New bill aims for drone death transparency

A bill introduced in the House aims to lift the thick veil of secrecy surrounding U.S. drone casualties

Published April 2, 2014 5:59PM (EDT)

It's a small step, but it goes in the right direction: On Wednesday Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, introduced a House bill to prompt greater transparency around drone deaths -- one of the blackest boxes in the new shadowy terrains of U.S. warfare.

The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act, if passed, would require the White House to disclose the number of people killed in US drone strikes since 2008. The legislation also aims to clarify the quagmire of terms used by the executive branch in so-called targeted killing decision making. The administration would have to provide its definitions of “combatant” and “civilian” -- terms left dangerously broad and amorphous by the White House at present.

A number of human rights groups have already put their support behind the bill, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. “The White House approach to drone killings has been ‘trust us,’ but that’s untenable,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Instead of responding with generalizations to our documentation of potentially unlawful drone killings, the White House needs to provide the data it’s apparently sitting on. This bill is a first step, and ultimately the White House needs to commit to a process of accountability.”

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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