Ling’s work was on the drone program’s distributed ground system, the global network through which data gathered by drones is collated and analyzed. Ling was honorably discharged in 2012 and spoke out against drone warfare in the 2016 documentary, “National Bird.”
Keagan Miller is a Navy veteran (’09-’13) who worked at NSA Georgia as a CTT in support of various missions with NSA, CIA and Special Forces including the Libya mission in 2011, anti-piracy missions in Somalia and drone strikes in Yemen. Since leaving the military, Keagan has worked with Non-profits in Portland helping homeless veterans, and currently works at the county level as Case Manager for a Permanent Supportive Housing program for chronically homeless veterans. He is very passionate about anti-interventionism and co-operative foreign relations.
Cian Westmoreland is a former drone program communications technician in the U.S. Air Force who served in Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Westmoreland helped to construct a relay system that sent aerial footage to drone operators when he was stationed on a U.S. Air Force base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has since called it a “sword of Damocles over the Afghan panopticon,” that hurt innocent people. After leaving the Air Force, Cian began speaking openly about his role in November of 2015 to press outlets like The Guardian and DemocracyNow.
Chip Gibbons (moderator) is policy director of Defending Rights & Dissent. As a journalist and researcher, his writings on the abuses of the US national security state at home and abroad have appeared in Jacobin, In These Times, and The Intercept. He is currently working on a book on the history of the FBI exploring the relationship between domestic political surveillance and the emergence of the US national security state, forthcoming from Verso. He is the host of the Primary Sources Podcast, which highlights pivotal whistleblower cases in US history.