Chart of the Day: Civilian Drone Deaths

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

The chart below comes from ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott, Cora Currier and Lena Groeger. (Click here for a larger, interactive version.) It shows the various claims about civilian drone deaths from administration sources over the years, varying from “a handful” in 2011 to 50 or 60 over the course of seven years. As Elliot shows in an accompanying piece, these claims haven’t been consistent over time.

To be honest, my initial reaction to this is that I’m surprised at how consistent the claims have been, not how inconsistent. A few of them clearly don’t add up, but with only a couple of exceptions they’ve pretty uniformly told reporters that there have been about 30 civilian deaths over the past two or three years and perhaps 50 or 60 over the life of the program.

But consistency is probably the least of the issues here. As the New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago, the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants […] unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Given that methodology, it’s a miracle that the administration has fessed up to any civilian deaths. If there’s a lesson from this, I’d say it’s not that officials sometimes give differing estimates of civilian deaths. I’d say it’s the fact that, in truth, they probably don’t have the slightest idea how many civilian deaths they’ve caused.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate