Nearly 9 out of 10 Pakistani Drone Victims Were Not Militants (Project Censored #3)


By Jordan Nakamoto, Dylan Morrissey, Susan Rahman, & Andy Lee Roth

Editor's Note: We are almost done with our countdown of the latest Project Censored Top 25. Here is #3. As always, please share with your family and friends these important, largely overlooked stories so that we can all be more well-informed citizens. Thank you.

Since President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, an estimated 2,464 people have been killed by drone strikes targeted outside of the United States’ declared war zones; this figure was posted in February 2015 by Jack Serle and the team at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who maintain a database of all known strikes—based on fieldwork, media reports, and leaked documents—which provides a clearer picture of the scale and impact of the US drone program than the episodic reporting provided by corporate media.

According to Bureau data, al-Qaeda members comprise only 4 percent of the total 2,379 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan as of October 2014, just over ten years after the first such strikes. Of the total killed, about 30 percent could be identified and 11 percent were defined as militants. Little is known about the remaining 1,675 unnamed victims. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported these numbers after conducting a yearlong investigation that compiled information from various sources to provide an overview of drone strike casualties.

US drone missions are flown mainly over Pakistan, where the CIA aims to weaken al-Qaeda and limit its movement into neighboring Afghanistan. The use of unmanned drones is seen as a way to minimize involvement and resentment in a country that is characterized by the New Yorker as “unstable” and that is known to possess over a hundred nuclear weapons. While the unofficial drone war for control over the Pakistan–Afghan border ended in mid-2013, the drone campaign continued with five strikes recorded in January 2015, the most since July of 2014. In the month of January, additional strikes were reported to kill at least forty-five in Somalia and three in Yemen, where a twelve-year-old child was among the casualties.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s findings undermine the validity of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that “the only people we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level.” Regardless of whether or not those killed were in fact dangerous, the inability to account for their identities invites skepticism toward US military operations and raises moral concerns about basic respect for human dignity.

In April 2015, Jeremy Scahill reported that a US military base in Ramstein, Germany, is the “the high-tech heart of America’s drone program.” Top-secret US documents obtained by the Intercept, Scahill reported, provide “the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.” Most drone pilots operate in the US, but depend on Ramstein to control their aircraft.

Corporate news coverage of US drone strikes tends to rely heavily on official government sources, many of whom are not authorized to know about those strikes, much less to discuss them publicly.  (“Congress members have been muzzled by executive claims of secrecy to protect national security and/or co-opted by lobbyists representing drone manufacturers.” Andy Lee Roth, “Framing Al-Awlaki: How Government Officials and Corporate Media Legitimized a Targeted Killing,” Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution, eds. Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth [New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012], 353–54.) Exceptional occasions sometimes force government officials to reveal more about the killing programs. For instance, in April 2015, President Obama publicly apologized for a January drone strike in Pakistan that had accidentally killed two al-Qaeda hostages, including an American aid worker, Warren Weinstein. The New York Times’ coverage included front-page news analysis by Scott Shane that included criticism of the drone strike program. For example, the article quoted Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, on how Obama’s statement “highlights what we’ve sort of known: that most individuals killed are not on a kill list, and the government does not know their names.” Notably, Shane’s analysis made use of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s research to show the scope of US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004.

[Read more here]

Originally entitled: “#3 89 Percent of Pakistani Drone Victims Not Identifiable as Militants”


Jack Serle, “Almost 2,500 Now Killed by Covert US Drone Strikes Since Obama Inauguration Six Years Ago,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 2, 2015, https://www.thebureauinvestigates

Jack Serle, “Get the Data: A List of US Air and Drone Strikes, Afghanistan 2015,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 12, 2015,

Steve Coll, “The Unblinking Stare: The Drone War in Pakistan,” New Yorker, November 24, 2014,

Abigail Fielding-Smith, “John Kerry Says All those Fired at by Drones in Pakistan are ‘Confirmed Terrorist Targets’—But with 1,675 Unnamed Dead How Do We Know?” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, October 23, 2014,

Jack Serle, “Only 4% of Drone Victims in Pakistan Named as al Qaeda Members,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, October 16, 2014,

Jeremy Scahill, “Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War,” Intercept, April 17, 2015,

Robert O'Leary 150x150

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail

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42 Reader Comments

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  1.' Nathan Dunning says:

    Because they’re Shiite and not Sunni like Obama?

    •' Abdullah Syed says:

      People are dying and you’re still sticking at Shia n Sunni… Wow hats off to ya

    •' Nathan Dunning says:

      Well maybe the facts are something you over look but I don’t let my emotions control my opinions.Hence why I’ll never be sucked into telling my government I want open borders and a muslim invasion.All because Sunni Obama’s avowed to kill all the Shia.He also created Sunni ISIS.Which one are you?

  2.' Asheva Asheva says:

    Drone strike sounds so techy, where really it is assassination in a foreign country, terrorism. No authority to call out others when they are leading the pack.

  3.' Jeremiah Jennings says:

    But didn’t he win the Nobel Peace Prize???? Oh, I guess those prizes aren’t really politically motivated…right?

