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The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  575 ratings  ·  76 reviews
“A searing, facts-driven indictment of America’s drone wars and their implications for US democracy and foreign policy. A must-read for concerned citizens” (Library Journal, starred review) from bestselling author Jeremy Scahill and his colleagues at the investigative website The Intercept.

Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination. But drone strikes ofte
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Simon Schuster
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3.93  · 
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 ·  575 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: truthiness, usa
You know that horrible feeling you get when you realize that the cynical person you thought you were suddenly reveals itself to not be enough? That things you thought were bad are actually far more terrible than you can begin to wrap your head around? Yeah. Kinda feels like someone is crushing your rib cage in, but in sloooow moootion. As an added insult, you just feel stupid.

Drones are the means by which we are convinced that we are not at war. And you know what? Technically, that's correct. If
Soham Chakraborty
This book is a very important read, specially in the context of ongoing election fever in US. It is all but natural to romanticize about Barack Obama's presidency, when one is presented with an option between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. After all, Obama called for change, a change for law and order, a change for ensuring justice is done for all. In his own words when he was a senator: "But what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes. ..For people ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Over a period of four and a half months in 2012, US forces used drones and other aircraft to kill 155 people in northeastern Afghanistan. Nineteen were jackpots. The remaining 136 people were classified as EKIA (Enemies Killed in Action). The number of jackpots divided by the number of operations gives a 70 percent success rate, but it ignores well over a hundred other people killed along the way. This means that almost 9 out of 10 people killed in these strikes were not the intended targets."

Brian Hickey
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How much do you really know about drones and drone warfare? Are you comfortable with drones targeting and killing suspects (often outside a war zone) who haven't been given any form of a trial? Are you okay with the plethora of civilian casualties that occur in the name of fighting terrorism via drone warfare? If any of this intrigues or concerns you, The Assassination Complex tackles all of these issues (and much, much more) in a bold examination of a world that has been systematically swept un ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the term "War on Terror" has fallen out of use during the Obama Administration, the fact remains that we have found ourselves fighting a war against terrorists for well over ten years. And any war is a dirty business, and people die in wars from ancient times to the present. The Bible is filled with verses which direct the righteous to "kill every man and woman, child and infant, cattle and sheep, camel and donkey, and all that belongs to them". Untold thousands of non-combatants died in t ...more
The reliance on the use of drones has not only been presented as an effective alternative to "boots on the ground" but has become a major part of US counter-terrorism policy. Yet its indiscriminate use leading to many innocent bystanders being killed, its implementation which appears to be based on questionable intelligence as well as its application as a means of assassination should be raising many questions!

"The Assassination Complex" looks at how drone warfare and related technologies, used
Nick Dazzi
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
The book repeats itself many times, there are plenty of redundant information, i have really struggled to get to the end of it.
Many sources are "Anonymous" and i am normally very skeptical because you can say that a source said something, but in fact you can say whatever you want. Other sources have names, but no actual any results will show up if you google their names.
There are many criticism towards the Obama administration, but none against the previous ones where the program actually starte
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure what needs to be said here. If you've been living in a cave (one not hit by a drone strike) or are too easily distracted by mindless pop-pap like Pokemon Go, you have no excuse not being aware of the current assassination program entrenched in D.C., the complete erosion of habeas corpus and the right to a trial (let alone a fair trial), the abject violation of human rights and international laws, the farcical term "collateral damage," and the utter immorality of such cowardly ways o ...more
Rupinder Sayal
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A shocking (almost a cliche now) expose of the new US policy of executing "suspected" terrorists by drone strikes. This book is actually a compilation of articles published on the website of "The Intercept", a news organization co-founded by the author, as well as some new material.

BTW, Jeremy Scahill's last book "Dirty Wars" won many prestigious awards, and was made into a documentary which was nominated for an Academy Award, in case you were wondering about his credentials.

I think fairly every
Joseph Rizzo
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This, along with Glenn Greenwald's "No Place to Hide" is one of the 2 most important books I've read this year. This is a detailed description of the covert US drone war being operated in the middle east and North Africa in particular. Rather than slowing down the military and intelligence policies of the Bush / Chaney era, the drone war has accelerated exponentially under the Obama administration. The book details some of the targets, history, technology, and kill chain, showing the authorizati ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not an Obama hater, in fact, I think that history will show him to be one of the best presidents we've ever had. His administration has a dark side, however. Drones and, let's call it what it is, targeted assassinations, fall on that dark side. This book is a must read for every American that still believes in Democracy and the U.S. Constitution and the idea of human rights.
John Lamb
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I'd like to see This America Life or Radiolab tackle this topic to add a narrative quality to this book.
Horrifying and heartbreaking. I want to believe we're better than the evidence. And yet . . .
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Well. This certainly packs a punch. The journalism is thorough and well-documented, and while I already knew about the drone program and its broader impact, many of the details here were new to me. The continued practice of retroactively classifying all military-age males that die in drone attacks as "Enemies Killed in Action," even when many of them are civilians, is just as disheartening every time I read about it. And the numbers are staggering: in 2012, for instance, Obama authorized 16 peop ...more
Teo 2050
~2.5h @ 2x. Contents:
(view spoiler)
Samar Dahmash Jarrah
Obama simply continued Bush's war on terror and became the drone war president. Just imagine the number of Muslim families who lost loved ones because of an endless war where thousands were killed by mistake.

Billions are spent on endless war that will not lead to more security, just more bloodshed. More revenge too. No one wants to reevaluate the US messed up foreign policies and the blow backs. It is so sickening. This is what you get out of reading this book. Oh one more thing, kiss your priva
Raven Onthill
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of articles based on leaked material published on the web site The Intercept at with a foreword by Edward Snowden and an afterword by Glenn Greenwald.

