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'Naming The Dead' Project Aims To Identify Pakistan Drone Strike Victims

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An independent investigative organization says it will identify the victims of U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani targets, to combat the lack of official information about such attacks. In this 2011 file photo, Pakistani villagers offer funeral prayers for people who were reportedly killed by a U.S. drone attack in Miranshah, capital of Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. (AP Photo/Hasbunullah) | AP

A nonprofit organization launched a project on Monday that aims to identify people killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, reportedly in response to Washington's lack of transparency surrounding such attacks.

The London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism announced plans for its "Naming The Dead" initiative in February and raised money for the project through crowd funding. The organization cited large death tolls with unidentified victims as rationale for launching "Naming The Dead."

To accomplish its goal, the Bureau will take information from on-the-ground researchers, news reports, court documents and academic studies, The Guardian reports.

Such an investigation could fill information gaps that result from the lack of English-language reporters on the ground in Pakistan and a dearth of concrete information from the U.S. government about individual victims.

"All we have is the U.S. government saying, 'Trust us, these are bad guys we are killing, trust us,'" said Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer with legal rights organization Reprieve, which supports the project. "We can't start to get to the bottom of who is being killed until we know the names of those who are being killed."

According to New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute, up to 3,394 people have been killed in Pakistan since the beginning of the drone war in 2004, including hundreds of civilians.

Yet outside Pakistan, the identities of those killed often remains shrouded in mystery. The New York Times, citing anonymous administration officials, reported in 2012 that President Obama's policy of identifying the dead counts any "military-age" men as enemy combatants, "unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Although he campaigned against the Iraq war and the use of torture, Obama has maintained ruthless counter-terrorism efforts: CNN reported last year the current president has ordered almost six times as many drone strikes on Pakistani targets as former president George W. Bush did during his entire time in office.

Two reports last year -- one by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, and another co-directed by NYU and Stanford University -- found the CIA's drone program has targeted rescue missions and funerals in Pakistan's tribal areas. According to the BBC, Obama has sought to downplay civilian casualties caused by the covert attacks.

The Associated Press recently reported the U.S. is scaling back drone strikes in Pakistan, partly in response to public criticism of the operation.

This post has been updated to remove a quote from Chris Wood, who is no longer with the organization.

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