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Germany's role in the US drone war

October 15, 2015

A former US drone operator says the US Ramstein airbase in Germany had a key role to play in US drone strikes. Brandon Bryant was answering questions from a parliamentary committee investigating the NSA.

Afghanistan Drohne
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Wigglesworth

"As far as I know, Rammstein is always involved," Brandon Bryant told a committee of German parliamentarians (NSAUA) examining Germany's involvement in the US' National Security Agency's (NSA) spying activities.

German Transparency, a civil society group, tweeted this message:

"All data, every small bit of information, that was transferred between the plane and the team, went through the Ramstein airbase," Bryant told the committee's members. However, the drones were not directly steered from Ramstein, the former US sensor operator for drones said.

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss Brandon Bryant
Bryant said he left the service on realizing he was breaching the Constitution he swore to protectImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. v. Jutrczenka

Bryant informed the committee of a ground station in Ramstein, the major US airbase not far from Kaiserslautern, where operators could see videos in real time. However, these employees were not authorized to give orders. Ramstein was a link in the chain of signals and data, the former US military employee said, adding that the US airbase was probably the weakest link in the chain of command for US drone strikes.

German officials knew about strikes

The German government also knew of the operations at Ramstein, according to Bryant. "We were told that we were working together with the government," he said. The German government could pass on a mobile number to the US, which could then be used to execute a person, Bryant told the committee.

Internet activist Anne Roth tweeted Bryant's statement:

The 29-year-old worked with the US Air Force for five years as a sensor operator, a role in which he co-piloted drones and analyzed videos from the US. The drones which he operated struck targets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Bryant left the military after his frustrations with the program peaked. His lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, tweeted a quote from her client's interview to German television on Wednesday.

Bryant posted this message from his Twitter account on Wednesday, a day before he testified to the Bundestag's committee on the NSA.

mg/msh (dpa)