Newly disclosed documents from Edward Snowden give a detailed account of how terrorism suspects are tracked and targeted in drone strikes, according to the New York Times.

The documents, which chronicle a 2012 drone attack in Yemen, also indicate that the British government plays a larger role in drone strikes than was previously realized.

Britain has carried out drone strikes only in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The documents raise the possibility that in addition, British intelligence may have helped guide American strikes outside conventional war zones.

The documents go on to describe how tacking the electronic communications of terrorism suspects is a vital tool, but also admit the danger of relying too heavily on such methods. For example, identifying a target based solely on a cell phone signal is risky since the phone may be passed off to other individuals.

With such uncertainties in mind, agencies try to identify targets by both voice and physical appearance, the document says. It also describes attempts to determine a suspect’s “B.D.L.,” or bed-down location.

According to the documents, some suspects are more “Comsec aware” than others, and tend to “detach” from electronic communications when they are worried about being tracked. However, the timing of such a “detachment” may also be solid evidence that a drone strike was successful.

Immediately after a strike it should be possible to detect whether the target detached at time of strike,” the guide notes. “This is a good indication that the correct target has been struck.”

What a detached statement.

(Source: The New York Times)

Jason Mathews is Internetting way too hard. Follow him at @jasonmathews316.