The Trump Administration Cooked the Books on Terror Stats

Yesterday the Trump administration released a report that resulted in some scary headlines. For example:

Would it surprise you that, when it comes to this administration, it is important to check the fine print? Simon Maloy did just that.

In case that is hard to decipher, here’s the catch:

From the second full page of the newly released report: “This information includes both individuals who committed offenses while located in the United States and those who committed offenses while located abroad, including defendants who were transported to the United States for prosecution. It does not include individuals convicted of offenses relating to domestic terrorism, nor does it include information related to terrorism-related convictions in state courts.”

What it comes down to is that someone who committed a terrorist act overseas and was brought to the U.S. for prosecution would be counted. But Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a church in Charleston, would not be included. Neither would Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year, nor would Adam Lanza, who opened fire on grade schoolers in Newton, killing 20 of them along with six adults. Those are some of the “domestic terrorists” who were excluded from this report.

Beyond that gaming of the numbers, NBC News reports this:

Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law, said the long timeline of the report overshadows the evidence — and the effects — of a more recent tactic used by ISIS that has produced U.S.-born attackers. Unlike al Qaeda, which carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, the Islamic State has a decentralized power structure that relies heavily on radicalizing recruits living in Western countries and recruiting lone wolf attackers via social media…

Greenberg’s research on ISIS cases in the U.S. from March 2013 through the present found that U.S.-born defendants account for 84 out of the 156 cases prosecuted, or more than half.

Basically what we have is a report where the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, the two agencies who worked on this, are cooking the books to produce the outcome they’re looking for, which is scary headlines like the ones above. Both the attorney general and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave away the goods on what they’re after with this report. Here’s Sessions:

“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality—our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” said Attorney General Sessions. ..The pillars of President Trump’s immigration policy—securing our porous borders, moving to a merit-based immigration system that ends the use of diversity visas and chain migration, and enforcing our nation’s laws—will make their jobs easier and make the United States a safer place.”

These are Nielson’s remarks:

“My top priority as Secretary of Homeland Security is to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” said Secretary Nielsen. “This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists, and why we must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country. Without legislative change, DHS will continue to see thousands of terrorists a year attempt to enter the United States, and while we must be right every time, the terrorists only need to be lucky once.

Ever since he began running for president, a consistent theme we’ve heard from Trump is that he wants us to be afraid of immigrants and refugees. That is how he and the nativists in his administration assume they can get us to back their xenophobic policies. In the process, they have proven over and over again that they are willing to lie and cook the books to engage in fearmongering.

The national security threat that is much more serious than the one included in this report is that we now have reason to question everything the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security tell us.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.