The powerful Democratic senator says that fewer than 10 civilians per year are typically killed by America's targeted killing program -- despite extensive evidence to the contrary.
As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein bears more responsibility than anyone in America for ensuring that Congress conducts vigilant oversight of President Obama's targeted killing program. Last week, during remarks at the beginning of John Brennan's confirmation hearings, the California Democrat spoke about her desire for more transparency from the executive branch, and then made a striking claim about the number of civilians the U.S. is killing:
I've been calling for increased transparency on the use of targeted force for over a year, including the circumstances in which such force is directed against U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. I've also been attempting to speak publicly about the very low number of civilian casualties that result from such strikes. I've been limited in my ability to do so. But for the past several years, this committee has done significant oversight of the government's conduct of targeted strikes, and the figures we have obtained from the executive branch, which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits.
Feinstein is explicitly trying to assure Americans privy to less information than she is that, if they could just see the truth, they'd be relieved that so few innocent people are killed in their name. It scarcely needs to be said that it would be despicable to lie about something like that; and that spreading false information out of ignorance or lack of due diligence would be deeply irresponsible for someone in her position, as it would mislead her fellow citizens, damage public discourse, and undermine the credibility of the committee she is charged with stewarding.
Well, prepare to think less of Feinstein.
Her claim that civilian casualties have "typically been in the single digits" for "several years" was imprecise. To evaluate it charitably, let's look at the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, the same span she has served as chairman. In that four-year period, do civilian casualties average no more than nine per year, or about 36 total? Are they anywhere close to that estimated figure?