NBC's 'Exclusive' Drone Story Was Reported Elsewhere Months Ago

NBC's 'Exclusive' Drone Story Was Reported Elsewhere Months Ago
Abby Ohlheiser

Tonight, NBC released a bombshell story on the government's drone targeting program, indicating that the U.S. isn't always certain of who they're targeting, despite assurances otherwise. That is, it'd be a bombshell if a similar story hadn't shown up on McClatchy in the beginning of April. 

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Here's the lede from NBC: 

"The CIA did not always know who it was targeting and killing in drone strikes in Pakistan over a 14-month period, an NBC News review of classified intelligence reports shows.

About one of every four of those killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010, and Oct. 30, 2011, were classified as "other militants,” the documents detail. The “other militants” label was used when the CIA could not determine the affiliation of those killed, prompting questions about how the agency could conclude they were a threat to U.S. national security."

And McClatchy's report

"The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”...The U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy covered most – although not all – of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011." 

While obviously we don't have the classified data used in both stories to determine for ourselves whether it's the same information, the author of the McClatchy story certainly thought NBC's piece sounded familiar: 

@emptywheel @gregmitch This is a bogus "exclusive." I published same story, same classified data @mcclatchydc on 4/9: tinyurl.com/lzgqppt

— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) June 6, 2013

At the very least, it looks like the two were using information that overlaps significantly, and led them to more or less the same conclusions. That being said, a story like this does bear repeating in the news cycle, especially since NBC's take on the data comes after Obama's big drone speech earlier this month.