President Donald Trump has signed an executive order effectively canceling public reports on civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes.
The president, who signed the order on Wednesday, is cutting an Obama-era directive that required the director of national intelligence to release a yearly report divulging data about civilian and combatant deaths in U.S. drone attacks outside active war zones throughout the world in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.
Obama first introduced his measure in 2016 in an effort to be more transparent but Trump doesn’t go for that, speaking frequently on his dismay over publicizing military actions.
A 2017 law providing Congress with statistics on civilian deaths in active combat zones but many experts agree that Trump’s revocation of Obama’s directive is a dramatic fall in transparency and that this will for strikes by other agencies, like the CIA, to go unnoticed by the public at large.
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, slammed this decision by the president, calling it “deeply wrong”, the Associated Press reported.
“Trump’s decision to increase secrecy about the United States’ killing of people abroad is deeply wrong and dangerous for public accountability. Trump revoked a transparency order that provided an imperfect but still important official record of deaths caused by the military and, critically, the CIA. This decision will hide from the public the government’s own tally of the total number of deaths it causes every year in its lethal force program. Now, the government is also no longer committed to providing reasons why its total death count is different from independent credible reports by media and rights groups.”Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) who serves as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and has been taking Trump to task on transparency in other areas, certainly sees the President’s signature secrecy at work here as well, telling the BBC that he could see “no justification” in revoking the practice of disclosure.
The White House National Security Council spokesman said that the government was committed to “minimizing — to the greatest extent possible — civilian causalities and acknowledging responsibility when they unfortunately occur during military operations.”
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has reported that 769 to 1,725 civilians have been killed since 2004, based on official data and credible sources. It also reports that there have been 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of the Trump presidency, a sharp contrast with the 1,878 during Obama’s ENTIRE eight years in the Oval Office.