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TerrorismNew government terrorism report provides little useful information

By Alex Nowrasteh

Published 18 January 2018

The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice (DHS/DOJ) on Tuesday released a report on the threat of international terrorism. The new DHS/DOJ report produces little new information on immigration and terrorism and portrays some misleading and meaningless statistics as important findings. For example, since the beginning of 2002 through 2017, native-born Americans were responsible for 78 percent of all murders in terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil while foreign-born terrorists only committed 22 percent. Including the actual number of deaths caused by terrorists flips the DHS/DOJ statistics on its head. Also: During 2002-2017, the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a native-born American on U.S. soil was about one in 40.6 million per year. During the same period, the chance of being murdered by a foreign-born terrorist was about 145 million per year. The annual chance of being murdered in a non-terrorist homicide was about one in 19,325 per year, or about 1,641 times as great as being killed in any terrorist attack since 9/11.

Author Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute // Source: cronkitenewsonline.com via yahoo.com

The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice (DHS/DOJ) released a report earlier this week on the threat of international terrorism. This report was required by President Donald Trump’s executive order that, among other things, originally established the infamous travel ban. The new DHS/DOJ report produces little new information on immigration and terrorism and portrays some misleading and meaningless statistics as important findings. Interestingly, the draft version of the report had more interesting and useful information that was mysteriously edited out of the final public version. It’s remarkable that, given almost a year to produce such a report and with the vast resources of the federal government combined with reams of government information unavailable to the public, that they were able to produce a report of so little of value.

The DHS/DOJ report found that about 73 percent of those convicted of international terrorism-related offenses from 9/11 through the end of 2016 were foreign-born. That means that 27 percent of them were native-born Americans. By focusing exclusively on international terrorism-related charges, this report intentionally ignores domestic terrorists unaffiliated with international terrorists. Thus, the results of the DHS/DOJ report are, at best, a snapshot of the international subset of terrorism that ignores the purely domestic variety. 

The DHS/DOJ report ignores the most important statistic: how many people were actually killed by these terrorists on U.S. soil. In our updated terrorism information that runs through the end of 2017, we found that a total of 155 people were killed on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks since 1 January 2002, 34 of them by foreign-born terrorists and 121 of them by domestic terrorists (going back to 12 September 2001 does not add any deaths by identifiable terrorists on U.S. soil but would diminish the chance of dying, so I excluded it from this blog post to bias the results against me). Since the beginning of 2002, native-born Americans were responsible for 78 percent of all murders in terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil while foreign-born terrorists only committed 22 percent. Including the actual number of deaths caused by terrorists flips the DHS/DOJ statistics on its head.