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Petraeus Admits Civilian Death Data Collection

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September 14, 2007

While the world watched, earlier this week General David Petraeus delivered his analysis on the progress of the war in Iraq. Inside that presentation there was one thing in particular that caught my eye. General Petraeus gave a PowerPoint presentation and, as CIVIC points out, there on page three was a graph we've never seen before.

What is it, you ask? This graph marks a decrease in civilian casualties in Iraq since the surge began.

A decrease, you say? But the military has, for years, refused to track such deaths. The Pentagon has, when asked, refused to produce records like the one that Petraeus pulled out of his hat on Tuesday.

But then, out of the blue, Petraeus told Congress that not only do they have the data, but that two U.S. intelligence agencies have backed the methodology used to gather such data. That's funny, because Congress has required reporting on these numbers in the past and has not gotten it. In 2006, the report issued to Congress was only two pages long and Senator Leahy called it "an embarrassment. "

This raises a lot of questions. Suddenly they not only have the numbers, but the methodology to collect it has been in place for over a year? What is that methodology? Why haven't they released the numbers in the past? Is the administration releasing the full picture or one skewed to the spin at hand? Why don't they release a full report?

The ACLU has been working for the past few years to get just such numbers and information released to the public. We filed a lawsuit earlier this month on the Pentagon's failure to produce adequate documentation of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe the general's graph will lead to some full accounting in the near future.

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