Neither President Donald Trump nor his administration has a strong reputation for truth-telling, many times resulting in little more than squabbles among cable news personalities or social media users.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday released a report highlighting foreign-born individuals convicted of terrorism charges here in the United States (PDF). Backed by the Department of Homeland Security, DOJ entirely omitted data on domestic terrorism incidents. And what statistics the government did produce are completely contradicted by counter-terrorism experts.
The administration is trying to argue that terrorism on American soil is largely carried out by the “foreign-born”; the experts insist that it’s the other way around—that U.S. citizens have been the majority of the offenders since 9/11.
William Braniff, the executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, indicated the data had been selected to support the administration's desired conclusion.
“Whenever you’re trying to answer an analytical question, the way you frame the question directly contributes to what data you include in this analysis, and in this case, they exclude a lot of data that would present a different picture.”
The report argues for measures to decrease the numbers of foreigner terrorists who find their way to the U.S., but its use of the data is sketchy:
The overarching policy change it demands is dramatically increased screening of visitors and immigrants to the United States. But its tally of foreign-born individuals convicted on terrorism charges includes “defendants who were transported to the United States for prosecution.” In other words, its list of convicted terrorists who made it to U.S. soil includes individuals whom the government brought onto U.S. soil.
In a joint statement, Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Bennie Thompson, ranking members of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, decried the report as a gross misuse of data toward a predetermined end:
“This misleading report relies on manufactured data to perpetuate a myth that immigrants—specifically, those from Muslim countries—are dangerous elements within our country. The Administration then uses these falsehoods as reasoning and license for policies that promote the continued abuse of our rights and civil liberties.”