Former Officials Denounce Trump Administration Use of Distorted Terrorism Statistics

September 13, 2018

In letter organized by ICAP, leading national security and legal experts criticize January 2018 report for "misleadingly correlating the terrorist threat with immigrants."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a group of 18 former senior officials who served in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, and former Directors of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen and Nick Rasmussen, condemned a January 2018 report from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for containing misleading statements that they believe may undermine effective counterterrorism policies.

In the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, the former officials denounced the Trump administration report, called for by Executive Order 13780, for appearing “designed to give the misleading impression that immigrants—and even their citizen family members—are responsible for the vast majority of terrorist attacks that have occurred in the United States, whereas statistical studies and our experience have shown no identifiable correlation between ‘foreignness’ and terrorist activity in the past 15 years.”

Critically, the former officials conclude that “the Report indulges the misplaced notion that where someone is born is more determinative of their later turn to terrorism than the radicalization process that occurs wherever they might be—including on U.S. soil.  When the United States has suffered from even specifically jihadist terrorism since 9/11, it has generally been at the hands of individuals who are on U.S. soil legally and who radicalized here.”

The letter was organized and distributed by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP).  ICAP, whose leadership includes a number of former senior government national security officials, draws on expert litigators, savvy litigation strategy, and the constitutional scholarship of Georgetown to vindicate individuals’ rights and protect America’s constitutional way of life.

The officials’ rebuke of Trump administration terrorism claims comes in support of administrative appeals filed today by concerned groups and individuals, including Democracy Forward, Muslim Advocates, and Protect Democracy.  These administrative appeals follow previous requests to correct the report under a federal law called the Information Quality Act.  After the administration ignored those requests, the groups and individuals sued, prompting responses from DHS and DOJ that refused to acknowledge the report’s overall misleading nature.

The former officials clearly outline four categories in which DHS and DOJ utilized misleading statistics and omitted critical facts in order to distort the public’s understanding of terrorism and give a false impression of correlation between immigration and terrorism in America:

  • The report misleadingly includes U.S. citizens in response to calls for information on “foreign nationals.”
  • The misleading inclusion of foreign-born U.S. citizens compounds the report’s failure to address radicalization that occurs after presence on U.S. soil.
  • The report misleadingly inflates the percentage of foreign nationals who committed terrorism-related crimes by including individuals who committed terrorism overseas and were extradited to the United States for prosecution.
  • The report excludes any statistics on domestic terrorism or even any examples of it.

See the full letter and 18 former senior government officials who signed it here.