Donald Trump
Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has tossed out an Obama executive order requiring intelligence agencies to report civilian deaths caused by operations in non-combat areas.

Former President Barack Obama's 2016 order mostly applied to civilian casualties caused by drone attacks on terrorists in countries where the U.S. is not directly involved in a war.

The White House said at the time that greater transparency is "the right thing to do" and the best way to legitimize counterterrorism operations to U.S. allies.

Trump's executive order revoking the Obama policy says the unclassified reporting of civilian casualties may include what he calls a "classified annex," which the Pentagon could consider a threat to national security.

A White House spokesman said Wednesday that Trump's order eliminates "superfluous" reporting that does not "improve transparency but rather distorts our intelligence professionals from their primary mission."

But a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists, Steven Aftergood, says the White House is just being "coy."

"They're not saying, 'We don't want to report CIA operation casualties,' but that's what they're doing," he said.

Amnesty International calls the Trump order "shameful," and says it lets the administration shroud itself in "even more secrecy ... and in complete disregard of fundamental human rights."

FILE - Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Chairman of the
FILE - Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, walks across the plaza on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 18, 2018.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says "There is simply no justification" for Trump's move, adding that reporting on civilian casualties "represented an important measure of transparency and our commitment to holding ourselves accountable."

Schiff says he intends to pursue action in Congress to make such reporting mandatory.

VOA's Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.