Drone Warfare

In Video: Obama’s covert drone war

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Obama - Flickr/Wa-J

Claims by a senior Obama administration official that ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral [civilian] death’ in Pakistan drone strikes since August 2010 have been found to be untrue.

Research by the Bureau reveals for the first time the extent of civilian casualties in CIA drone strikes in the past year.

It comes less than a month after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan publicly stated: ‘…that nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop’.

Asked on June 29 about US ‘targeted killings’, a euphemism which in this case refers to the CIA drone strikes, Brennan responded: ‘One of the things President Obama has insisted on is that we’re exceptionally precise and surgical in terms of addressing the terrorist threat. And by that I mean, if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.’

See a video on the Bureau’s investigation into Obama’s covert drone war below, or click on this link.

Our investigation
This is the first of a series of major investigations by the Bureau on the US covert war.

Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s investigation into US drone strikes, said: ‘Washington believes that no civilians are dying in Pakistan drone strikes. Our evidence directly contradicts this. So it is unfortunate that the CIA chooses not to share its ‘accurate information’ with the world.’

Despite being shown a summary of the Bureau’s findings, a senior US official insisted to the Bureau: ‘There haven’t been any non-combatant casualties for about a year, and assertions to the contrary are wrong. The most accurate information on counter-terror operations resides with the United States.’

Clive Stafford Smith, of campaigning law firm Reprieve, said: ‘There is the greatest danger here of a falsehood being told by US intelligence services, which misleads President Obama into taking decisions which are manifestly contrary to America’s best interests.’


The Bureau’s findings

Our analysis of 116 drone strikes that took place between August 2010 and Brennan’s speech on June 29 reveals:

· Ten drone strikes in which a total of at least 45 civilians have been killed.

· Six named children killed by these drone strikes.

· At least 15 additional strikes are likely to have killed many more civilians.

· US drone strikes in Pakistan have risen from one a year in 2004 to one every four days under President Obama.

· The US continues to insist that drone strikes are ‘the most accurate weapon in history’.

The Bureau’s major assessment of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan is an ongoing project. If you would like to be kept informed on this issue click here to sign up to our newsletter.