The Predator drone pilot’s cockpit is a safe, air-conditioned trailer. They do not breathe the air of the foreign lands their bombs destroy. Yet they are able to snuff out lives on the ground with the push of a button.
The scrutiny directed towards drone pilots continues to increase as more open their eyes to discover the number of innocent women and children killed by drones. The use of the “double tap” drone strike tactic has elicited outrage. This disturbing tactic, which was explained in an article published by The Atlantic, targets first responders and mourners attending the funerals of those killed during the first strike. The last thing drone pilots needed was more bad press, but this week news broke that paints the profession in a criminal light.
Earlier this week, AZ Central reported that 21 National Guard Airmen will face felony charges for allegedly bilking $1.4 million tax payer dollars through an expense scam. All of those listed in the indictment belonged to the Guard’s 214th Reconnaissance Group, which operated top-secret Predator drone flights over Iraq and Afghanistan.
This was not a minor racketeering scam. Most of the defendants collected more than $100,000 by falsifying expenses between 2007 and 2010.
It is unclear how these charges relate to misconduct uncovered in 2009. In that investigation, Air Force auditors discovered more than twenty airmen had submitted false expense claims. As a result of the 2009 revelations airmen were disciplined and ordered to reimburse what they had illegally acquired. Criminal conduct was to be forwarded to the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigation.
The charges brought this week were filed by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and not by federal prosecutors.
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