Drone strikes do more harm than good for U.S. interests, report says

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Drones strikes are not nearly as precise as advertised, and they may inspire more militants than they kill, a Sept. 25 report (.pdf) says.

The report, a joint effort from Stanford and New York University's law schools, is based on two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts, and documents and media reports.

In northwest Pakistan, the report finds, civilians constantly worry about drone strikes, people avoid gathering in groups, some children are kept out of school and family members skip funerals. Humanitarian workers and ordinary people also hesitate to aid injured victims because drones often strike an area more than once, the report says.

As a result, Pakistani attitudes toward the United States have soured.

Pakistanis from the affected area who were interviewed for the report were largely indifferent to the United States before the drone strikes began. But the drone strikes had bred hostility and probably make people more likely to become militants, the report says.

Already, it adds, two prominent attempts to bomb New York City--by Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi--were in part motivated by the drone strikes.

Meanwhile, high-level targets make up only an estimated 2 percent of total drone strike casualties, the report says. Low-level fighters and civilians appear to make up far greater shares of the dead.

Precise numbers are hard to discern, though, in large part because the United States has concealed information about the strikes, the report says.

In light of the questions surrounding the rationale and efficacy of drone strikes, the report calls for the U.S. government to be more transparent about the program.

Specifically, the report says the administration should make public the criteria it uses for strikes, the means by which it ensures compliance with international law, and the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury.

It also calls for release of the Justice Department memos that serve as the legal basis for drone strikes in Pakistan. There should also be independent investigations into drone strike deaths, the report says.

For more:
- download the report, "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Strike Practices in Pakistan" (.pdf)
- go to the Living Under Drones website for additional data and resources

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