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Report: CIA Unsure of Identity of Many Drone Targets

By    |   Thursday, 06 Jun 2013 11:58 AM

The CIA is unsure of the identity of one out of four of those killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, a new analysis of official figures show.

Roughly 600 people were killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010 and Oct. 30, 2011, NBC News found. Around a quarter are classified as "other militants," meaning the CIA couldn't determine their affiliation or if they threatened U.S. security.

The network said that raised the question of how the CIA could know they were terrorists.

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 And official claims that just one of the victims was a non-combatant civilian are simply "not believable," a drone expert told NBC.

According to the records reviewed by NBC, about half the targets over the 14 months were identified as al-Qaida, but in 26 of the attacks, the dead were identified as "other militants," and in four others, as "foreign fighters."

Out of all the deaths, only one person was identified as a civilian – a woman who was described as the wife or girlfriend of an al-Qaida leader.

But Micah Zenko, a former State Department policy adviser now working as a drone expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, called that figure "uncredible."

"Anyone who knows anything about how airpower is used and deployed, civilians die. Individuals who are engaged in the operations know this," Zenko said.

U.S. officials say the CIA has two methods to target people for drone strikes. The first, a "personality" strike, hits known terrorists whose identities have been established through intelligence. In these cases, the CIA knows who is targeted.

However, in "signature" strikes, drone operators kill suspects based on patterns of behavior, not based on positive identification, meaning in these cases, the CIA does not necessarily know who is being killed, several former and current U.S. counter-terrorism officials said.

According to one former senior intelligence official, as many as half the strikes in Pakistan between 2009 and 2010 were signature strikes.

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence from January 2009 to May 2010, defended the precision of drone strikes, saying, "You know better with drones who you’re killing than you do when you’re calling in artillery fire from a spotter, calling in an airplane strike."

But according to an AP investigation, Pakistani villagers said that while about 70 percent of those killed were militants, the others were either civilians or tribal police.




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The CIA is unsure of the identity of one out of four of those killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, a new analysis of official figures show. Roughly 600 people were killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010 and Oct. 30, 2011, NBC News found. Around a...
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2013-58-06
Thursday, 06 Jun 2013 11:58 AM
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