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Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:53 AM

Sen. Feinstein’s Claim of Single-Digit Drone-Related Civilian Deaths Clashes with Reality

While participating in John Brennan’s confirmation hearing to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) last week claimed that U.S. drone strikes were causing less than 10 civilian casualties a year worldwide.

That claim would seem to clash with reports from more than one source indicating that civilian deaths from drones have averaged in the double digits for years, up through 2012.

Micah Zenko wrote in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations that the website The Long War Journal estimated U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011 and 39 in 2012.

Additionally, Zenko included numbers from the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, showing that American drones in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2002 drone pilots have killed 681 civilians in Pakistan, 125 in Yemen and 34 in Somalia.


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Reply Sen. Feinstein’s Claim of Single-Digit Drone-Related Civilian Deaths Clashes with Reality (Original post)
The Straight Story Feb 2013 OP
Catherina Feb 2013 #1
bigtree Feb 2013 #2
polly7 Feb 2013 #3
Warren Stupidity Feb 2013 #4
polly7 Feb 2013 #5

Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:04 AM

1. Feinstein is morally reprehensible n/t

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:11 AM

2. I'll say it does

She has NO credibility on drones. Neither do most of the Senators. Drones do the dirty work that the troops they would deploy would suffer. Most of the ones in opposition will merely be looking to make the program more 'accountable,' instead of rolling it back. Statements like hers make that oversight they'll want just a swinging gateway to an open door.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:13 AM

3. The Living Under Drones report has numbers, up until Sept., 2012.

Underreporting of Civilian Casualties by US Government Sources

While western media outlets are generally quick to report official US accounts of drone strikes and their attendant casualties, those government sources have proved to be unreliable. Civilian death toll figures cited by the Obama administration during the last few years have been so low[13] that even the most conservative nongovernmental civilian casualty estimates—including those released by think tanks such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies[14] and the Jamestown Foundation[15]—contradict the administration’s claims.[16] Most recently, officials in the Obama administration asserted that civilian casualties in Pakistan have been “exceedingly rare,”[17] perhaps even in the “single digits” since Obama took office.[18] These estimates are far lower than media reports, eyewitness accounts, and the US government’s own anonymous leaks suggest.[19]

A recent exposé in the New York Times partially helped to explain the White House’s astonishingly low estimates by revealing that the Obama administration considers “all military-age males [killed] in a strike zone” to be “combatants . . . unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”[20] How the US would go about gathering such posthumous evidence is unclear, in part because drone victims’ bodies are frequently dismembered, mutilated, and burned beyond recognition.[21] And importantly, there is little evidence that US authorities have engaged in any effort to visit drone strike sites or to investigate the backgrounds of those killed.[22] Indeed, there is little to suggest that the US regularly takes steps even to identify all of those killed or wounded.

Media reports on drone strikes also often contradict one another on a range of strike details, including the nationalities of victims, the number of persons killed, and the types of structures targeted. For example, a May 24, 2012 strike in Khassokhel, Mir Ali was reported by the Associated Press as a strike on a “militant hideout” that killed “10 alleged militants,” most of whom were “Uzbek insurgents.”[33] A Reuters wire released at around the same time reported that the strike was on “suspected Islamist militants” and killed ten people, while the Agence France-Presse reported that there were five “insurgents.”[34] Neither Reuters nor AFP made any mention of the victims’ nationality.[35] The BBC, for its part, reported that the strike was on a “house,” and that it had killed “at least eight people” of “Turkmen origin.”[36] Within twenty-four hours, a number of other reputable sources, both western and Pakistani, reported that the strike had actually hit a mosque during morning prayers,[37] and that some sources, at least, contended that the dead included local Waziri villagers.[38] Some western media outlets updated their reports to reflect these new allegations,[39] while others ignored the new information.[40] The Associated Press referenced the May 24 strike in a separate article four days later, but failed to mention the possibility that a mosque had been struck.[41] Instead, AP wrote that “[t]he attack took place in a militant hideout” and that “[m]ost of those killed were Uzbek insurgents,” citing a Pakistani intelligence source.[42]

Between 2004 and 2007, the Pakistani government under President Musharraf attempted to hide the fact of US strikes (and Pakistan’s role in them) by contending that the strikes were either Pakistani military operations, car bombs, or accidental explosions.[65] Many of those claims were contradicted within days or weeks by anonymous leaks and eyewitness accounts,[66] and by local journalists gathering evidence at the scenes of the attacks.[67] In one unusually well-publicized incident, an official in the Musharraf regime reportedly asserted that the Pakistani military had conducted a strike on a religious school in Bajaur that killed over 80 people, including 69 children.[68] One of Musharraf’s aides reportedly told a Pakistani media source that the government believed “it would be less damaging” to claim it had killed 82 people than it would be to reveal that it had agreed to let the US carry out strikes on Pakistani soil.[69] Musharraf’s administration was reported to admit that the strike had been a US operation only after political backlash from the strike turned out to be much greater than the government had anticipated.[70] Considering the Musharraf government’s apparent efforts to cover up the US’s role in drone strikes, and the fact that drones often target remote or isolated areas, it is possible that other strikes from the 2004-2007 period have yet to be identified.


First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3] TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.


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Response to polly7 (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:00 AM

4. We are right back to the vietnam era bullshit body count


where everyone killed is posthumously declared a combatant. Plus ca change...

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:42 AM

5. Yes, it seems so.

The report's findings also bring to mind Franks' 'We don't do body counts', as it seems the strikes aren't visited afterwards by anyone too interested in who, or how many were killed. I think that along with the awesome responsibility of owning and using these drones on human beings around the world, there should at least be a requirement for some sort of follow-up and investigation.

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