  4.' Ronnie Denny says:

    Scary stuff

  5.' Gabe Torok says:

    It would not be ‘American” to test new technology on Americans. Note how new tech is introduced with each new war? Except the very profitable war on drugs that provides funds for Black Ops, of course.

    •' Thomas Chenhall says:

      Yeah, but you really gotta get that official advance notice from the DEA to the crack dealer with at least 24 notice before any DEA bust, or the info ain’t gonna be worth ten grand per incident.

      But you’re not supposed to know about that. How did you find out?

    •' Gabe Torok says:

      Lucky guess?

    •' Jonathan Truxal says:

      um, the us has been testing on citizens since, oh, ever. the cdc released a strain of flu in cali during the 90’s that killed dozens in an effort to track what an epidemic would look like. or you could reference the esp and mind control tests by the cia.

  6.' Matty Towkapiff says:

    Because Obama is a thick stupid cunt.

  7.' Teish Leander says:

    Ignorance is bliss

  8.' Jacqui Bonnel says:

    My government isn’t doing any of this w my permission ….they simply choose to not hear our people…we can’t stop them…they don’t care what we think
    I do not approve of Obama or Clinton….never have

  9.' Teri Brekken says:

    alternative Is boots on the ground and then many many more innocents will be lost. Possible all out war.

  10.' 李寶童 says:


  11.' Jeff Andrews says:

    practice …but they are infinitely better than carpet bombing daisy cutters or the chemical warfare conducted on us daily by multiple forces intent on repeating the fall of Babylon Egypt and Rome …relati it beware your lips fool

  12.' Jeff Andrews says:

    your conscious living is in fact a dirivitive of ineffe rive adaptation of failed expiration into how to avoid this apocalypse ..gees you should have been aware 1952

  13.' James Wilson says:


  14.' Mahendra Bhati says:

    They’re not innocents almost 7 out of 10 pakisthani people are terrorists supporters so they deserved it

    •' Jeb Jebberson says:

      Judging by the comment, a lot of Americans are terrorist supporters as well. Theze drone strikes are nothing more than terrorism!

  15.' Joe Hunter says:

    Should the Pakistani’s ever have the capability to fire hellfire missles into houses in Cleveland we might consider that to be terrorism…maybe even an act of war…but hey…I’m sure they understand…we’re just protecting the world….by blowing it up..

  16.' Janie Crumpacker Hiller says:

    Better than troops on the ground them being killed and how every many on the other side its called WAR no one wins

  17.' Buck Rogers says:

    It is all part of the big plan and just mark my words it is comming to a head soon.

  18.' Jeb Jebberson says:

    This is just as bad as nuclear bambs on japan! USA is fucking sick

  19.' Jeff Andrews says:

    cleaner eviornmentaly but if complaints effect change then back to carpet bombing

  20.' Jeff Andrews says:

    sure they test on us blind Dick

  21.' Jeff Andrews says:

    vaccines and chemical weapons and biological are routinely tested on Americans some suffer lifelong from military religious complexes

  22.' Cindy Howard says:

    this is war

  23.' Jeff Andrews says:

    psycologicaly devastating suicide tests routine as well look at Hawaii n Korean mind control and other communists techniques refined here as well as uranium munitions and Bo hazards too CIA tries mind control here

  24.' Jeff Andrews says:

    so you imagine wrong

  25.' Jeff Andrews says:


  26.' Thomas Chenhall says:

    The Illegal Genocide continues, with the US being 10x more fascist than NAZI Germany.

  27.' Martyn Farr says:

    Because most Americans dont care what their government does overseas and lack empathy. My wife voted for Obama twice, there is no way she can understand that this equates to voting for drone terror.

  28.' Wuno WhatsUp-NyxOdd says:

    Drones have big weapons, I think that far more than 2500 have been killed since 2009, think it twice. But then, beeing killed by a plane fying to fast to really recognize the target or a drone, what’s difference does it makes?

  29.' Jonathan Truxal says:

    im about to sound racist here, but the truth is kinda sad if you think about this for longer than a second. to answer the question ‘why?’. because we have a black liberal potus. think about it. black people kill people all the time and barely anyone even notices/cares (including our black potus). liberals are always given the benefit of the doubt even when everyone is more than pretty sure they just had a snow job. kinda sad. call it reverse racism….. really its just racism. liberals like to do things that are of “good” intent, which are often ill thought out and end up mucking things up worse down the road. with that combo the dude could probably shoot the pope in the head and have us all believe that the pontif was the head of the nazi party.

  30.' Durval Mckoy says:

    The price paid for endless wars.

  31.' Phil Brownlow says:

    And I think 10 out of 10 would be more accurate in a lot of cases.

  32.' Jim Chambers says:

    It’s always, “over there” first… I do believe our police have started using them. Isn’t that special?!

  33.' Nicholas Ibemere says:

    Well,as long as Islamists terrorist groups like ISIS,Boko Haram,Al shaaba&co. exist,the drone strikes would continue to rain down as ever.

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