The More You Know About Drones

Drone strikes and deaths, visualized


like an old school dos game
Pitch Interactive

The more Americans know about drones, the less they like them, Cato vice president Gene Healy pointed out here at Reason.com earlier today in a piece surveying the national conversation on drones in the wake of Senator Rand Paul's 13 hour filibuster on the issue. A large component of the criticism is the secrecy (it doesn't exist) and lack of transparency (trust us, it works) surrounding the policymaking. Healy notes the DC circuit's ruling that the Obama administration shouldn't stonewall the ACLU's drone-related FOIA requests. Nevertheless, despite the attempts to obfuscate U.S. drone policy and its consequences, quite a bit of information is available. And on that front, Pitch Interactive, a self-described data visualization studio, has done an incredible job at, what else, helping visualize drone policy with the data available. They present "the story of every known drone strike and victim in Pakistan" in slideshow form. Partial screen cap's on the right and the link to the whole thing's here. Data set comes via the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and here are some caveats via Dave Weigel at Slate and a Reddit thread.

NEXT: MD Senate Votes To Brush Aside Speed Camera Errors

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hating drones is as stupid as hating guns.

    1. Should cops have armed drones?

      1. SWAT should under special circumstances. After SWATs are reformed and actually made professional again.

        1. The NEW New Professionalism!

        2. You may as well wait for the police to be run by archangels as well before I trust law enforcement with explosive missiles.

          1. Or incendiary devices!

            /M.O.V.E survivor

    2. I see nothing wrong with drones per-se. My issue is with like guns. How they’re used.

      I don’t think either should be banned, but I do think government shouldn’t be watching my every move with them.

    3. Remember that magical period of time when everyone was telling me how important it is to win hearts and minds? I wonder how many hearts and minds are won by impersonal drone strikes in a country we aren’t at war with.

      1. They were wrong and foolish regarding hearts and minds. You win victory by crushing an enemy populace not hugging them. Fear not love.

        1. What if your enemy isn’t a populace or a country? Not every war is WWII

          1. If a populace supports an enemy, they are the enemy.

            1. Not all the populace supports them. There’s even a documented case of us drone striking a civilian who was explicitly against them.

            2. Which doesn’t really apply here. As I said, this isn’t WWII, despite how much supporters of the status quo foreign policy wish every war was WWII

              1. Why doesn’t it apply here? If a population supports the enemy they are the enemy.

                1. Because the population as a whole doesn’t support the enemy in any way comparable to say, how the population of Germany or Japan supported their countries’ militaries in WWII

        2. Except we’re not at war with the entire populace, we haven’t even declared war in those countries.

          1. We’re not at war with those countries. The enemy is AQ/the Taliban. For the millionth time.

            1. We’re not at war with the populace either.

            2. Calling the Taliban the enemy was the first mistake. That little decision sealed our fate IMO.

              1. WTF? The Taliban was and is absolutely an enemy. Sheltering the enemy is to be the enemy.

                1. No, AQ was the enemy. A small portion supported AQ. Most probably had no idea AQ was even in their country. Don’t get me wrong, they were lowlife, nutjob, religious, zealots with no regard for human rights, but they weren’t the reason we went there. Making them the enemy ensured we could never win that war. Afghanistan is not ANYTHING like any country you’ve ever imagined. It’s tribal. They do not understand war and government like we do. Ask the Rooskies.

                  Trying to install our system of government is like trying to teach a monkey to do your taxes.

                  1. “Trying to install our system of government is like trying to teach a monkey to do your taxes.”

                    We take the gravest offense at that remark!

                    /Mr. I.R. Gibbon, Tax Specialist, H&R Macaque

      2. Actually, bombing with drones probably reduces collateral damage and mistakes when compared to bombing with aircraft. They can loiter forever, watching the target, providing a more positive identification of the target and providing a better chance to catch the target farther away from innocents. And using Hellfire missiles as opposed to dropping 500 pound bombs greatly reduces the blast radius.

        You can debate the right or wrong of the strikes themselves, but using drones over aircraft spares lives.

        1. Uh, he IS debating the right or wrong of the strikes themselves, PLUS the fear factor that comes from the unmanned aircraft. And don’t say that we could do the same thing with piloted aircraft, they can’t stay out near as long.

