According to newly-leaked documents outlining the United States military’s drone program, nearly all of those killed by drone strikes in the Middle East were not the intended targets.

The documents, reported by The Intercept, revealed that a staggering 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes weren’t the intended target. According to the report:

Documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse.

Since 2009, hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia have been killed by drone strikes. Two years ago, 14 people in Yemen were killed while leaving a wedding. They were mistaken by the American government for al Qaeda militants. President Barack Obama has continually defended drone strikes.

“The terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” said Obama.

The documents’ source said that the government tends to treat those killed as collateral damage. “Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” said the source.

For more on this story, visit the Huffington Post “Nearly 90 Percent of People Killed in Recent Drone Strikes Were Not the Target” and The Intercept “The Drone Papers”

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced