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US is not sniping indiscriminantly 1-2-3

The good news is that US sniper teams may not be shooting at everyone they come across anymore, as has been alleged though seldom reported. After all, the rules of war apply to snipers just as they would ordinary soldiers or paintballers: don’t shoot at someone who’s not a combatant, who’s unarmed, or who’s otherwise surrendering. But under pressure to up their kills, US snipers are defying the Hague Conventions with such innovations as 1) bait/entrapment, 2) getting go-ahead to assassinate, and 3) using fingerprint identification to confirm eligibility for execution.

1. Bait and switch
The Asymmetric Warfare Group issues to US snipers “drop items,” insurgent-type items which may be planted on Iraqis they’ve shot, but much more productively, to use as bait to lure passing Iraqis, tempting empty-handed civilians to become item-wielding insurgents whom you don’t have to get permission to shoot. The Washington Post reports:

“Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,” Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. “Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.”

2. Under suspicion is as good as being condemned
US snipers are executing targets if they can be confirmed as being suspects. With the cross hairs of your sniper scope aimed at your chosen Iraqi or Afghan, you can await authorization to pull the trigger based on learning the person’s identity, whether by informer or a shouted inquiry. Then according to the US rules of engagement you can terminate him. Here’s an example from the International Herald Tribune.

“From his position about 100 yards away, Master Sergeant Troy Anderson had a clear shot of the Afghan man standing outside a residential compound in a small village near the Pakistan border last October. And when Captain Dave Staffel, the Special Forces officer in charge, gave the order to shoot, Anderson fired a single bullet into the man’s head, killing him instantly.

…the shooting, near the village of Hasan Kheyl last October, was a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement. The men said such rules allowed them to kill Buntangyar, whom the American military had designated a terrorist cell leader, once they positively identified him.”

3. Coming soon: fingerprint and biometric matching
In early 2008 US snipers will be given a more efficient system for making split decisions about whether their target may be summarily liquidated. Now with the subject in your sights, you can await instructions from an intelligence database about whether your target has a fingerprint, retina scan, or biometric profile in the records as a suspected insurgent. In which case, be he standing idle, detained or captive, you can shoot him. Read this account from the Washington Post about the JEFF:

“…the Joint Expeditionary Forensics Facilities (JEFF) project or “lab in a box,” analyzes biometrics. It will be delivered to Iraq at the beginning of 2008, the Navy said, to help distinguish insurgents from civilians.

…the military has been scanning the irises and taking the fingerprints of Iraqis, feeding a biometrics data base in West Virginia. To date, a few ad hoc labs have processed about 85,000 pieces of evidence taken from weapons caches or roadside devices.

Each collapsible, sand-colored, 20-by-20-foot unit has its own generator and satellite link. If things go as planned, data will beamed to the Biometric Fusion Center to check against more than a million Iraqi fingerprints.

The next stage is to miniaturize, create “a backpack lab,” so that soldiers who encounter a suspect “could find out within minutes” if he’s on a terrorist watch list, [says the JEFF weapon designer] “A war fighter needs to know one of three things: Do I let him go? Keep him? Or shoot him on the spot?”

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