          1. The topic was hearts and minds. My point is, if Obama didn’t have drones, he’d likely be using aircraft and killing even more.


            We can do the same thing with piloted aircraft. The B-1 has flown missions upwards of 20 hours. Tankers. It’s just more uncomfortable.

            1. Yeah, hearts and minds. Doesn’t matter as much what he uses as what he does with it. But unmanned drones are a lot easier to do that with.

              Missions upwards of 20 hours? Sure. Keeping drones in the skies at any time day and night? It probably wouldn’t happen. The technology (drones) just makes this a lot easier and cheaper to do.

              1. Yep. It’s easier, cheaper and less collateral damage.

                Does making war easier and more sterile make war more likely? Probably. OTOH, it also makes it less likely our guys are killed (which I’m for BTW). I’d simply rather it was a last resort than a first or second, which is where we are today. Too easy and the fact that there are fewer US body bags makes the shitbags in DC more likely to support it.

              2. Should be “keeping planes in the skies”.

            2. Actually he’d probably be doing it less. The people we’re droning aren’t particularly high value targets, just high profile. Generally speaking, if we’re not willing to capture ’em then, in the old days, we wouldn’t spend the expense of a manned aircraft to kill them.

              These guys are getting droned because its cheap, not because they’re real threats.

    4. Yeah, nothing says retarded like fighting for privacy.

      1. What about the freedom to fly your own drone wherever you want?

        1. That ends when you violate other people’s privacy. And the government doesn’t have rights like individuals do.

    5. Yep.

      Ed Krayewski is an imbecile though.

      1. Every Reason writer needs their own personal troll. Gillespie has SIV, Krayewski has Lyle. Dalmia has all the yokeltarians. Wonder who Welch will get?

        1. The Jacket brooks no trolling!

  2. “But this study should be taken with a grain of salt, as this Reddit thread points out. The Pitch Interactive project estimates that 22.9 percent of those who’ve been killed in Pakistan by drone strikes were civilians. To put that in perspective, the Iraq Body Count project estimates that more than 60 percent of those killed in Iraq since 2003 were civilians.”

    That’s their caveat in the Slate Article. Bush did it worse. Not only that, but they ignore the fact that a huge number of civilians killed in Iraq were killed in direct targeted attacks by terrorist organizations, whereas the 22.9 percent of civilians listed by Pitch Interactive were all killed directly by America. The Obama administration also considers any ‘able bodied male’ over a certain age to be an enemy combatant, so a good portion of the ‘other’ category is unquestionably going to be civilians who just happened to be of an age range and gender that conveniently allowed them to be claimed as enemy combatants.

    Never change Slate. Boots won’t lick themselves.

    1. I like how he uses anonymous commenters on reddit as a source, too. Well, I guess if some random person on the internet says it, then that makes it ok.

  3. The Obama administration also considers any ‘able bodied male’ over a certain age to be an enemy combatant,

    That is bullshit.

    I’m no Obama fan, but that phrase was uttered as sarcasm and has somehow been twisted into fact.


    1. I realize it’s Esquire, and they aren’t exactly known for quality reporting.


      “My understanding is that able-bodied males of military age are considered fair game,” says the former administration official, “if they’re in the proximity of a known militant.”

      I haven’t seen any evidence to contradict this. When was it initially uttered as sarcasm? I can’t find that online.

      1. Then they are not being targeted, the known militant is. What it is saying is, feel free to drop on the militant if he’s surrounded by able-bodied males of military age.

        That is MORE restrictive than the LOAC. Under the LOAC, you can drop on military targets knowing full well that you will kill civilians in the process. You don’t think they wouldn’t drop on a ball bearing plant, making parts for airplanes (it’s all ball bearings these days) just because there are civilians working there do you? We elect not to, in most cases (depending upon the priority of the target) because it can be used as propaganda, but it’s perfectly legal under the LOAC. All that is required of the target is that it be deemed of military necessity. You do realize the first night of any conflict they take out communications and power grids. You think there are no civilians in those buildings? Military necessity.

        Targeting “able-bodied males of military age” specifically would be a war crime and no US officer would allow it.

        War is messy and immoral. Don’t do it.

