In anticipation of an impending White House announcement on civilian deaths from drone strikes, international human rights group Reprieve has released a report which finds that there is significant evidence the U.S. government is lying about the human toll of the aerial bombing campaign.
President Barack Obama is expected to announce as early as Friday that since 2009, U.S. military and CIA airstrikes have inadvertently killed only about 100 people in nations that are not officially recognized as battlefields, such as Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The numbers for active war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, on the other hand, will not be included.
But according to Reprieve’s report, Opaque Transparency (pdf), every previous statement made by the Obama administration on the civilian casualties from drone strikes has been misleading at best, with some being outright false.
That includes an on-record comment from CIA director John Brennan in June 2011 that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” in Pakistan for nearly a year, and a claim from Obama in May 2013 that strikes are only carried out when there is “near certainty that the target is present” and “near certainty that noncombatants will not be injured or killed.”
As Reprieve notes, internal CIA documents leaked in 2013 show that the agency itself recorded a civilian death just two months before Brennan’s comments, while the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other independent investigators found that dozens of local elders were killed in a strike in March 2011. As of this February, only 10 drone victims killed in Pakistan last year had been identified.
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