After seven years spent presiding over many hundreds of secretive, extrajudicial CIA killings, President Barack Obama signed a 2016 executive order intended to increase transparency and reduce the “tragic” deaths of civilians. The order required the release each May 1 of the number of drone strikes undertaken by the United States “against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities,” along with “assessments of combatant and non-combatant deaths.”
In theory, the American public would finally know how many innocents were being killed outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, stoking anti-American sentiment and the possibility of blowback in multiple countries where no war was declared.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump rescinded that short-lived reporting requirement. As Charlie Savage observed in The New York Times, “Mr. Trump’s revocation of the disclosure rule amounted to a belated acknowledgment that his administration had already changed the Obama policy in practice: The director of national intelligence never put out a report about bystander casualties in 2017.” Although the Pentagon is still required by statute to disclose civilian casualties from its ongoing combat operations, Savage explained, that law doesn’t cover lethal CIA drone strikes.