U.S. Releases Official Casualty Numbers and New Executive Order on “Targeted Killing”

July 1, 2016 2:30 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration today released statistics revealing how many people it believes it has killed since 2009 in drone and other airstrikes “away from areas of active hostilities,” including the number of civilians. It also issued an Executive Order providing for the regular disclosure of similar information in the future.

The release estimates that drone strikes in these areas have killed between 64 and 116 non-combatants.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, had this reaction:

“Although we welcome this release, it’s hard to credit the government’s death count, which is lower than all independent assessments. The government continues to conceal the identities of people it has killed, the specific definitions it uses to decide who can legitimately be targeted, and its investigations into credibly alleged wrongful killings. The American public can’t be confident that the government is using lethal force legally and wisely with a disclosure that’s so limited as to be virtually meaningless.”

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, had this reaction to the issuance of the executive order:

“The issuance of the executive order is a positive step, but the transparency it promises is very shallow, and not sufficient to allow a meaningful assessment of the government’s policies. In addition, it’s important to remember that the next president can revoke this order with a stroke of a pen. While we welcome today’s disclosures, transparency about the drone campaign should not be a matter of executive grace. Both the courts and congress have a role to play in ensuring that the public has the information it needs in order to understand and assess the government’s policies.”

In the coming days, the government is expected to release a redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guidance that has supplied the policy framework for many U.S. drone strikes since 2013. That release will come in response to an ACLU lawsuit pending before Judge Rosemary Collyer in the Southern District of New York.

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