By John Glaser
February 20, 2013

One of the things itching the people who demand more transparency and accountability in Obama’s drone war is that the secrecy of the program means that the government doesn’t publicly release casualty estimates. This has led to a number of journalistic and think-tank organizations to do their due diligence and come up with their own estimates with their own methodologies. Even United Nations special rapporteur Ben Emmerson is in the beginning stages of an investigation into drone deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.

But none of this means the government doesn’t maintain their own, classified casualty estimates.

Micah Zenko, at his CFR blog, caught an obscure statement Sen. Lindsey Graham made yesterday during a speech at the Easley Rotary Club in Easley, South Carolina. Graham issued the boilerplate defense of the drone war and then might have let something slip.

Graham then added: “We’ve killed 4,700. Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.” His estimate of the death toll of suspected terrorists and militants by U.S. nonbattlefield targeted killings is higher than any other reported.My report, Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies, compiled the averages found within the ranges provided by New America Foundation, Long War Journal, and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and produced a number about 1,200 fewer.

Read more