        1. Where did he state that they were the ones being targeted? That wasn’t his point at all

          1. *I’m referring to Irish

          2. His two posts said two entirely different things.

            In the first:

            The Obama administration also considers any ‘able bodied male’ over a certain age to be an enemy combatant

            And the second:

            “My understanding is that able-bodied males of military age are considered fair game,” says the former administration official, “if they’re in the proximity of a known militant.”

            (emphasis mine)

            The first is a war crime. The second is ROE as there is a legitimate target involved.

            The first is not happening. The second may be, and is completely legal.

            1. Waving the bloody rage comes before truth.

            2. I think he was just pointing out that the civilian body count has been lowballed by the Obama administration because if you kill a militant and there are able bodied men around they’re “considered” militants in the body count by default instead of civilian collateral damage.

              1. Are they wearing the same type clothes and talking in the same language as the terrorist suspects? Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck,….

            3. It’s not clear what exactly the quote is saying, as the context in the article implies that the administration does not count any able-bodied male of military age around a militant as collateral damage.

              “The second is ROE as there is a legitimate target involved.”

              Outside of Afghanistan and maybe Pakistan, given that most of these targets, are at best, people that may or may not be plotting to eventually attack Americans, and are not an imminent threat, I don’t think they count as a legitimate target that justifies the collateral damage any more than cops opening fire on a guy suspected of plotting a murder, and killing bystanders in the process, would be justified. Outside of a real war zone, the strikes are not legal. I think it’s just a bit of a stretch to include Yemen as a war zone. And of course if we withdrew our troops from Afghanistan, the ability of most of the people we’re fighting to harm Americans would be either eliminated or severely reduced.

              1. Cali

                I agree with all points except one.

                I don’t think they count as a legitimate target that justifies the collateral damage any more than cops opening fire on a guy suspected of plotting a murder, and killing bystanders in the process, would be justified.

                1. There is a very high probability the people targeted are legitimate military targets. They don’t just fly around, see a bunch of people and drop a bomb on them. They watch them until they can prove they are up to no good. Are they going to ram airplanes into skyscrapers. No. But they are for sure working against our “war effort”. That makes them legitimate targets.

                Now are they worth the time, effort, cost? Is there any real ROI? I doubt it.

                2. The military killing bystanders and the police killing bystanders are two completely different matters. Both are immoral, but one is legal (with the proper declaration of war) and the other is not.

                1. You’re assuming they watch until they have proof and there’s a high probability. We have no idea what their actual evidentiary criteria are, and considering the way they talk about it I’m not trusting that’s what they actually do.

                  And I don’t think it being war should make a difference as to civilian deaths, at least not in the sort of war we wage. If this were an actual war of defense, some case could actually be made (though I’m still not sure I’d agree with it). The sort of war this is, civilian deaths are unwarranted.

                  1. I’m not assuming. I’ve watched the live feeds. I’ve had buds who worked in the CAOC. There is a lawyer there at all times to advise the JFACC. They take this shit deadly seriously.

                    I know you guys don’t trust that, nor probably should you, but I would testify to it in a court of law.

                    There are real reasons things are classified. You cannot let your enemy know your capabilities, otherwise they work around them, negating all the money you spent to come up with it. You can’t let your enemy know what you know about their capabilities, they will devise new shit. You cannot reveal your intelligence sources, they may be killed or at the very least be rendered useless. If you reveal your targeting criteria, they will find work-arounds to your methods. You must certainly keep your attack plans secret.

                    There’s a difference between military secrets and a lack of transparency within a governing organization designed to conceal political strategy. I have NEVER, in my 20 years in the military, seen something classified in order to cover up an injustice.

                    I don’t expect many of you to believe that, and maybe that’s a healthy check upon the system, but on my devotion to liberty, it is the truth.

                    Sorry, if that sounded kinda sappy.

                    1. “There is a lawyer there at all times to advise the JFACC.”

                      Well that’s reassuring

                    2. You realize that the entire case that the military used as a test of the “state secrets” doctrine was complete BS, right?

                      I mean the foundation that allows them to classify information from even the courts is based on lies.


                    3. The sub link to the video doesn’t work.

                    4. It works fine for me. There’s an audio player to click on at the link location.

                    5. Thanks. Looking in the wrong place.

                    6. That “proves” nothing.

                      I’m not saying the AF didn’t make a false claim. It is entirely possible. But it’s also entirely possible there was secret information to be gleaned from the report and 50 years later the people reviewing the report simply had no way of knowing what information was classified. If it was a navigation test, it could very well have been the route itself could have revealed, to the trained eye, the nature of the test flight.

