In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?
Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.
The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.
Spain’s pioneering universal jurisdiction doctrine, which has enabled judges to prosecute foreigners in connection with human rights crimes committed in other countries, will be shaved back within four months following a vote in Congress Tuesday night [Feb 11th] to reform the judicial code. According to the reform, judges will only be able to open investigations against a suspected human rights violator if the defendant “is Spanish or a foreigner who frequently resides in Spain,” or who is currently in the country and Spanish authorities have refused to allow their extradition.
After an intense debate that pitted the entire opposition against the ruling Popular Party (PP), the final vote stood 179 in favor and 163 against, reflecting the conservatives’ absolute majority in Congress. The new legislation will come into effect within the next four months. Opposition groups roundly condemned the government’s decision and were united in their conviction that pressure from Beijing guided the hand of Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party administration.
On the 17 February the United Nations released what it called an “unprecedented” report on the state of human rights in the most secretive state in the world: North Korea. It concluded that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and still are being committed by the country officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and that in many cases, these violations constituted crimes against humanity, including: systematic torture, starvation and mass killings bordering on genocide. As a result of this, it recommended that the UN Security Council consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court. (Truthloader)
- UN: Punish N. Korea, Kim for ‘Unspeakable Atrocities’
- North Korea says U.N. rights report based on ‘faked’ material
- China rejects ‘unfair criticism’ in UN North Korea report
- Why it’s a good time to be a dictator like Kim Jong-un
- Cenk Uygur on the UN Report on North Korea
- North Korea Jokes No Longer Seem So Funny
Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, recommitted to securing Israel a tour on the U.N. Security Council after assisting its entry to a U.N. regional group.
Israel last month became a member of the JUSCANZ regional group at U.N. headquarters in New York. JUSCANZ stands for Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, some of the 15 members of the regional group, which is a sub-group of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group at the U.N. Israel was admitted to WEOG in New York in 2000, and in Geneva in 2013. Israel had been a member of JUSCANZ in Geneva, but until late last month not in New York.
In an address Monday to the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee, Powers said she will not give up on achieving a seat on the U.N. Security Council for Israel. Israel is vying with Germany and Belgium for a seat on the 2019-20 Security Council.
Chairperson Kirsten Sandberg discusses the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report outlining massive allegations of child abuse coverups and its demands The Vatican take action to hold guilty parties accountable. (The Real News)
The U.N. Security Council urged countries on Monday to stop the payment of kidnap ransoms to extremist groups like al Qaeda, which have earned hundreds of millions of dollars from such crimes. Although states are already required not to pay kidnap ransoms under an anti-terrorism resolution adopted in 2001, the British-drafted resolution was designed to increase political pressure on countries not to pay ransoms. The resolution creates no new legal obligations.
“We estimate that in the last three and a half years, al Qaeda-affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups have collected at least $105 million,” British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters. ”It is therefore imperative that we take steps to ensure that kidnap for ransom is no longer perceived as a lucrative business model and that we eliminate it as a source of terrorist financing,” he said. “We need to break that cycle.”
The United States has estimated militant groups have received $120 million over the past decade, including ransoms paid to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The United States and Britain do not pay ransoms, but some European governments do.
Liverpool Council bosses are to go to the United Nations to make their case that the government could be breaking international rules on keeping people out of poverty.
The authority believes the coalition – through its controversial policies such as the bedroom tax and welfare reform – could be in breach of the UN economic and social rights convention that sets out minimum standards of access to food, clothing and housing.
At Wednesday [January 15] night’s meeting of the full council, Labour members from all parts of the city spoke of the evidence they had gathered of people in Liverpool who were being forced into degrading poverty because they were being denied access to benefits they desperately needed – ending up having to resort to what they said was effectively “begging” for food at food banks.
The chamber heard stories of people stripped of their dole money for up to 16 weeks because they had been late for interviews or had failed to meet the criteria of the government’s Welfare to Work programme.
And they heard claims that in some job centres in the city, suspensions of benefits and other sanctions had risen by up to 500% since 2012.
The very same week the interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect, a diplomatic fiasco surrounding the Syrian peace talks underscored how little Western officials think has changed, and that Iran still occupies the position of “hostile power” for them.
Early last week, the focus was on getting partial ceasefires to slow the Syrian Civil War, and Iranian involvement would’ve been a major boost to that effort. The UN did the “reasonable” thing and invited Iran.