The Assassination Complex covers the US policy of assassination using electronic surveillance and drone aircraft as it has developed since 9/11, with side trips into the use of similar electronic surveillance technologies by civilian police in the USA. There is much horrifying and ter
(Full Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book for free through a Goodreads Giveaway contest. The views expressed are my own and do not reflect that of the author, the publisher, or Goodreads)

Every U.S. President, even the great ones, have a black mark on their record that seems to leave a taint in people's minds. Washington: his inability to resolve the Native American conflicts; Jefferson: the Trade Embargo; Lincoln: ignoring habeas corpus; Theodore Roosevelt: his dishonorable disch
Austin Barselau
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it
In the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations of clandestine NSA spying operations, a vigorous debate has emerged about where exactly to stencil the line between necessary public knowledge and classified government intelligence. Whistleblowing by rank-and-file members of the national security apparatus is becoming increasingly common, to much consternation and opposition within government circles that leaking intelligence compromises national security. Glenn Greenwald's website The Intercept ...more
Nick Martin
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Intercept gives a great primer of how drones are used in the middle east. With secretive approval by the president, CIA, and other covert agencies, drones assassinate people without trial causing countless civilian casualties and destruction.

While the program was sold to the public as more accurate than boots-on-the-ground operations, the Drone Paper leak proves they're actually fatally inaccurate a staggering 9 out of 10 times.

The US forces allied countries around the world to house drone
A collection of pieces from the Intercept website assembles into a single volume. If you follow their website the book will not offer any great ne insights. For those who have not looked at their website this volume offers an interesting overview of an analysis of the Obama administrations flawed drone campaign.

The Obama administration has never realized that the drone is a weapons platform, and therefore just another weapon in the military arsenal and not a strategy. Nevertheless they continue
Sainath Sunil
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Governments cannot be trusted and the more they ask for your trust, the more they are prone to breach it. The pentagon papers was only the beginning of the levels of deception that governments often employ without taking into confidence the people in whose name they wield those powers. Since then, whistle blowers have risked it all to unmask those who have abused power and violated constitutional responsibilities, while pretending to deploy words to make people believe the opposite.

In this phen
Apr 22, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was a compilation of reports from the online magazine The Intercept regarding the US government's drone strike programs and other methods of killing or capturing treats to the US in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Utilizing classified documents and confidential sources these authors looked into different aspects of the counter terrorism programs. The turf wars between the military and CIA and the perception of the programs versus the reality was interesting, for example while Presiden ...more
Tom Tresansky
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nf-read
Not a book, a collection of related articles. The Snowden prologue was probably the best part, yet his philosophical ruminations were not a real focus of the remainder.

Fails at its fundamental mission of persuasion: I think I'm now even more in favor of targeted assassinations. Seriously, if this is the best, more damning argument against the program...then it really seems like the problems emphasized here can and will be ironed out incrementally (even if from less of a moral motivation than an
Sulaiman Taji
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is both explosive and repetitive at the same time. I got to know a lot about how the drone operations work, but at the same time there were a lot of unnecessary details.
I learned how drones as weapons were conceived from the book "Ghost Wars" (by Steve Coll), this one gives a deeper insight into the whole assassination/elimination idea behind it in it's nitty gritties.
While I do realize that in comparison to Trump, Obama looks like a torchbearer of peace, I would recommend this to an
Brian Mikołajczyk
I believe this is a must read for all Americans. The over reach of the executive branch under first G.W. Bush and then greatly expanded by Obama is truly remarkable. "Drones are not a policy, they are a tool. Assassination is the policy." Thousands of innocent civilians have died at the hands of drones both in war zones (Afghanistan and Iraq), but also without (Yemen, Syria, Libya). Even Dick Cheney himself has expressed shock at what Obama's administration is getting away. To me, this is what O ...more
Overall, I found this book less than compelling. Rather than a coherent study of drones by Scahill (who's expose on Blackwater was incredible), this book is a collection of articles, on a range of people. It reads more like a poorly constructed academic journal rather than the narrative non-fiction which dominates Scahill's other work.
Christian Robertson
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When Chomsky is ready to pass the torch, he just might have to give it to Scahill. Very few fight for human rights without being partisan as well as Scahill....and nobody knows more about foreign policy. This book was a little redundant due to it being a collection of articles about the same subject, but it is extremely important and worth reading.
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just when I think the people running the world can't do anything to further shock or disgust me, something turns up to prove they can.

Well-written pieces. Appalling information. I'm horrified, and I am pissed off my government is committing atrocities like this. Jesus wept. What the actual fuck are you people thinking?
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nothing surprising here. Barack spoke a big game about giving all Americans due process and now has the authority to kill anyone he deems "a threat," including Americans. Check out the Intercept online if you want the truth about world issues. If not, continue tuning into CNN and listening to Donald & Hillary argue about nonsense.
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Jeremy Scahill is an American investigative journalist and author whose work focuses on the use of private military companies.

He is the author of the best-selling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, winner of a George Polk Book Award.

He also serves as a correspondent for the U.S. radio and TV program Democracy Now!. Scahill is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow a
“Hellfire missiles, the explosives fired from drones, are not always fired at people. In fact most drone strikes are aimed at phones. The SIM card provides a person’s location; when turned on, a phone can become a deadly proxy for the individual being hunted. When a night raid or drone strike successfully neutralizes a target’s phone, operators call that a “touchdown.” 1 likes
“When you first go on duty at CIA headquarters, you raise your hand and swear an oath—not to government, not to the agency, not to secrecy. You swear an oath to the Constitution. So there’s this friction, this emerging contest between the obligations and values that the government asks you to uphold, and the actual activities that you’re asked to participate in.” 1 likes
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