Every few weeks on Future Tense, we highlight a talk from Drone U in which a leading thinker speaks about what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)
This week, Drone U features a podcast from Alice Ross, a reporter for the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Ross examines the complicated process of investigating and verifying official claims about covert drone strikes by the United States.
Ross recounts the bureau’s work in stitching together data on how many have been killed by covert drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In the absence of transparent and consistent official data, the bureau relies on “open source information” like media reports and human rights reports to determine the number of casualties—a process Ross likens to “constructing a jigsaw puzzle, using pieces from different puzzle sets.” Perhaps the release of a classified Department of Justice memo regarding targeted killing will add yet another piece for the bureau to interpret. (Disclosure: Drone U’s Nabiha Syed was involved with the litigation surrounding the release of the DoJ memo while she was working for the New York Times.)