Civilians killed by drones outside war zones to go unreported

Trump ends civilian deaths report requirement

Trump ends civilian deaths report requirement

President Trump on Wednesday issued an executive order revoking an Obama-era requirement to publicly report the number of USA drone strikes outside of war zones and the number of civilians killed by them.

The new policy does not cover Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, areas of conflict where the United States has troops now deployed. The military reports casualties separately in the theaters where it operates.

The move reversed a two-year-old order by his predecessor Barack Obama, who came under pressure for greater transparency after sharply increasing the use of drones for targeted attacks in military and counter-terrorism operations.

In a message sent to Capitol Hill shortly before the announcement, the State Department said the report was redundant because Congress had subsequently passed legislation requiring the Defense Department to provide a separate, more exhaustive annual report on civilian casualties resulting from military activities.

The manuary 2017 report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had said the "US government" conducted 54 strikes outside of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan during 2016, resulting in one civilian death.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project, said Trump's action increases secrecy about the United States' killing of people overseas and is "deeply wrong and unsafe for public accountability". "The public deserves to know how many civilians are killed by US actions. It is incomprehensible that this vital work will be left only to human rights organizations such as ours".

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It is unclear what prompted Trump's Wednesday revocation of the Obama-era order.

"Since Donald Trump took office, the US military has approximately tripled the number of strikes that it conducts each year in Somalia, according to figures confirmed by the Pentagon", Amanda Sperber, a freelance journalist based in East Africa, reported in The Nation last month.

The Pentagon still has an obligation to report on civilian casualties caused by U.S. military operations, as it is mandated by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2018 and 2019, Trump's executive order noted. "Donald Trump's drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama's", according to a Daily Beast analysis published last November.

It required the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to release annual summaries of U.S. drone strikes and assess how many died as a result.

It's unclear how many civilians were killed in drone strikes authorized by Trump. "This revoked requirement was an attempt by the Obama Administration to minimize concerns by the worldwide community of the number of civilian casualties occurring from drone strikes", Zaid said.

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