Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is an independent not-for-profit organization established in April 2010. The Bureau, which is philanthropically funded, is the first of its kind in the UK, and operates on the assumption that investigative journalism is indispensable to democracy. As such, the Bureau’s aim is to pursue and encourage journalism in the public interest.

In two short years, the Bureau has done ground-breaking reporting on the secret US drone wars, logging every single reported drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Their reporting has provided the most accurate count of casualties in US drone wars that have been cloaked under claims of official government secrecy. They’ve also investigated secretive lobbying of the UK government done by authoritarian regimes and extensively covered the WikiLeaks State Department cables release, as well as the Iraq War logs.

Project: Drones: Naming the Dead

While the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been able to identify every known US drone strike, what is missing is the detail. And in this conflict—so influenced by propaganda and accusations from both sides—the critical detail is the identities of those who have died.

With funding help from the Freedom of the Press Foundation and its donors, the Bureau's “naming the dead” aims to provide accurate and verifiable evidence of as many of those killed by drone strikes as possible—backed up where possible with photographs, ID cards, official reports, credible journalism, and most importantly, on-the-ground research.

To date in Pakistan, the Bureau has been able to identify over 170 named militants killed in more than 300 drone strikes. But the Bureau has also been able to name over 320 civilians killed in US attacks in Pakistan. Now more work needs to be done. Between 170 and 500 further civilians have yet to be identified.

Why is this important? At stake may be the very definition of a ‘civilian’ in the modern battlefield. As recently as June 2011, former US counterterrorism chief (and current CIA director-nominee) John Brennan claimed that the CIA had not killed "a single non-combatant in almost a year." Of course, even a cursory examination of credible media reports of the year prior showed that dozens of civilians were reported killed in that period.

But what we now know is that the very definition of civilian has been changed. As the New York Times reported in May of 2012, the U.S. “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” We also know, as the Washington Post reported, the leaders of Yemen are willing to knowingly cover up civilian deaths by falsely identifying casualties as terrorists, even when all evidence points to the contrary.

As the Bureau stated, “In short, we hope, by naming the dead, we can separate militant from civilian. And that by naming the dead we can reinforce a prudent and acceptable definition of who a civilian is.” Nowhere is transparency and accountability more needed than US secrecy surrounding drone strikes, and the Bureau intends to provide it with the help of Freedom of the Press Foundation donors.