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Statement by Senators McCain and Reed on Release of Information on U.S. Counterterrorism Strikes

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on the release of information by the Director of National Intelligence concerning U.S. counterterrorism strikes as well as combatant and non-combatant deaths resulting from those strikes:

“We commend the decision to release the civilian casualty figures associated with our nation’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations. It reminds us that the loss of innocent life is heartbreaking and, in any war, tragically unavoidable, no matter how much is done to prevent it.

“The U.S. government spends millions of dollars and countless hours every year to protect civilians in the pursuit of terrorist enemies who seek to kill Americans and intentionally harm and murder the innocent. The information released today demonstrates that no nation in history has done more and taken greater care to protect civilians in warfare.

“Today’s announcement also reconfirms our nation’s unwavering commitment to investigating all credible allegations of civilian casualties and accepting responsibility when such regrettable incidents occur.  Avoiding civilian deaths in counterterrorism operations is critical not only to protecting innocent lives, but also to avoiding the negative impact such events can have on broader efforts to counter terrorist groups and advance U.S. strategic objectives.

“This kind of transparency helps to strengthen our counterterrorism activities by more fully accounting for the results of such strikes, intended and unintended, without disclosing sensitive details of individual operations.  It is important that we are able to respond credibly to false claims of civilian casualties by our adversaries.  Furthermore, we cannot unnecessarily withhold details of our operations while expecting that others, including Russia, Iran, and China, will not do the same.  We can and should set the example for the rest of the world.  This release of information is a welcome step in that direction.”