Left over from the Barack Obama presidency, President Donald Trump has revoked a requirement that requires the U.S. intelligence community to report the number of civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes.
The revocation of the requirement means the director of national intelligence is no longer required to issue “an unclassified summary of the number of strikes undertaken by the United States government against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities, as well as assessments of combatant and non-combatant deaths resulting from those strikes, among other information.”
The Trump administration has increased the CIA’s capability to conduct drone strikes, providing the agency with a new authorization in 2017 to carry out strikes that had been limited to the Department of Defense (DoD) under Barack Obama. Previously, the CIA would often pass intelligence to the military and the DoD would carry out strikes.
Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman under Obama, tweeted that “the Obama-era requirement applied to operations outside areas of active hostilities. The NDAA reporting requirement the administration is pointing to applies only to DoD operations in active war zones.”
For clarity, areas of active hostilities include countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, and Congressional oversight of the CIA’s drone program is done by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
There has been considerable criticism of U.S. drone strikes carried out by both the CIA and the Pentagon due to the possibility of civilian casualties. The CIA is required to meet a standard of “near certainty” that civilians will not be hurt or killed when assessing possible targets. The Department of Defense, however, needs only a “reasonable certainty” when operating in active war zones.