Publicly available information compiled by journalists and others indicates that civilians comprise 12 percent of the more than 3,000 people killed in all U.S. targeted killings. However, the CIA doesn't have to acknowledge that its targeted killing program exists.
"The figures we have obtained from the Executive Branch, which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm the civilian casualties that result from these strikes each year have typically been in the single digits," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein said at the hearing.
Brennan — the architect of President Obama's drone program — asserts that drone strikes that kill innocents are “much rarer than many allege,” and legislators accept that claim since civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes are classified.
Meanwhile, the judicial branch recognizes that it has no recourse.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon made this clear when she denied a Freedom of Information request regarding the targeted killing of the 16-year-old American-born son of former Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.
McMahon felt compelled to note that she was in "a veritable Catch-22" because she could "find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret."
Consequently, it's easy for Brennan to say the U.S. "should" acknowledge civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes — he knows full well that the legislative and judicial branches cannot force the executive branch to actually do so.
More From Business Insider