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US stops reporting civilian deaths from drone strikes outside war zones

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. The U.S. military is now conducting armed drone flights over Niger, which the country's top defense official says is intimidating local extremists. (U.S Air Force/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

President Donald Trump has revoked a policy requiring U.S. intelligence officials to report civilian deaths in drone strikes outside of war zones.

“This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission,” an administration official said on March 7.

Lawmakers and rights groups criticized Trump’s executive order, saying it could allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes without accountability.

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Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, put the policy in place in 2016 as part of an effort to be more transparent about increasing drone strikes.

It required the CIA, which has carried out drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, to release annual summaries of U.S. drone strikes and assess how many died as a result.

Trump’s executive order does not overturn reporting requirements on civilian deaths set for the U.S. military by Congress.

Drone strikes have been increasingly used by the United States against terror and military targets since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.