Drone Warfare

Covert Drone War

Reaper UAV S. Afghanistan - Flickr/Defence Images

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has embarked on a detailed study of civilian deaths caused by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Our analysis comes less than a month after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser 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’.


‘…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’.
John Brennan, Chief US counter-terrorism adviser

The Bureau’s Investigation
The US military’s emphasis has shifted dramatically towards covert operations in recent years. Special Forces troops on the ground and unmanned CIA planes in the air, are now key instruments in the US military arsenal.  The killing of Osama bin Laden and the use of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are evidence of this new warfare.

As the ‘War on Terror’ enters its second decade, public scrutiny and accountability remain critical.  The first ten years saw significant military excess uncovered by journalists: Abu Ghraib; rendition; torture and secret prisons; and financial scandal.  Some of these were the work of covert forces, others by the regular military.

As the war becomes more covert, so scrutiny becomes ever more necessary – and more complex. The Bureau intends to examine aspects of the covert global war on terror – and will be directed by the evidence, and not by doctrine.

Our analysis and what is has revealed

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

– 10 drone strikes in which a total of at least 45 civilians have been killed.

– Six named children killed by these 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.