From the Washington Post:
On the line with the SEAL was the drone operator and a “collector,” an NSA employee at the agency’s gigantic base at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. The collector was controlling electronic surveillance equipment in the airspace over the part of Afghanistan where the CIA had zeroed in on one particular person. The SEAL pleaded with the collector to locate the cellphone in Afghanistan that matched the phone number that the SEAL had just given him, according to someone with knowledge of the incident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The collector had never before done such a thing. Before even intercepting a cellphone conversation, he was accustomed to first confirming that the user was the person he had been directed to spy on. The conversation would then be translated, analyzed, distilled and, weeks later, if deemed to be interesting, sent around the U.S. intelligence community and the White House.
On that day, though, the minutes mattered.
“We just want you to find the phone!” the SEAL urged. No one cared about the conversation it might be transmitting.
The CIA wanted the phone as a targeting beacon to kill its owner.
By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this “The Find,” and it gave them thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq, according to members of the unit.http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
So the NSA and CIA have been targeting drone strikes at cellphones without first taking the time to be clear who is carrying the phone and what they might be doing. That's how you end up blowing up weddings, political meetings, and groups of teenagers hanging out at a cafe.
Equally disturbing the NSA is collecting and storing information on every American with a cell phone that would allow them to quickly carry out their assassination via drone. (I should also add that if you have a 4G enabled tablet, it would seem the government can follow it even when turned off). Among the things the government absolutely should not be doing is secretly tracking citizens in a way that would allow for their extrajudicial killing.
It is time we renewed the ban on the US government performing assassinations. Once that capability has been created it is far to easy to abuse.