What followed was a total rethink of the talks and 24 solid hours of threats, before Iran was summarily disinvited and the US started insisting the whole point of the Syria talks was regime change and condemning the idea of partial ceasefires as a “distraction.”
Iran remains irked at being invited and uninvited like that, Russia is also angry since the whole point of the talks seems to be changing, and the UN is trying to insist none of this is their fault, and that they just assumed Iran was ready to impose a regime change ousting a close ally and replacing them with a pro-US government.
The Geneva II talks on the Syrian civil war in Switzerland started today. In the lead up to the conference, the media focus, unfortunately, had been on which parts of the Syrian opposition would attend and whether or not Iran, the Assad regime’s close ally, would attend (the U.S. pressured the UN to uninvite Iran at the last minute for not accepting the Geneva Communique).
And today, the media focused on two developments: (1) Secretary of State John Kerry’s hardline rhetoric about the Syrian regime’s crimes and how Assad cannot be a part of any transition government, and (2) the tense back-and-forth between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, the latter being nothing more than a disagreement over how much time the foreign minister should have to speak.
From where I’m sitting, the real story of the Geneva II conference was all but ignored. It was summed up by Ban Ki-Moon in a press conference following the talks when he said, “all of the countries who have been providing arms to either side must stop and encourage them to engage in political dialogue.”
- Patrick Cockburn: Moment of Truth for Syria
- Assad spokeswoman on CNN: Isn’t this colonial? What John Kerry said today? To me it’s very colonial
- John Kerry Says President Assad Cannot Be Part Of Transition Government In Syria
- Many Syrians Still See Assad as Indispensable in Saving Their Country
- Lots of Anger, Little Content as Syria Talks Begin
- Major Syrian opposition party withdraws from coalition
- Geneva Talks Underscore Huge Gap Between Syrian Regime and Opposition
- Brutality of Syria War Casts Doubt on Peace Talks
- Syrian Refugees on Geneva II: ‘I Have Learnt That Politics Has No Principles’
- Iran’s Rouhani: Hopes Slim for Syria Peace Talks
- Russia Says Iran’s Absence From Syria Talks Is a Mistake, Not a Catastrophe
- Map: Who Is Invited to the Syria Peace Talks (and Who’s Not)
- Syria TV Shows Opposition Head Alongside ‘Terrorist Crimes’
- Al-Qaeda slaughters on Syria’s killing fields
- Syrian Prison a Breeding Ground for Extremists
- Syrian Kurds Declare Autonomous Region in Northeast
The global group Reporters Without Borders is proposing that attacks on journalists be considered war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
The U.N. Security Council held informal talks Friday on the protection of journalists amid alarm at the more than 50 killed so far this year. An estimated 90 percent of those deaths go unpunished.
France, which holds the presidency of the council this month, is especially concerned after the killings of two Radio France Internationale journalists last month in northern Mali.
The director of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, called the statistics on killings “sinister” and warned that impunity amounts to “encouragement” for more attacks.
Deloire said 88 journalists were killed in connection with their work last year — a record since the organization started keeping count in 1995.
An internal United Nations draft document leaked last weekend has offered outsiders a rare look at longstanding disagreements between member states over the course of U.N. drug policy.
The document, first publicised by the Guardian and obtained by IPS, contains over 100 specific policy recommendations and proposals from member states, many at odds with the status quo on illicit drug eradication and prohibition.
It confirms a widespread belief that discontent is growing among national governments and in the corridors of New York and Vienna, where the leak originated from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
[...] Despite recent moves in Latin America and Europe towards policies of harm reduction, U.N. reforms remain mired in mid-20th-century dogmas and perennial horse-trading between member states.
As prices drop for drugs that are purer by the year, governments continue to spend 100 billion dollars annually on enforcement measures. The U.N. estimates the illicit drug trade has grown to over 350 billion dollars per year. And by 2050, the number of illicit drug users is set to rise by 25 percent.
Uruguay’s move to legalise the production and sale of marijuana breaks international law, the world drugs body said Wednesday, warning it would encourage addiction.
“Uruguay is breaking the international conventions on drug control with the cannabis legislation approved by its congress,” said the International Narcotics Control Board, a UN agency that oversees the implementation of international treaties on drugs.
INCB president Raymond Yans added he was “surprised” that Montevideo had “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed legal provisions of the treaty.”
A United Nations official says plans are being made to restart major offensives in parts of Somalia held by the militant group al-Shabab.
