In late June, President Obama's chief Terrorism adviser, John Brennan, made an extraordinary claim about drone attacks in Pakistan: "in the last 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." He added: "if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger." The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism had heard similar claims from Obama officials over the past several months, and thus set out to examine the relevant evidence to determine if those claims are true.
Last night, they issued the findings of their study which, simply put, definitively establish that the administration's claim about civilian deaths is patently false. Contrary to Brennan's public assertions, "a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA 'secret' drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died." That count -- which includes numerous children -- covers only the civilian deaths which the Bureau could definitively establish by identifying the victims by name. Given how conservative their methodology was, these findings almost certainly under-count, probably dramatically, the number of civilian deaths at U.S. hands during the period about which Brennan made his claim: "at least 15 additional strikes warrant urgent investigation, with many more civilian deaths possible."
Of course, the Obama administration says its information is accurate and Brennan was correct. But shockingly, the ACLU can't obtain that information:
The trouble is that United States refuses to share its information -- even basic information -- with the public. Indeed, it is absurd that senior government officials would claim that there have been no civilian casualties in drone strikes in Pakistan, and at the same time refuse to confirm or deny the existence of civilian casualty data in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act request. This kind of selective disclosure not only deprives the public of basic information about the human cost of the government's actions, but it also undermines the credibility of the government's statements. . . .
This kind of stuff is the complete opposite of what Obama campaigned on. If I knew a primary challenge wouldn't completely screw a Democrat's chance to win in 2012 I'd be more than willing to run someone against him.