A report issued by NBC News’ Open Channel says the CIA did not always know who it was targeting with drone strikes over a 14 month period.
According to the report, about 25% of those killed by drones in Pakistan from the beginning of Sept 2010 to Oct 30 2011 were classified as “other militants”–a classification given to targets when the CIA “could not determine the affiliation of those killed.”
Such uncertainty appears to arise from the habit of choosing “targets based on their behavior and associates,” or what one White House official refers to as “circumstantial evidence.”
Obama officials speaking anonymously said they are concerned that too grand a picture of drone success has been painted. Thus, although the administration claims it was targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives or leaders who were plotting “against the U.S. and U.S. troops” during those 14 months, 50% of the list of 26 confirmed kills are marked as “other militants.”
And there is a huge discrepancy in how many people were killed with each strike. For example, “one entry says a strike killed seven to 10 people, while another says…20 to 22.”
The AP has noted that “Pakistani officials and villages claimed that 38 non-combatants were killed in a single strike on March 7, 2011.”