                      No way of knowing.

                      I get it. You don’t like secrets. Sorry, you cannot fight a war or even train to fight a war without them.

                    7. I get it. You like war, and you aren’t really interested in what you have to suppress to fight one.

                    8. I despise war.

                    9. You realize that they didn’t even attempt to make that case, right?

                      They said the secrets were so sensitive that even the judges couldn’t see it.

                      The real reason, and the reports revealed this, was the equipment was prone to malfunction and the guvmint didn’t want to be on the hook for the liability.

                2. FDA, I’m explicitly disputing the fact that, outside of Afghanistan and maybe Pakistan, and even then, only because we have large numbers of soldiers there (and given the strikes in Yemen and elsewhere, it seems obvious that the administration doesn’t believe that to be a necessary precondition), we are in a state of war with the people we’re targeting. Some guy in Yemen that hates the USA, joins a local militia, and may possibly hypothetically someday attack the US is not at war with America IMO. Terrorism is ultimately a crime, and a war on a tactic (like Terror) is just as doomed to failure as the Wars on Drugs and Poverty are. And legitimizing the way the WOT is being fought is shredding what is left of the BOR.

                  1. No argument on any of that. I don’t think he has any authority to strike anyone outside of Iraq and Afghanistan UNLESS he can show a direct link to 9-11. Being a terrorist isn’t enough under the AUMF. You must show they were involved (past tense) in 9-11. And even these are dubious at best as they are authorizations for force rather than declarations of war. (I suppose it could be argued they are the same, and I’d entertain that if someone actually proposed it). The AUMF doesn’t give him the authority to kill every terrorist in the world.

                    1. Then why was Al-Awliki killed, they’ve never presented any evidence that he was involved in 9-11?

                    2. IMO, he shouldn’t have been until tried for treason in absentia.

                    3. Because FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!

              2. I think it’s just a bit of a stretch to include Yemen as a war zone.

                Don’t forget Algeria and the Philippines.

    2. “I’m no Obama fan, but that phrase was uttered as sarcasm and has somehow been twisted into fact.”

      Yeah, it’s only the dead ones who count. It’s like Vietnam that way.

  4. Barack Obama has killed more children than Adam Lanza.

    1. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have an AR-15.

  5. We’ve been fighting wars against organized crime in this country for a very long time. If drone technology existed and the U.S. Government had been using them to take out Capone, Luciano, Gotti, etc, etc what do you think the public opinion would be with the same kind of collateral damage here as in that chart? I’m sure the public be ok with because killing hundreds of American children with drones to take out our enemies is vastly superior to killing millions by carpet bombing Chicago and New York.

    1. The American people need an aha moment like the jurors in the final courtroom scene in A View to a Kill. “Now imagine the little girl is white”.

      1. I didn’t think James Bond movies typically had courtroom scenes.

        1. Maybe he’s referring to A Time to Kill?

          1. Yeah, I just felt like being a prick.

            I knew what he meant because ATtK is the only Grisham movie I’ve seen and I still remember Matthew McGarnacle’s moving speech at the end.

            1. ……And now, revisiting its IMDB page I’m reminded the old guy from Braveheart and Scanners played a character named Judge Omar Noose? Really?

  6. http://www.guns.com/2013/03/22…..37-photos/

    I so joined the wrong Army.

    1. What a lucky bastard in the first picture.

    2. Yeah, that almost makes me want to go visit Israel.

      1. That is one nice booty too.

        1. I saw that one. Wow!

      2. Love the white girl booty, but that brown-skinned girl on the left is beautiful

    3. 5th pic down: they are trained to go prone!

      24th pic: Nice artillery.

  7. Hell: Disabled man stuck on Disneyland’s ‘It’s A Small World’ ride for 3 hours as song plays

    Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/di…..z2OhQc6rYU

    1. I suspect this was some sort of secret CIA test, like when they randomly drugged people in the 1950’s.

  8. All I know is as a licensed pilot, the thought of unmanned drones in public airspace really scares me!


    1. Really? I thought it would be right up an anonbot’s alley.

      “Can you believe it? Sally god paid $7453 a month for remote drone-piloting on her computer!


