Be they targeted assassinations with unavoidable collateral damage or crashes, U.S. drone missions have been responsible for a number of deaths that remains largely unknown by speculators and top U.S. officials alike.
A recent report from The Atlantic explains:
Estimates from anonymous Obama administration officials about many civilian casualties provide little clarity. In April 2009, a U.S. official claimed that “more than 400″ enemy fighters in Pakistan had been killed by drone strikes: “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.” In addition, in May 2010 a U.S. counterterrorism official stated: “We believe the number of noncombatant casualties is under 30, those being people who were near terrorist targets, while the total for militants taken off the battlefield exceeds 500.” In August 2011, ABC News reported, “[A senior U.S. official] said that while the U.S. agrees around 2,000 suspected militants have been killed, the total civilian casualties are closer to 50.”
And now, local and Federal agencies are doing everything in their power to make drones commonplace here at home. A report Monday in The Washington Times explains that the Department of Homeland Security currently has more drones than it knows what to do with.
The Department’s inspector general released a report this week detailing how Customs and Border Patrol officials currently have acquired nine unmanned aerial vehicles and are awaiting a tenth, but have no real plan of how to use the potentially deadly machines. The agency uses the drones in part to patrol the country’s borders and reportedly also routinely conducts missions for the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Forest Service, the FBI and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But as Americans become ever more likely to see military-style drones flying over domestic airspace, concerns about privacy and safety abound.
The Associated Press reported Monday that a 44-foot unmanned Naval drone on a “routine maintenance flight” crashed near Bloodsworth Island, Md., in the Chesapeake Bay around 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C.