Special Representative Nicholas Kay also told the Security Council by videoconference Tuesday that it’s important that the long-chaotic East African country hold democratic elections in 2016 as part of building strong state institutions.
Somalia is shakily emerging from more than two decades of conflict, and parts of the country are still in the hands of the al-Shabab.
Kay reminded the Security Council that he had warned the council in September that if Somalia remained a home to terrorists, the effects would be felt “from Bamako to Bangui.”
Later that month, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on an upscale Kenyan mall.
The UN’s senior counter-terrorism official is to launch an investigation into the surveillance powers of American and British intelligence agencies following Edward Snowden’s revelations that they are using secret programmes to store and analyse billions of emails, phone calls and text messages.
The UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC said his inquiry would also seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of Britain’s eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, and whether the current system of oversight and scrutiny was strong enough to meet United Nations standards.
The inquiry will make a series of recommendations to the UN general assembly next year.
In an article for the Guardian, Emmerson said Snowden had disclosed “issues at the very apex of public interest concerns”. He said the media had a duty and right to publish stories about the activities of GCHQ and its American counterpart the National Security Agency.
France has warned that the Central African Republic is “on the verge of genocide” amid escalating violence between Christians and Muslims and a humanitarian crisis.
The landlocked nation has descended into near-anarchy since the Seleka, a largely Muslim coalition of rebels, ousted President François Bozizé in March. Thousands of people have been killed, abducted or fled their homes amid the burning of villages in what some say is the worst violence CAR has ever seen.
“The country is on the verge of genocide,” the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French television station France 2. “France, CAR’s neighbours and the international community are worried. The United Nations will give permission to African forces, the African Union and France to intervene.”
His dire predictions come amid reports that CAR’s government, failing to keep a lid on its own troubles, is in talks with Joseph Kony, the fugitive warlord of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to surrender after more than two decades on the run.
Mr Fabius’s warnings echo those of the United Nations and other agencies in recent days, with the UN chief Ban Ki-moon calling for the urgent deployment of 6,000 UN peacekeepers to the diamond-rich country to bolster a force of 2,500 African soldiers that has proved largely ineffectual in curbing the violence. The UN Security Council is to vote next month on whether to dispatch UN and French troops to the strife-torn country. The US, though, has been more cautious in its assessment, terming the situation in CAR as “pre-genocidal”. It has pledged $40m (£25m) to bolster the African troops there, saying it does not yet see the need for UN peacekeepers.
Some of the world’s biggest broadcasters on Friday urged the UN Security Council to take greater action over the killing of journalists in conflict zones.
The organisations including the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Japan’s NHK said the dangers facing their reporters were making it difficult to provide accurate news from some corners of the world.
[...] The statement was also issued on behalf of the Broadcasting Board of Governors from the United States, France Medias Monde, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and Germany’s Deutsche Welle.
It cited the deaths of journalists this year in Mali, Egypt, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Mexico, plus increasing numbers of arrests and violence towards journalists in Yemen.
The US has not paid its dues to UNESCO due to the decision by world governments to make Palestine a UNESCO member in 2011. Israel suspended its dues at the same time and also lost voting rights on Friday.
Under UNESCO rules, the US had until Friday morning to resume funding or explain itself, or it automatically loses its vote. A UNESCO official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the issue, said nothing was received from either the US or Israel.
U.S.-Russian plans for a long-delayed summit on Syria appeared to collapse Tuesday, with the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria suggesting that the opposition’s perpetual disarray was to blame for the failure to begin negotiations on a political settlement to the conflict.
U.N. and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi spoke at a news conference in Geneva, where U.S., Russian and U.N. officials met in hopes of a breakthrough that would allow them to announce a date for a “Geneva 2 conference,” so called because it builds on an earlier framework for talks to end the war that’s raged for more than two years, with a death toll beyond 100,000.
No such agreement was reached, however, and Brahimi strongly suggested that the onus lay on the Syrian Opposition Coalition, which has been unable to resolve its internal differences and assemble what Brahimi called a “credible delegation” to meet with members of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. He said the United States, Russia and the U.N. would meet again Nov. 25 to assess progress after scheduled opposition meetings, though he appeared skeptical of the opposition’s ability to do even that. “I don’t know whether they’ll meet or not,” he said.
Using strikingly blunt language for a veteran diplomat, Brahimi declared the opposition “not ready.” “They’re divided; it’s no secret to anybody,” he said.
