A freedom of information act request filed by NBC 7 seeking information about the location of drone strikes, their targets, and collateral damage from March 2017 to March 2018 was denied by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The request was filed in the public interest in an attempt to maintain transparency on a controversial paramilitary tactic.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March 2017 that President Donald Trump gave the CIA new authority to carry out drone strikes. Under the previous administration’s policy, the CIA was only permitted to use intelligence gathering to locate potential targets and then turn that information over to the Pentagon who would then carry out the strike.
The Pentagon is required under most circumstances to disclose airstrikes. The CIA, however, is allowed broader restrictions in matters of national security.
The United States drone program began under President George W. Bush and was expanded under President Obama. In July of 2017, the United States accepted responsibility for 116 civilian deaths in drone strikes.
Officials at intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House told NBC News in September 2017 that the Trump administration had desires to expand the CIA’s authority to conduct drone strikes in countries the United States was both at war with and ones they are not. And CIA director Mike Pompeo has pushed for more authority to carry out drone strikes.
In the CIA’s response to NBC 7’s request, the CIA stated they can “neither confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request.” It goes on to say that the information requested is properly classified.
The responsive letter also cites an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 as a reason for not disclosing the requested information.
That order states the following:
“This order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism. Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government. Also, our Nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the Government and to the American people. Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required that certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, our homeland security, and our interactions with foreign nations.”