Officials were required to disclose civilian deaths outside war zones but Trump administration calls it a ‘distraction’.
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that revoked an Obama-era policy requiring United States intelligence officials to report civilian deaths in drone attacks outside active war zones.
Former President Barack Obama, put the policy in place in 2016 as part of an effort to be more transparent about drone attacks after he had dramatically increased their use against armed groups in mostly Muslim countries.
Trump’s rescinding of the policy was done with little fanfare on Wednesday. The White House released the text of his executive order.
“This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission,” an administration official said.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has carried out 6,786 drone attacks since 2004, killing up to 12,105 people, including as many as 1,725 civilians, of which between 253 and 397 were children.
The Obama policy had required the US director of national intelligence to release, by May 1 each year, an unclassified summary of the number of attacks undertaken by the US against targets outside areas of active hostilities.
“The United States government is fully committed to complying with its obligations under the law of armed conflict, minimising, to the greatest extent possible, civilian casualties, and acknowledging responsibility when they unfortunately occur during military operations,” the administration official said.
US Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat who chairs the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, in a statement, called the requirement issued by Obama “an important measure of transparency,” and said, “there is simply no justification” for cancelling it.
“Today’s decision underscores the need for Congress to make this reporting mandatory, something I intend to pursue through the Intelligence Authorization Act this year,” he said.