"It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent," the newspaper reports. "Counter-terrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."
This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama's trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the "single digits" -- and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it "guilt by association" that has led to "deceptive" estimates of civilian casualties. "It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants," the official said. "They count the corpses and they're not really sure who they are."
This may be a crazy idea. But perhaps before we send a drone to go bomb and kill someone, we should find out who that person is and whether or not they should be killed, much less whether it's legally and morally correct to kill them once we know one fucking thing about them.