The Obama drone program has been shrouded in secrecy, but after the leaking of the 'kill list' white papers, Russia Today notes, many critics are demanding transparency from the administration when it comes to the exact number of causalities. Due to the confidentiality of drone strikes abroad, it has proven difficult to get an accurate figure - until now.
As Wired.com reports, US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has estimated that 4,700 people have been killed. As of now it is unclear how he obtained that figure, but his 'approving' comments raise questions about the accuracy of these attacks: "Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we're at war, and we've taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida."
Graham did not offer an estimate of how many innocent people the drones have killed. Given the 430 or so strikes known about, this would imply around 10 kills per strike - but judging from the context of his remarks, Wired.com suspects, he's not counting the strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a U.S. senator has offhandedly revealed specific and unacknowledged information about the drones, following Diane Feinstein's 2009 gaffe, but Graham’s disclosure underscores the extraordinary secrecy around the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism efforts - a military action in all but name, operated by an agency that need not explain to the public how it carries out the program.
Via Russia Today,
The government says you can’t know how many people U.S. drone strikes have killed, because that’s a state secret. But one of the most hawkish members of the U.S. Senate just said the strikes have killed 4,700 people. And his math raises questions.
“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham said, according to an Easley website. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida.” Graham did not evidently offer an estimate of how many innocent people the drones have killed.
The CIA declined to comment about whether Graham revealed classified information. Counting the death toll from drones is a notoriously imprecise, murky business.
Graham’s death count would raise questions about the much-vaunted precision of the strikes. Using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count, the U.S. has launched between 416 and 439 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia since the U.S. first successfully weaponized an MQ-1 Predator a decade ago. If Graham’s right, each strike would have to kill more than 10 people. It’s certainly possible — the 100-pound Hellfire missile carried by the drones is capable of it
Yet Graham’s count is simultaneously low. Judging from the context of his remarks, he’s evidently not counting the U.S. military’s drone strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a U.S. senator has offhandedly revealed specific and unacknowledged information about the drones. In 2009, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, blabbed that the Pakistani government was hosting CIA drones for strikes on Pakistanis.
But Graham’s disclosure underscores the extraordinary secrecy around the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism efforts — a military action in all but name, operated by an agency that need not explain to the public how it carries out the program.