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New Evidence Reveals U.S. Has Used Drones to Target Rescue Workers and Funerals in Pakistan

A report found that since President Obama took office between 282 and 535 civilians have been reported as killed in Pakistan, including more than 60 children.

AMY GOODMAN: The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to rescue victims or were attending funerals. So concludes a new  report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It found, since President Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been reported as killed, including more than 60 children. The investigation also revealed at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.

The report was published days after President Obama defended his administration’s use of armed drones during a "virtual interview" conducted last week via Google+ and YouTube. He also acknowledged the United States was carrying out drone strikes inside Pakistan. President Obama made the comments after he was asked how he feels about the large number of civilians killed by these drones since he took office.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to make sure that people understand, actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they have been very precise precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates. And we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied. So, I think that there’s this perception somehow that we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly. This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on. It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, discussing the drones program in a virtual interview.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a case last week to force the Obama administration to release legal and intelligence records related to the targeted killing of U.S. citizens in drone attacks in Yemen last year. The lawsuit charged the Justice and Defense Departments and the CIA with illegally failing to respond to requests made in October under the Freedom of Information Act.

To find out more about drone strikes, we go to London to speak to the lead author of the Bureau report. Chris Woods is an award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. He leads the Bureau’s drones investigation team.

Talk about your research and exactly what you found, Chris.

CHRIS WOODS: We’ve been looking at this since August of last year. When we were putting together our massive database on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, we noted that there were repeated reports at the time, contemporaneous reports in publications like the New York Times, news agencies like Reuters, by CNN, that there were these strikes on rescuers, that there were reports that there had been an initial strike and then, some minutes later, as people had come forward to help and pull out the dead and injured, that drones had returned to the scene and had attacked rescuers. Now, we didn’t take that at face value when we began a major investigation, that’s been ongoing for many months now, that we just published in conjunction with the London Sunday Times, where we looked at those 18 original reports, and we’ve been able to confirm, through our researchers on the ground in Waziristan, that a dozen of those attacks on rescuers, and also two attacks on funerals, have taken place in Waziristan. And we’ve been able to name just over 50 civilians that we understand have been killed in those attacks. In total, we think that more than 75 civilians have been killed, specifically in these attacks on rescuers and on mourners, on funeral-goers.

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