When former drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament that the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base violated German local law with its drone program, he had no clue that the Air Force would soon be paying his mother a visit thousands of miles away.
Mere hours after Bryant testified on Oct. 15, two Air Force officers from the Office of Special Investigations showed up at LanAnn Bryant’s front door to inform her that her information was leaked to the Islamic State and that she was now on its “hit list.”
“One of the gentleman knew more than the other one knew, but then he kept correcting the other one and would step in. Yet, he was in the background and never gave me his information,” LanAnn told Shadowproof. “They were not in uniform. They looked like any other guys except the only thing they had on were North Face jackets, lightweight jackets that were exactly alike. They didn’t have any identification on the outside of their jackets.”
The officers gave LanAnn a identity protection brochure and told her to minimize her social media presence. The news alarmed Bryant’s mother, but it struck the former airman as suspicious. The FBI gave him the exact same warning seven months ago, but when he asked how the government would protect his identity, they told him to quit “bragging about being a drone pilot” on social media.
His attorney Jessalyn Redack said that intimidating visits like the one described by LanAnn and her son were a common tactic for silencing whistleblowers.
“It would be laughable if it were not so amateurish that the military tried the exact same ruse seven months ago,” Radack said. “It was bizarre back then, but we identified it as what it is today—yet another attempt by the Air Force to try and get drone whistleblowers and people involved in the drone program to tamp down their social media usage and speaking out. It’s a very effective way of shutting up a whistleblower.”
Bryant said that if the Ramstein Air Base is shut down, the American drone program would have to move its operations to a less convenient location.
Wikileak publication The Intercept posted the Drone Papers on the same day of Bryant’s Oct. 15 testimony. While Bryant isn’t credited by name in the Drone Papers, it’s possible he contributed to the report.