      1. do I get to pick the targets?

    1. You’re not really making your case here. With stuff like this, you’ll just misguide the populace into thinking Warty’s harmless and should be set free. Then where would we be?

      1. This time he was caught within a few minutes.
        This time.

  9. OT: Amash makes the libertarian case for private marriage.

    “My view has always been that government should not be in the business of defining or redefining marriage,” Amash said. “I see it as a private issue. I personally see it as a religious issue.”
    “To be clear, I don’t support having marriage be part of the law, whether it’s for any of the particular benefits you’re talking about,” he said. “I would try to make the law marriage neutral.”

    1. Hope and change?

      I think we are at the cusp. If libertarian ideals have a chance within my lifetime, the opportunity is right now.

      Maybe just wishful thinking?

      1. The push for gay marriage has nothing to do with libertarianism. It’s all about making the state recognize gay marriage, thereby forcing clergy to recognize gay marriage.

        1. Except it wouldn’t make clergy recognize or officiate marriages.

          1. I seem to remember Canada having some awkward lawsuits a few years back on the topic that American conservatives were freaking out about. I don’t remember the case off hand though.

        2. Who cares? More liberty. Representatives pushing libertarian ideals (get government OUT of marriage). Good.

        3. No one, to my knowledge, has tried to force clergy yet. And that speaks more to our bullshit discrimination laws than anything else.

          1. It happened in Denmark. It can happen elsewhere.

            1. The Denmark example is bullshit in relation to the US. The law only applies to the established state church.

              Since the Reformation in Denmark?Norway and Holstein, the church has been Evangelical Lutheran and Denmark’s state church with the Danish monarch as its supreme authority. The 1848 Constitution of Denmark designated the church “the Danish people’s church”. The church is financially supported by the state, but membership is voluntary.

              It does not apply to non-state-sponsored clergy.

  10. A draw at Azteca may be in the works!

    1. jinx

      1. USA! USA!

        1. Shocking result. And by that, I mean that the referee made it out of there without someone putting a bullet in his head.

          I mean, holy shit was that second missed penalty a penalty.

          Oh, well. [waves American flag]

          1. I can be pretty objective even about my own teams but I feel no sympathy for Mexico. CONCACAF qualifiers are as dirty as it gets and everybody has played dirty at some point.

      2. I will say that Mexico should have been given 1.5 penalties though.

        Very happy that Omar Gonzalez is turning into a legit central defender.

  11. How much would an advertising blitz cost to get every single Goldman Sachs investor to dump their shares during the last 10 days of September? It would be worth it just to see Warren Buffett take a beating.


  12. OT: something interesting is going on. This is the second article bringing up “issues” with Obamacare (I sent a link about the other one to hitandrun(at)reason(dot)com, but I got an automated reply that Jacob Sullum is away until Thursday).

    Little hope seen for millions priced out of health overhaul

    The other one:

    Some healthcare costs may rise when “Obamacare” implemented: official

  13. At least 1984 finally arrived. The suspense was killing me.

    1. Just wait until 2032 when they thaw out John Spartan. Things are gonna get crazy.

  14. 1 We already have laws on the books at the federal & state level that deal with criminality. There’s hundreds of years of case law for federal & state criminal to reference cogent decision making on charging, prosecution, investigation, enforcement, etc.

    2 We were previously ruled by a tyrannical king (King George of Britain) that made us enshrine our God-given rights. That’s the Bill of Rights & the Declaration of Independence. These documents are timeless & were just as necessary to be proclaimed & taught to all today as they were then. Just so happens that right after you fight the good fight & have a Revolution well then you tend to have a greater appreciation & respect for them when you watch the blood of your enemies as well as your friends & family members spill on the ground in order to protect & claim them for yourself.

    3 There are zero clauses, situations or consequences that allow for any level of any organization at any point of time even receiving an inkling from the President or the Executive Branch cabinet making lethal drone strikes on US citizens. There’s zero blow-back for striking innocent bystanders near the drone targets. Most important, if you know anything about drone strikes, repeat ANYTHING, they have a success rate 10% in every single kill they make when it comes to killing only the main target & killing or injuring no other innocent bystanders. AGAIN 90% of ALL DRONE ATTACKS produce innocent bystander deaths.


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.