2014-11-13

This Map Shines A Light On Every Single U.S. Drone Attack

Obama is making changes to how the U.S. drone program operates, but the past of the program is still shrouded in secrecy. This map helps clarify exactly what our killer technology is doing overseas.

On May 24, President Obama addressed the U.S. military’s use of drone strikes to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Somalaia, and Yemen—and pledged to continue to wind down those operations.

Fittingly, Bloomberg Businessweek created this map to serve as a reminder of the scope of that program., calling it the first ever "comprehensive compilation of all known lethal U.S. drone attacks."

The sobering stats are as follows:

  • Yemen: at least 552 killed between 2002 and 2013. The site of the first ever drone strike in 2002.
  • Pakistan: at least 2,561 killed between 2004 and 2013.
  • Somalia: at least 23 killed between 2011 and 2012.

Even though the programs are secretive, it’s still surprising how hard it is to get reliable data on just how many people we’ve killed with drones. Bloomberg's infographic got its information from the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, but was unable to get confirmation from the State Department. Other sources in Washington, when asked, offered a wide range of numbers.

Will an Obama administration with a renewed commitment to following international codes of conduct shed more light on our drone operations and make it easier to get these numbers in the future?

According to the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti, who provided live analysis of the speech, Obama’s speech didn’t go there:

One of the big outstanding questions is just how transparent the Obama administration will be about drone strikes in the future. Will administration officials begin to publicly confirm strikes after they happen?

There was no mention of this in the speech, and it is telling that the president did not mention the C.I.A. at all. It seems quite certain that past operations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere are not going to be declassified anytime soon.

Also, moving operations from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon does not automatically mean that the strikes will be publicly discussed. The Pentagon is carrying out a secret drone program in Yemen right now, and it is very difficult to get information about those operations.

Add New Comment

2 Comments

  • stevefolan

    Its only a matter of time before drones are used domestically to quell a riot,  a disturbance or to deal with a Waco type incident. Letting Obama inflict  this form of cheap, inaccurate technology on other countries, other races will come back to haunt America long after he has left office. 

    If you believe that transparency will exonerate you from blame you have developed a very cruel philosophy.

    The Nobel Peace prize looks as though it was premature.

  • Sandra Campos

    You have a small grasp of history. Drone attacks have been used since Gulf War 1, and people applauded their use as it removed the risk of American lives. Now all of a sudden you're against drone attacks because Fox News tells you to.
    Now that they are used under Obama's administration they are now cheap inaccurate weapons. Nice double standard.