CIA Drone Strikes Are Just Educated Guesses

Dexter Filkins: Information used to select targets 'nowhere near adequate'

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 8, 2013 11:43 AM CST

(Newser) – The recent drone headlines, along with the testimony of CIA nominee John Brennan, prompt Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker to reiterate a key point about drone strikes he learned first-hand from reporting overseas: The CIA can never be positive about the targets it strikes. "Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate," writes Filkins. "When an employee of the CIA fires a missile from an unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at."

That's because most of these are "signature strikes," meaning the targets are picked because they match general patterns of behavior. "Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong." Which means when drone proponents say civilian casualties are non-existent, it simply isn't true. By the same token, when US foes claim large numbers of civilian casualties, be similarly skeptical. It's the nature of these "secret wars," writes Filkins. "The US is operating in an information black hole." Read the full piece here.

In this 2010 file photo, an unmanned US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
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