May 29, 2014
As advocates for civil liberties, open government and human rights, we urge you to pass the bipartisan amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 proposed by Representatives Adam Schiff and Walter Jones that would increase transparency from the Obama administration about the number of people killed in US drone strikes.
The amendment would require the President to publicly report the total number of “combatants” and “civilians” killed or injured in drone strikes (excluding strikes in Afghanistan), for each year since 2008 and each year going forward. The amendment also requires the President to make public the definitions of “combatant” and “civilian” used in arriving at these numbers. The bill requires far less disclosure about targeted killing than many of our organizations have supported, but it is a modest step in the right direction.
In matters of life and death, the public has a right to basic information and Congress has a duty to conduct vigorous oversight. While the Obama administration has pledged repeatedly to disclose more information to Congress and the public about its use of armed drones, including recently through a letter from the Director of National Intelligence to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it has yet to make good on such promises.
US lethal drone practices are setting a precedent particularly for the 86 other countries that have reportedly acquired drone technology. As Rep. Schiff has noted, "As other nations develop and deploy these technologies, we will be better positioned to urge their responsible and transparent use if we have set an example ourselves." Conversely, the failure to specify the number of people killed in US drone strikes seriously undermines the US government's credibility in criticizing abuses and excessive secrecy by other governments and non-state actors.
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Brave New Films
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Effective Government
The Constitution Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Just Foreign Policy
National Security Network
Open Society Policy Center
Peace Action West
Project On Government Oversight—POGO
Win Without War