The Bureau of Investigative Journalism 
March 2, 2013
Claims by a powerful Senate oversight committee that it is doing its ‘utmost’ to verify claims of civilian casualties from covert US drone strikes have been undermined by the discovery that it has made no contact with any group conducting field studies into civilian deaths in Pakistan.
On February 7 the CIA’s director-designate John Brennan was questioned by members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
In her opening remarks , chair Dianne Feinstein insisted that civilian deaths from US covert strikes ‘each year has typically been in the single digits’.
Feinstein also said that ‘for the past several years, this committee has done significant oversight of the government’s conduct of targeted strikes’ and had done its ‘utmost to confirm’ civilian casualty data provided by the executive branch.
However, the Bureau can find no indication that either the House or Senate intelligence committees have sought evidence from beyond the US intelligence community, when following up claims of civilian deaths.
While public estimates of civilian deaths vary, all monitoring groups report higher than ‘single digit’ fatalities for most years. The Bureau presently estimates that at least 411 civilians have been killed by the CIA in Pakistan since 2004, for example.
Professor Sarah Knuckey, who co-led the recent field investigation  by New York and Stanford universities into the Pakistan strikes, confirmed that her team has never been contacted by any US government official, or Congressional committee member or aide.
‘US officials have stated that they have done their utmost to verify civilian casualty numbers, and that they investigate and take seriously reports of civilian harm. These public commitments are welcome,’ Knuckey told the Bureau.
‘But if the commitments are serious, why haven’t officials followed up with the organizations and journalists who investigated strikes and collected information relevant to determining any civilian harm?’