Is Secrecy on Drone Attacks Hiding Civilian Casualties?


By  Ken Silverstein From Inter Press Service:

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s refusal to share with other agencies even the most basic data on the bombing attacks by remote-controlled unmanned predator drones in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, combined with recent revelations that CIA operatives have been paying Pakistanis to identify the targets, suggests that managers of the drone attacks programmes have been using the total secrecy surrounding the programme to hide abuses and high civilian casualties.

Intelligence analysts have been unable to obtain either the list of military targets of the drone strikes or the actual results in terms of al Qaeda or civilians killed, according to a Washington source familiar with internal discussion of the drone strike programme. The source insisted on not being identified because of the extreme sensitivity of the issue. “They can’t find out anything about the programme,” the source told IPS. That has made it impossible for other government agencies to judge its real consequences, according to the source.

Since early 2009, Barack Obama administration officials have been claiming that the predator attacks in Pakistan have killed nine of 20 top al Qaeda officials, but they have refused to disclose how many civilians have been killed in the strikes.

In April, The News, a newspaper in Lahore, Pakistan, published figures provided by Pakistani officials indicating that 687 civilians have been killed along with 14 al Qaeda leaders in some 60 drone strikes since January 2008—just over 50 civilians killed for every al Qaeda leader. A paper published this week by the influential pro-military Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) criticising the Obama administration’s use of drone attacks in Pakistan says U.S. officials “vehemently dispute” the Pakistani figures but offers no further data on the programme.

Originally Published on June 12, 9:20 AM, 2009 in Harper’s Magazine

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