- Syria opposition says no to peace talks without Assad exit (Daily Star)
- Syria rebel groups brand Geneva talks ‘treason’ (AFP)
- U.N. envoy says no preconditions for Syria peace talks (Reuters)
- Syria Vice PM Fired Over Secret Meeting With US Envoy (Antiwar)
- Al-Qaeda Complicates Syria Peace Talks (Antiwar)
- Assad compares Syria war to Algeria conflict (AFP)
- UN envoy warns of ‘Somalisation’ of Syria (The National)
- Damascus, rebels coordinate to let 1,800 civilians flee siege (Reuters)
- Damascus says ‘only Syrians’ will choose leader (AFP)
The United Nations estimates that around 9.3 million people in Syria or about 40 percent of the population need humanitarian assistance due to the country’s 2-1/2-year civil war, the U.N. humanitarian office said on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate rapidly and inexorably,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors, according to her spokeswoman Amanda Pitt.
“The number of people we estimate to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria has now risen to some 9.3 million,” Pitt said, summarizing Amos’ remarks to the 15-nation council. “Of them, 6.5 million people are displaced from their homes, within the country.”
The population of Syria is around 23 million.
- Watchdog: More than 120,000 killed in Syria war (AP)
- From England, one man feeds Western media on Syria (AP)
- Largest camp for Syrian refugees becoming a city (AP)
- Cost of hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan $5.3 bn (AFP)
- Minister: Syria war costs industry $2.2 billion (AFP)
- Polio outbreak in Syria threatens whole region, WHO says (Reuters)
- Syria: Foreign Jihadis Said Responsible for Polio (AP)
- On Zaatari’s Street of Widows, Syria refugees survive on kindness (Al Jazeera)
There’s absolutely no evidence to back the allegation, and indeed ample evidence in the form of reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the contrary, but the US is still expressing “skepticism” about Syria’s chemical disarmament.
It was US demands that led the UN Security Council to set artificially early deadlines for several stages of the disarmament, and the OPCW has confirmed Syria has met every single one with time to spare.
- Syrian chemical weapons mission funded only until end of month (Reuters)
- Strange silence on success in removing Syria’s chemical weapons (Washington Post)
- Chemical arms experts hail cooperation from Syria (Press TV)
- UN report on chemical weapon use in Syria delayed until early December (HRI)
- A Critique of the Report of the UN Mission to Investigate the Use of Sarin in Damascus (Denis R. O’Brien)
- Vince Cable refuses to name firms that tried to export chemicals to Syria (Independent)
In a world where budgets are tight, and bottom lines daunting, it makes sense that governments around the world have to do more with less, or they just have to do less. Surprisingly, one part of the state apparatus that most countries seem happy to outsource is one of its most fundamental—security. At home, cash-strapped American cities, and even communities, are turning to private forces to protect public order. And a report out of the UN on Monday shows that the private security industry is experiencing a global economic boom that many of its customers would love—the shadowy industry is growing at 7.4 percent a year and is on target to balloon to a $244 billion global market by 2016.
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the world’s biggest spender on private security, totaling $138 billion a year, thanks in large part to a spike in demand during the concurrent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the report, last year the Pentagon spent $44 billion on mercenaries in the two countries combined and in 2011 the U.S. spent $3 billion alone on a five-year deal for private protection for the U.S. embassy building in Baghdad. But, as the American military presence diminishes, much of the outsourced security work is transitioning to police work, with protection of oil company assets abroad also on the rise.
Outside of war zones, contractors have flocked to the perilous shipping routes off the Somali coast that are particularly high risk because of pirates. More than 140 private companies now patrol those waters. The ongoing shift towards private forces poses huge regulatory issues, particularly the registering and licensing of private contractors and the absence of internationally binging legal codes, according to the report. The UN itself is a major employer of private security firms and the report warned “there is a risk that, without proper standards and oversight, the outsourcing of security functions by the United Nations to private companies could have a negative effect on the image and effectiveness of the United Nations in the field.”
Syria’s declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, the international watchdog says.
This comes a day before the deadline set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The weapons have been placed under seal, an OPCW spokesman said.
The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly for the 22nd time to condemn the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, whose foreign minister said the American policy in place since 1959 was barbaric and amounted to genocide.
There were 188 votes for the non-binding resolution, entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” in the 193-nation General Assembly.
The only country that joined the United States in voting against the resolution was Israel.
One of India’s largest newspapers – The Hindu – reports:
Most of Brazil’s global internet traffic passes through the United States, so [the Brazilian] government plans to lay underwater fiber optic cable directly to Europe and also link to all South American nations to create what it hopes will be a network free of US eavesdropping.
