Oops: State Dept. reports record drop in terrorism

Sunday, June 13, 2004

WASHINGTON The U.S. State Department has been embarrassed by glaring errors in its report on global terrorism.

The report which was released on April 29, stated that global terrorism had dropped to its lowest level since 1969.

Critics in Congress and in the counter-terrorism community were stunned by the State Department's assertion. They cited statistics that terrorism was at its highest level since the early 1980s.

Officials said the State Department agreed with critics in Congress and the counter-terrorism community and admitted that its annual report, entitled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," was a serious distortion of the global terrorist threat. Revisions are forthcoming, they said.

''Very embarrassing, Sec. of State Colin Powell said this morning on NBC's "Meet the Press."

" I am not a happy camper over this. We were wrong,'' he said.

"We got phone calls from people who were going through our report and who said to themselves, as we should have said to ourselves: 'This doesn't feel right. This doesn't look right,'" State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday. "And who started asking us questions."

Officials said Terrorist Threat and Integration Center, which obtains data from the CIA, FBI, Defense Department and Homeland Security Department, would review and revise the statistics for terrorist attacks during 2003. They said the corrections, which officials blamed on the new center, could be issued over the next few weeks.

"We didn't check it or verify it sufficiently," Boucher said. "We took the numbers We did an analysis and we gave you what our assessment was. That analysis and assessment will obviously change with the numbers."

The review and revision of the report marked the first time that the State Department acknowledged deficiencies in its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism." Critics have accused the department of playing down or ignoring insurgency attacks described as terrorist strikes that take place in non-U.S. allies or by organizations and entities that cooperate with the State Department.

"It is deplorable that the report would claim that terrorism attacks are decreasing when in fact significant terrorist activity is at a 20-year high," Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said in May 17 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On June 1, the Congressional Research Service urged the State Department to review the structure and content of its latest global terrorism report.

The department report was said to have ignored acts regarded as terrorist after Nov. 11, 2003 as well as Chechen strikes in Russia.

The report also ignored a Nov. 15 suicide bombing in Istanbul attributed to Al Qaida. That attack killed 61 people and injured more than 300.

The department did not say what would be revised in the report. But a senior State Department official told the Washington Post that corrections in the global terrorism review could fill eight pages.

"I can assure you it had nothing to do with putting out anything but the most honest, accurate information we can," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "Errors crept in that frankly we did not catch here."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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