Sen. Feinstein’s Claim of Single-Digit Drone-Related Civilian Deaths Clashes with Reality

Monday, February 11, 2013
Noor Syed, aged 8, killed in drone strike in Pakistan (photo: Noor Behram, Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

While participating in John Brennan’s confirmation hearing to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) last week claimed that U.S. drone strikes were causing less than 10 civilian casualties a year worldwide.


That claim would seem to clash with reports from more than one source indicating that civilian deaths from drones have averaged in the double digits for years, up through 2012.


Micah Zenko wrote in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations that the website The Long War Journal estimated U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011 and 39 in 2012.


Additionally, Zenko included numbers from the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, showing that American drones in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.


The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2002 drone pilots have killed 681 civilians in Pakistan, 125 in Yemen and 34 in Somalia.


Max Fisher at The Washington Post noted that these statistics don’t include drone missions in West and East Africa, where the U.S. has been conducting operations, “so it’s plausible that the civilian casualties would be even higher than the Long War Journal and New America Foundation stats reflect.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Open-Source Data Contradicts Feinstein On ‘Single-Digit’ Civilian Drone Deaths (by Max Fisher, Washington Post)

Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies (by Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations) (see page 13) (pdf)

How Much is the Life of a Dead Innocent Afghan Worth? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Unnamed U.S. Official Denies Drones Have Killed 168 Children in Pakistan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment