The U.S. Senate on Monday killed a measure that would have forced the Obama administration to provide the public with information each year on the number of persons killed or injured overseas in targeted strikes.
Congress’ decision to abandon the measure, which would have been included in a larger intelligence bill, marks the latest in the federal government’s longstanding tradition of keeping information regarding targeted strikes, which are typically carried out by unmanned drones, from the public eye.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a letter to the Senate warned that the measure would compromise U.S. intelligence operations overseas, the New York Times reported.
Clapper also said that the White House has been reviewing ways to “provide the American people more information about the United States’ use of force outside areas of active hostilities.”
The measure was passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013 and was to be included in its authorization bill.
The provision would have mandated that the White House produce an annual report on “the total number of combatants killed or injured during the preceding year by the use of targeted lethal force outside the United States by remotely piloted aircraft.”
The report would have also included information on civilians killed or injured in targeted strikes.
Intelligence officials protested the measure, eventually pressuring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Intelligence Committee who originally proposed the provision, into pulling it from the authorization bill.
Human rights groups criticized the Senate’s move.
“Congress is charged with oversight of the administration and this is a matter of life and death,” Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Times. “A basic report on the number of people killed shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
President Barack Obama in 2013 promised to make his administration’s practice of targeted drones strikes more transparent for public scrutiny.
“But nearly a year later, there has been little movement on the proposals. Some powerful lawmakers, including Ms. Feinstein, have opposed moving drone strikes out of the C.I.A. and managed to blunt any momentum to enact the White House proposals,” the Times reported.
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This post has been updated.