A consortium of telecom and undersea cable companies competing for the contracts for the proposed BRICS cable show what they think the project should look like:
(BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.)
The BRICS countries have the muscle to pull this off. Each of the BRICS countries are in the top 25 largest economies in the world. China has the world’s 2nd largest economy, India is 3rd, Russia 6th, Brazil 7th, and South Africa 25th.
As Reuters notes:
- * The BRICS countries make up 21 percent of global GDP. They have increased their share of global GDP threefold in the past 15 years.
- * The BRICS are home to 43 percent of the world’s population.
- * The BRICS countries have combined foreign reserves of an estimated $4.4 trillion.
- * Intra-BRICS trade flows reached $282 billion in 2012 and are estimated to reach $500 billion by 2015. In 2002, it was $27.3 billion.
- * IMF estimates of GDP per member in 2012, China $8.25 trillion, Brazil $2.43 trillion, Russia and India at $1.95 trillion each, South Africa $390.9 billion.
Economic powerhouse Germany is also rolling out a system that would keep all data within Germany’s national borders.
Despite all the news accounts and punditry since the New York Timespublished its Dec. 16 bombshell about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying, the media coverage has made virtually no mention of the fact that the Bush administration used the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq.
That spying had nothing to do with protecting the United States from a terrorist attack. The entire purpose of the NSA surveillance was to help the White House gain leverage, by whatever means possible, for a resolution in the U.N. Security Council to green light an invasion. When that surveillance was exposed nearly three years ago, the mainstream U.S. media winked at Bush’s illegal use of the NSA for his Iraq invasion agenda.
An international conference aimed at ending Syria’s civil war is planned for Nov. 23, the head of the Arab League said Sunday, although U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the date had yet to be finalized and that peace talks would not be held “without a credible opposition.”
For months, the United States and Russia have been working to bring the Damascus government and Syria’s divided opposition to Geneva to discuss a political solution to the civil war, but the meeting has been repeatedly postponed. Even now, it remains unclear whether either side is willing to negotiate while the conflict, now in its third year, remains deadlocked.
The main Western-backed opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, is scheduled to meet on Nov. 1 to decide whether or not to attend the proposed Geneva conference. One of the most prominent factions within the Coalition, the Syrian National Council, has said it had no faith in such talks and wouldn’t attend.
Many rebel fighters on the ground have flatly refused to negotiate with the regime. The government, meanwhile, has refused to talk with the armed opposition.
A bipartisan group of 50 senators have warned US President Barack Obama that they will not ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty signed last month by Secretary of State John Kerry. The lawmakers, who comprise half of the Senate, signed on to a letter this week that expressed concern that ratifying the treaty could limit America’s ability to provide military aid to Israel.
Fifty senators, including all 45 Senate Republicans and Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR), listed a number of reasons for their opposition to the treaty, including that “the State Department has acknowledged that the treaty includes language that could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel.”
The treaty prohibits a state from trading arms if “it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a party.”
States are also required to assess whether recipients are likely to “commit or facilitate a serious violation” of international humanitarian or human rights law and whether the arms deal could “contribute to or undermine peace or security.” Those clauses – and the range of interpretations that they afford – are at the heart of the critique.
In their letter, the senators said they “urge” Obama “to notify the treaty depository that the US does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations.”
The senators complained that the treaty failed to achieve consensus, and was adopted instead by majority vote in the UN General Assembly. According to the senators, this “violates the red line drawn by the Obama Administration.”
A new report from a special U.N. investigator says drone strikes have killed far more civilians than U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged – at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen – and chides the U.S. for failing to aid the investigation by disclosing its own figures.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who issued the “interim” report, said the U.S. had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”
“The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data of this kind,” wrote Emmerson in the report, which is due to be presented to the U.N. General Assembly next Friday.
U.S. intelligence officials have consistently downplayed the number of civilian deaths from drone strikes. In a June 2011 speech, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, who is now CIA director, said that “for nearly the past year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency [and] precision” of U.S. counter-terror strikes.
Later, the CIA acknowledged some civilian casualties, but told Congress that they were in the “single digits,” according to a February 2013 statement by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein, D.-Calif.
In a major speech on drone strikes this May, President Obama openly acknowledged civilian deaths, saying “they will haunt us for as long as we live” — but didn’t provide any hard numbers or estimates.