More evidence has emerged calling into question the New America Foundation’s (NAF) ‘Year of the Drone’ database, which aggregates civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004.
According to investigative journalist Gareth Porter, NAF is systematically under-reporting and underestimating the number of civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone operations in Pakistan.
Porter recently published an investigative report on this issue at Truthout.org
While the NAF database relies on casualty figures reported by the media, Porter’s numbers are based on legal affidavits submitted by victims’ families in Pakistan, and three months of eyewitness interviews conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in those locations frequently targeted by U.S. drones.
According to Porter, his data presents “credible new evidence that the majority of deaths in the drone war in Pakistan have been civilian noncombatants- not ‘militants,’ as the Obama administration has claimed.”
The affidavits, which were obtained by Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar, demonstrate that the majority of drone victims are not actively involved with al-Qaeda or other militant organizations.
Porter’s report also underscores the Obama Administration’s disingenuous practice of counting all young men over the age of eighteen (military aged) killed at a drone strike location as ‘militants.’ Porter’s findings are a necessary wake up call to all those who uncritically accept this practice as well as the resulting reports from NAF and others.
The following is a sample of the shocking discrepancies Porter found between the NAF database and his own research (taken directly from Truthout):
The Data: Victims’ Families vs. New America Foundation on 11 Drone Strikes
- October 9, 2008: The strike on a compound is recorded by NAF as having killed six “militants” and three civilians. Press reports had said three of the dead were “Arabs” and identified the owner of the house as “Faisal Mohammed Sultan,” who was said to have been a “tribesman sympathetic to the militants’ cause.” But the sole survivor of the attack told the lawyer Akbar that the actual owner of the house was a different person altogether, who also had a “Sultan” in his name, and that the four people killed were all from the same family that had resided in that house.
- January 23, 2009: The very first drone strike carried out by the CIA in the Obama administration was reported by news media to have killed seven “militants,” but NAF correctly shows the attack as having killed eight to ten “other” people, but no “militants.” The 13-year-old boy who was the only survivor of the attack told Akbar that seven people had been killed, three of whom were his uncles, one his cousin and three neighbors.
- February 14, 2009: NAF records 25 “militants” killed and no civilians in the strike on that date. But the father of one of the victims told the interviewer for the lawyer that his eight-year-old son had been one of the dead, without challenging the claims of other deaths in an adjoining house.
- September 7, 2009: NAF records three to five “militants” killed in the strike and five to seven civilians, but the survivor of the blast, a 15-year-old boy who lost both legs, reported that the only three people killed were two cousins and an uncle who had been in a wheelchair for ten years.
- November 20, 2009: NAF records only eight “militants” killed, but the families of three victims said only three people were killed: a tenth-grade student who was the nephew of the homeowner and two of his friends.
- December 31, 2009: NAF records two to five “militants” killed. But according to the owner of the house, the only three people killed were the owner’s brother, a secondary school teacher at a local public school; the owner’s son, who was working at the local public school for girls, and a mason who was working on construction of the village mosque, and was staying with his family.
- January 8, 2010: NAF records three to five “militants” killed in the strike, but the family of one of those killed, a government schoolteacher, said that he was killed along with three others standing next to a shop near a car that was the target of the attack.
- June 10, 2010: NAF shows two to three “militants” killed in the strike, but the family of the owner of the house who was killed in the attack said the other three people killed were his neighbors.
- November 26, 2010: NAF says three to four “militants” were killed in the strike, but the families of the victims say the three young men killed by the strike were Sanaulaah Jan, a 17-year-old pre-engineering student at the government Degree College and two of his friends from the same college.
- March 17, 2011: NAF records 11-12 “militants” killed in the strike, which was initially reported by Pakistani and foreign news media to have been an attack on a big gathering of the Haqqani network, along with 13-24 civilians. But interviews with 20 separate families of the victims of that strike revealed that the 50 people killed, included 20 accredited tribal leaders from different sub-tribes in the province and another 30 tribal elders, that it was guarded by local government militiamen, and that the subject of the meeting was ownership of chromite mines in the province. The relatives confirmed earlier reports that the subject of the meeting was ownership of chromite mines in the province.
- June 15, 2011: NAF records three to eight “militants” killed in a strike on a car, but relatives informed Akbar that the four victims of the blast were an employee of the Water Resources Power Authority, a local pharmacist and one of his employees, and a student at Miranshah College.