Air Force erases drone strike data amid criticisms

Quietly and without much notice, the Air Force has reversed its policy of publishing statistics on drone strikes in Afghanistan as the debate about drone warfare hits a fever pitch in Washington. In addition, it has erased previously published drone strike statistics from its website. Since October, the Air Force had been providing monthly updates ...

612658_1633560182.jpg
612658_1633560182.jpg
<> on March 7, 2013 in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Quietly and without much notice, the Air Force has reversed its policy of publishing statistics on drone strikes in Afghanistan as the debate about drone warfare hits a fever pitch in Washington. In addition, it has erased previously published drone strike statistics from its website.

Since October, the Air Force had been providing monthly updates on drone strikes -- or in its words "weapons releases from remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)." But today, Air Force Times reporters Brian Everstine and Aaron Mehta discovered something was amiss: The statistics published for February "contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been." In other words: The drone strike data was gone. But that's not all. The Air Force had also scrubbed drone strike data from earlier monthly reports. In the graphic below, we've provided a before and after of the Air Force reports:

Quietly and without much notice, the Air Force has reversed its policy of publishing statistics on drone strikes in Afghanistan as the debate about drone warfare hits a fever pitch in Washington. In addition, it has erased previously published drone strike statistics from its website.

Since October, the Air Force had been providing monthly updates on drone strikes — or in its words “weapons releases from remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).” But today, Air Force Times reporters Brian Everstine and Aaron Mehta discovered something was amiss: The statistics published for February “contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been.” In other words: The drone strike data was gone. But that’s not all. The Air Force had also scrubbed drone strike data from earlier monthly reports. In the graphic below, we’ve provided a before and after of the Air Force reports:

So why the change in policy? 

The Pentagon told Air Force Times it had nothing to do with the change, while Air Force Central Command didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Everstine and Mehta point out that the timing of the changes is a tad suspicious given recent actions by a certain Kentucky senator:

On Feb. 20, two days before the metadata indicates the scrubbed files were created, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sent a letter to Brennan saying that he would filibuster the nomination over concerns about using RPA strikes inside the U.S., a threat he carried out for over 12 hours on March 6 (Brennan was confirmed the next day).

That same day, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., told a crowd in South Carolina that strikes by American RPAs have killed 4,700 people.

Coincidence?

More from Foreign Policy

A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now

The president successfully preserved the status quo for two decades. Suddenly, he’s turned into a destroyer.

A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa
A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe

Leading lawmaker calls on Biden to address Zimbabwe’s “dire” authoritarian turn after the incident.

Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.
Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.

Putin’s Energy War Is Crushing Europe

The big question is whether it ends up undermining support for Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.

A Crisis of Faith Shakes the United Nations in Its Big Week

From its failure to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine to its inaction on Myanmar and climate change, the institution is under fire from all sides.