Drone U: Alice Ross of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism discusses covert drone strikes.

Drone U: Investigating Government Claims About Covert Drone Strikes

Drone U: Investigating Government Claims About Covert Drone Strikes

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 21 2014 3:57 PM

Drone U: Investigating Government Claims About Covert Drone Strikes

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.)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Timothy Reuter is co-creator of Drone U and the founder of the D.C. Area Drone User Group. He also works on issues of international development.

Nabiha Syed is a media lawyer in New York and a visiting fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project.  She is the co-founder of DroneU.