Under Trump, can we trust the government's terrorism data?

On Tuesday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice released a report that was mandated ...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 10:29 AM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 10:29 AM

On Tuesday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice released a report that was mandated by President Trump's executive order -- signed in March 2017 -- which revised the "travel ban" from a number of Muslim-majority countries.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted that Tuesday's report -- which found that 73% of individuals convicted of international terrorism crimes in federal courts between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2016 were foreign-born -- "reveals an indisputable sobering reality -- our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety."

Far from revealing an indisputable reality, the misleading report is, in fact, the latest indication that the Trump administration is trying to skirt the truth.

President Trump promoted the new report by tweeting that it shows "nearly 3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign-born," dropping the key qualifier of "international."

This tweet ignores the numerous incidents of terrorism in the United States committed by individuals motivated by far-right and other ideological motives.

Far-right-wing terrorists have killed 69 people in the US since the 9/11 attacks. The vast majority of individuals involved in those plots were born American citizens.

Even if you look only at jihadist terrorism, the report's findings are misleading on several points.

First, it includes the cases of terrorists who were captured abroad for terrorist incidents, but had never set foot in the United States before they faced trial. Such foreign terrorists are not immigrants.

This would not be the first time the administration has played fast and loose with the facts on this issue. In February, 2017, White House adviser Stephen Miller told NBC's Meet the Press: "First of all, 72 individuals, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, have been implicated in terroristic activity in the United States who hail from those seven nations, point one." The data he cited -- originally collected by then-Senator Sessions and presumably the basis for parts of this new report -- included four terrorists who came to the US to face trial.

Second, contrary to the thrust of the new report, most foreign-born terrorists have radicalized in the United States, not in the countries that they often left when they were children. A leaked Department of Homeland Security draft report from March 2017 obtained by MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" states: "We assess that most foreign-born US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States."

The report found that almost half of foreign-born extremists were less than 16 years old when they entered the country, and a majority were only indicted more than ten years after they had first entered the country.

A CNN review of the eight cases actually named in Tuesday's report found that "several of the individuals had lived in the United States for many years before committing the terror-related offenses they were eventually convicted for in federal court."

Once again, this is not a new issue. The data Stephen Miller cited in February to defend the travel ban included the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who came to the United States when he was a young child and who was arrested and convicted of plotting to attack a Christmas tree ceremony in Portland, Oregon, more than a decade after he came to the United States.

The citation of the case was not just Miller using misleading data that happened to include Mohamud. The Mohamud case was specifically cited to defend the travel ban in a set of frequently asked questions on the ban that was posted by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the data being cited by the Trump administration contrasts with that collected by the nonpartisan research institution, New America, which found that about half of the 420 individuals accused of jihadist terrorism crimes in the United States since 9/11 were born American citizens and that 85% were either US citizens or legal permanent residents.

By including only those convicted in federal courts, the government's new report excludes well known examples of deadly terrorist attackers who were natural born American citizens, such as Carlos Bledsoe, who killed a soldier in an attack on a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2009 and was charged in state court.

Nidal Hasan, who was born in Arlington, Virginia, killed 13 people in 2009 in an attack at the Fort Hood, Texas military base. Since he was charged in military court, his case is not included in this week's report.

Also left out is Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in an attack in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and died during the attack.

While none of these three native-born American citizens are included in the new government report, they alone killed more than half of all the victims killed by jihadist terrorists in the United States since 9/11. Indeed, 8 of the 14 individuals -- including Bledsoe, Mateen, and Hasan -- who committed deadly jihadist attacks in the United States since 9/11 were also born in the United States.

While the government may assert it has access to better data or secret information, New America's conclusions are supported by other examinations of the origins of American terrorists, including from the RAND Corporation and the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, both of which also found about half of the jihadist terrorists they examined to have been born American citizens.

With the repeated misleading claims by an administration set upon defending a policy that was seemingly crafted to defend candidate Trump's call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," the question must be asked: Can the government's claims regarding the terrorist threat be trusted?

If the answer is no, that has serious ramifications for efforts to prevent terrorism and communicate effectively when an attack does occur.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
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Daviess4596112
Scott433968
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Clay418460
White414261
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Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
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Washington352049
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Starke310868
Owen310169
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Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
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Crawford158122
Newton155648
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Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1490451

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1620041662
Cuyahoga1439412412
Hamilton1040301409
Montgomery727961240
Summit606541094
Lucas55296904
Butler50803707
Stark456401053
Lorain34875568
Warren32293369
Mahoning30057672
Clermont27811321
Lake26457434
Delaware23872162
Licking23361283
Trumbull22357552
Fairfield22081241
Greene21967311
Medina21624305
Clark19513349
Richland18225280
Portage17579247
Wood17122220
Allen15627269
Miami15259296
Muskingum14417174
Columbiana13587263
Wayne13494263
Tuscarawas12372298
Marion11742175
Scioto11313154
Pickaway11246141
Erie10586180
Ross10397196
Lawrence9630137
Hancock9476149
Ashtabula9370197
Belmont9059197
Geauga8766157
Jefferson8439191
Huron8172139
Union806256
Washington7995137
Sandusky7654145
Athens765372
Knox7539138
Darke7525151
Seneca7166144
Ashland6761125
Auglaize663396
Shelby6374111
Brown626282
Crawford6147130
Mercer605793
Defiance6043102
Fulton588596
Highland585899
Madison584976
Clinton573890
Logan566292
Guernsey564867
Preble5623121
Putnam5227108
Williams515384
Perry510661
Champaign500871
Jackson493470
Ottawa476686
Coshocton466382
Morrow448256
Pike428462
Fayette419960
Adams409287
Gallia408165
Hardin407176
Van Wert361578
Henry356671
Holmes3539122
Hocking349078
Wyandot315761
Carroll294559
Paulding274345
Meigs256849
Monroe210553
Noble195146
Morgan188132
Harrison177042
Vinton161124
Unassigned05
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