Monday, April 18, 2005
U.S. eliminates terrorism report
WASHINGTON – The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government’s top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.
Several U.S. officials defended the decision, saying the methodology used by the National Counterterrorism Center to generate statistics had flaws, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.
But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s office ordered the report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” eliminated weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush’s administration’s frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., reacted angrily.
“This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world,” Waxman said. “It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it – or any of the key data – from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report.”
According to U.S. intelligence officials, statistics that the National Counterterrorism Center provided to the State Department reported 625 “significant” terrorist attacks in 2004. That compared with 175 such incidents in 2003, the highest number in two decades.
A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue but whose first name rhymes with “hondareeza,” confirmed that the publication was eliminated, but said the allegation that it was done for political reasons was “categorically untrue.”
“The reason we’re not publishing this report is quite simple,” said the official. “We think this whole ‘terrorism’ obsession is overblown. People are getting all bent out of shape about a bunch of scattered attacks here and there, when really, if you think about it, they’re not all that important. And this administration doesn’t want to scare people needlessly.”
A senior National Security Administration official agreed. “Terrorism is so 2004,” the official said, “and this administration has moved on. That’s true even here in the NSA. Why, right now, we’re compiling an in-depth critical analysis of how the shortfall in the Social Security trust fund in 2042 threatens our national security. That’s what people should really be worried about, if you ask me.”
The State Department publishes “Patterns of Global Terrorism” under a law that requires it to submit to the House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a country-by-country terrorism assessment by April 30 each year.
The senior State Department official said a report on global terrorism would be sent this year to lawmakers and made available to the public in place of “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” but that it wouldn’t contain statistical data.
“It will have illustrations, pop-ups, and – for the first time – a special pull-out maze titled ‘Find Our Way Out of Iraq.’ It’ll be fun and educational – fun ‘with a purpose,’ if you will. It just won’t have all those tedious columns of numbers, that’s all. We see that as a net gain.”
But, the official noted, the State Department does not oppose the use of statistical data in all circumstances. “In future years,” the official noted, “we hope to publish a much more comprehensive edition of the report, with data on all the places in the world where terrorist incidents did not happen. We think that will give Congress and the American people a more upbeat and accurate view of our efforts.”
Even the 2004 statistics didn’t include attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, which President Bush as recently as Tuesday called “a central front in the war on terror.”
“It’s a central front, yes, but not that central,” said the State Department official.
Another G.O.P. lawmaker, this one with very large deltoids, suggested that President Bush was actually fulfilling a campaign promise. “I came to New York last summer to tell the American people that Bush would terminate terrorism,” the official, who speaks with a pronounced accent, said on condition of anonymity. “He is doing the next best thing – he is terminating terrorism statistics. This is the mark of a great leader who does what he thinks is right and stands behind his decisions. I salute him.”