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article imageU.S. to disclose number killed in drone program since 2009

By Ken Hanly     Mar 7, 2016 in Politics
Washington - A senior White House aide, Lisa Monaco, Obama's counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser promised to reveal how many civilian casualties and terrorism suspects have been killed since 2009 by the U.S. drone program.
This is the first ever disclosure of such numbers associated with the U.S. controversial drone program. Monaco said the expanded transparency would boost support for drone strikes and other counter-terrorism programs. She said the drone strike program would last "for years to come."
The disclosure will cover not only theaters of actual war such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria but strikes in areas where the U.S. does not have troops such as Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. In Libya the U.S. is already reported by some to have Special Forces. Monaco did not set any specific date for the release but did say it would be in the coming weeks. Monaco said to the Council on Foreign Relations: “Not only is greater transparency the right thing to do, it is the best way to maintain the legitimacy of our counter-terrorism actions and the broad support of our allies.” The same day that Monaco made the announcement, the Pentagon claimed 150 militants had been killed in a drone strike together with manned aircraft in Somalia.
Monaco said the administration intended to report on casualties annually. However, the Obama administration has only a year left in office. It remains to be seen whether the next administration will deliver yearly reports.
Cori Crider, a lawyer for drone victims, said the move was a step in the right direction but more needed to be done:“In every region where we have pursued an aggressive, secret drone policy, militancy has gotten stronger. It’s not enough to tally up the drones’ body count – we need a thorough reassessment of the program itself.”
Back in February of 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the armed services committee. claimed drone strikes had killed approximately 4,700 people. Officials have never made it clear whether the CIA and the US military have compiled data on the strikes. Dianne Feinstein of the intelligence committee said in 2013 that CIA drone strikes killed civilians at a single digit rate each year. The same claim was made by John Brennan the director of the CIA. One serious problem is that the US defines any military age male in the area struck as a combatant. Given that the some strikes are "signature strikes" that are made on the basis of the behavior of those being observed rather than knowledge of the identities of those being targeted it is likely that more civilians are being killed. In some instances there have been double tap attacks in which those who come to the rescue of those wounded are also attacked. Many of these people could be civilians. Accounts of casualties vary widely depending on the source. The group Reprieve in 2014 claimed that in Pakistan in targeting just 41 men the US killed 1,147 people.
The US Justice department just recently agreed to disclose more information about how the US carries out drone strikes. The move was in response to a transparency suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Preet Bharara a US attorney and another official agreed to release “a much more detailed explanation of the standards and procedures employed in both capture and lethal targeting counter-terrorism operations.” The promise was made in a letter to US federal judge Coleen McMahon. However, there first needs to be a review to remove classified information.
The ACLU claimed the decision was a victory which would go beyond a 2013 overview of the program provided to the US Congress. Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director said: “We hope that the administration’s decision to release this critical document reflects a broader commitment to make the lethal drone program more transparent. In that spirit, the administration should also release the legal memos that are the foundation for the program, basic information about those killed in past drone strikes, and detailed investigative files relating to strikes that killed bystanders”, Representatives such as Adam Smith of the House Intelligence Committee sees the casualty assessment as a means of combating propaganda about the casualties caused by drone strikes. He wants Congress to pass a law to require the disclosure.
More about US drone program, lisa monaco, Aclu
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