Defense Department Does Not Compile Total Number Of Civilians Killed In Drone Strikes

March 22, 2011 3:01 pm

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NEW YORK – The Department of Defense (DOD) has confirmed that it does not compile statistics about the total number of civilians that have been killed by its unmanned drone aircraft. The DOD disclosed this information in a letter in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas.

The ACLU lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and other basic information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.

According to the DOD, the military’s estimates of civilian casualties do not distinguish between deaths caused by remote-controlled drones and those caused by other aircraft. While each drone strike appears to be subject to an individual assessment after the fact, there is no total number of casualties compiled. Moreover, information contained in the individual assessments is classified – making it impossible for the public to learn how many civilians have been killed overall.

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Manes, an attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

“It is remarkable that the Defense Department does not compile data about the total number of civilian casualties inflicted by unmanned drones – a new and controversial technology. The public must have accurate information about civilian casualties in drone strikes in order to assess the ethical, legal and strategic concerns that these weapons raise.

“Given widespread concerns about drone warfare and varying estimates of civilians killed, the Defense Department should compile data about the number of civilian casualties caused by drones and disseminate that information to the public.”

The DOD’s letter does not address targeted drone killings conducted by the CIA in Pakistan and elsewhere. In response to the ACLU’s FOIA request, the CIA has refused to confirm or deny the existence of any information related to drones, a position that the ACLU is currently challenging in court.

The DOD letter is available online at:…

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA is available online at:

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