Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California and Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina introduced legislation Wednesday, requiring an annual report from the Obama administration on the number of combatants and civilians that are injured or killed by drone strikes. The legislation, Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act, seeks to increase transparency and accountability of the use of drones overseas.
“An annual report will provide a modest, but important, measure of transparency and oversight regarding the use of drones,” said Schiff in a statement. “Despite our best efforts to ensure to a near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, sometimes strikes do result in civilian casualties. We must be more transparent and accountable, both with ourselves and with the world, and narrow the perception gap between what really happens, and what is reported or assumed.”
Jones echoed the same points, stating that the use of drones should be “subject to intense scrutiny and oversight.”
Civil liberties groups applauded Jones and Schiff for the legislation. “Excessive secrecy about drone strikes has stalled accountability, damaged US credibility on human rights, and set a dangerous example for countries around the world that are acquiring drone technology,” Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “This bill will provide all members of Congress and the public with basic facts and figures, helping the debate on this policy move beyond speculation and secrecy.”
Furthermore, the Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, along with seven other human rights and civil liberties groups issued a joint statement in support of the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act.
“The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act increases transparency by requiring the President to report the total number of ‘combatants’ and ‘civilians’ killed or injured in drone strikes outside of Afghanistan and specifically authorized uses of force, for every year since 2008 and every year going forward,” the groups wrote, adding that they believe it can be done without endangering national security interests.
“It would allow the public and Congress to engage in important discussion about drone strikes, including their utility, their impact on local populations, and their compliance with international and domestic law and the Administration’s own policies,” they added.
The legislation comes nearly six months after a Human Rights Watch report was released last October, which alleged that 82 people, with at least 57 being civilians, were killed by drone strikes in Yemen between September 2012 and June 2013 alone. While there is no official count on the number of people that have been killed by drone strikes during the Obama administration, recent estimates suggest that the number is over 2,400, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a U.K.-based non-profit.
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