Analysis: Obama Administration’s Release of Drone Casualty Data, Executive Order

Stimson Spotlight

Analysis: Obama Administration’s Release of Drone Casualty Data, Executive Order

In light of the Obama administration's release today of casualty data that indicated the U.S. drone program has killed an estimated 64 to 116 civilians outside of traditional war zones — as well as an Executive Order addressing civilian casualties in U.S. operations involving the use of force  — Stimson Center Senior Associate Rachel Stohl, Project Director of The Stimson Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy and author of the 2016 report Grading Progress on U.S. Drone Policy, released the following statement:

"The Obama administration’s long-awaited release of drone strike casualty data and an executive order on measures to address civilian casualties signals an important step towards achieving greater transparency and accountability for the U.S. drone program. Yet the releases today fall short of providing detailed information on the methods and metrics through which the administration reaches these determinations. This lack of information inhibits objective evaluation of the overall effectiveness of U.S. drone strikes and the extent to which the program supports larger strategic objectives. Without contextual data — such as geographic location or a year-by-year breakdown of the statistics — and absent a clear methodology for counting casualties, the figures cannot be fully understood. While the release of this information is an important step, it doesn’t go far enough to ensure that the administration places the drone program on firmer footing before it leaves office and sets a positive precedent that adheres to U.S. values and fosters appropriate international norms and standards. This was a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done."

Photo credit: Defence Images via Flickr