A predator drone on display at Trapani air base in Italy. (Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum / CC BY-SA 2.0)

In what Ryan Deveraux at The Intercept called “a long-anticipated gesture at transparency,” the Obama administration on Friday released an internal accounting of civilians killed by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. isn’t officially at war.

“According to the data,” Devereaux wrote, “U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya killed between 64 and 116 civilians during the two terms of the Obama administration — a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings catalogued by reporters and researchers over the same period. The government tally also reported 2,372 to 2,581 combatants killed in U.S. airstrikes from January 20, 2009, to December 31, 2015.”

Devereaux skeptically pointed out that the White House released the figures “on a Friday afternoon, on a holiday weekend, after seven years of selective leaks and official secrecy.” President Obama cast the release and an accompanying executive order prioritizing the protection of civilian life in counterterrorism actions as an affirmation of core American principles.

But many in the legal and human rights communities felt the “Friday news dump” failed in particular areas. Devereaux continued:

“It’s hard to credit this death count, which is lower than all independent assessments,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept.

Organizations such as the Long War Journal, the New America Foundation, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimate that at least 200 and as many as 1,000 civilians have been killed by American drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not at war since Obama took office. The administration offered no individualized accounts to explain where its numbers came from, or who the civilian casualties were. Without the government addressing individual cases, disclosing the identities of those killed, or providing detailed information on the investigations undergirding its conclusions, Shamsi contended, little could be done with the disclosures.

“Without key information like this, the public can’t be confident,” she said.

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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