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Bush administration defeats global terrorism... reports

For the past 19 years the US State Department has published an annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report. I've read a couple of these reports in the past and found them to be both informative and reasonably objective.

The National Counterterrorism Center, the body created by the Bush administration to be "responsible for analyzing and integrating foreign and domestic intelligence acquired from all U.S. Government departments and agencies pertaining to terrorism" found that significant terrorist attacks in 2004 totalled over 600 - the highest in the report's 19 year history and dramatically higher than the roughly 175 reported in 2003. This number also excludes attacks on US troops in Iraq even though President Bush has labelled that country "a central front in the war on terror."

Now it appears that this increase appears to be due to a change in methodology adopted by the NCTC:

In the Secretary's defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq).
But the reaction by Condoleeza Rice was to order these reports eliminated:
...current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
This extreme reaction is typical of the Bush administration which has a history of ignoring and burying information provided by its own agencies when that information doesn't fit its idealogical agenda. (The WMD debacle and the censorship of environmental reports are two other examples.) Faith-based, rather than fact-based, reporting.

However it's also a particularly stupid move in this instance because - if Larry Johnson of The Counterterrorism Blog's analysis is correct - there exists in the data the potential to spin a positive story, ie a decline in apples-for-apples incidents compared to 2003. (Iraq, the exception, could be further spun as a temporary aberration.)

Instead, the administration can justly be accused of depriving the public of information about a vital plank in its policy agenda - the so-called "war against terrorism". It also raises the question why the government's own experts disagree with the old definition of significant terrorist incidents - surely a subject worthy of debate? (There's some discussion of this at Winds of Change.)

As Johnson states:

Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face.
But then, the Bush administration is not interested in providing information, nor furthering debate, that doesn't serve its own purposes.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 18, 2005 8:38 PM.

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