The Bureau of Investigative Justice (BIJ) has compiled a list of more than 700 names of people killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan—representing less than a third of known casualties. The BIJ says 323 of those names are of civilians and classifies each victim as a "reported civilian" or "alleged militant," based on interviews conducted in Pakistan and combing through media reports and Pakistani government documents. Of the 323 "reported civilians," 99 are children.
The BIJ explains:
Senior US officials have described drones as highly precise weapons that target and kill enemies of the US. John Brennan, who oversaw the development of the drone campaign and is now director of the CIA, has called drone technology an 'essential tool' for its 'surgical precision – the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumour called an al Qaeda terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it.'
Those killed by drones include high-ranking militant leaders – figures such as Abu Yahya al Libi, al Qaeda's feared second-in-command, or Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP).
But according to credible media reports analysed by the Bureau, the dead also include at least 400 civilians. Some were unlucky enough to be nearby when militants were attacked. Others were killed alongside their husbands or fathers, who were believed to be militants. Still others were mistaken for terrorists by drone operators sitting thousands of miles away.
The U.S. government considers any military-aged (Muslim) male in an area it targets a militant. Even after the drone operations began to be widely reported in the media the U.S. officially considered the program covert. Last year Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged four U.S. citizens had been killed in drone strikes—three in Yemen and one in Pakistan, including Ayman al-Awlaki's teenaged son.
Read an interview with a former drone operator who couldn't participate in killing any more children.
And here's a 2012 Reason TV piece explaining three reasons U.S. drone policy is scary: