Cross-posted at DailyKos.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, when the annual terrorism report was released and its figures found dubious, our embarrassed Secretary of State (Colin Powell) apologized and issued a new report in June 2004, upping the number of people killed in terrorist attacks from 307 to 625.
A year later, our new Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) — rather than reveal and be forced to explain similarly disturbing statistics — dumps the 19-year annual report altogether, according to a Knight-Ridder report this morning:
Some officials accused Condoleezza Rice’s office of eliminating the 2004 report because the statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush administration’s progress in the war against terrorism …
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The Counterterrorism Blog — run by Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert — broke the story:
GOODBY PATTERNS OF GLOBAL TERRORISM?
by Larry C. Johnson
Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year’s debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better–they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department’s discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks.
For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents. …
Here’s an excerpt from the law requiring the annual report:
22 USCS § 2656f (2005)
§ 2656f. Annual country reports on terrorism
(a) Requirement of annual country reports on terrorism. The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report providing–
(1) (A) detailed assessments with respect to each foreign country–
(i) in which acts of international terrorism occurred which were, in the opinion of the Secretary, of major significance; …
From today’s Knight-Ridder report:
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 abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.
Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism.”
Excuse me? The National Counterrorism Center — from which the new statistics would have come — was developed in 2004 based on the recommendations of the 9/11 commission:
U.S. officials blamed last year’s mix-up on bureaucratic mistakes involving the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the forerunner of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Created last year on the recommendation of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the center is the government’s primary organization for analyzing and integrating all U.S. government intelligence on terrorism.
From a June 23, 2004 article in the Washington Post about the inaccurate April 2004 report — whose figures were trumpeted by Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage as “clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight” — was significantly amended in a June 2004 report presented by a chastened Colin Powell:
John O. Brennan, a 23-year CIA veteran who oversaw the effort [for the incorrect 2003 report], took “personal responsibility.” He blamed antiquated computers and personnel shortages for the errors and dismissed suggestions that the administration purposely fabricated the figures.
“Anyone who might assert the numbers were intentionally skewed is mistaken,” said Brennan, director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), created by President Bush to produce efficient and comprehensive assessments of domestic and international terrorism.
When the April report was released, Yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Armitage’s words were based on incorrect information.
What are intelligence experts and legislators saying to Knight Ridder about Rice’s ditching of the report?
“Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public,” charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who was among the leading critics of last year’s mix-up, reacted angrily to the decision.
“This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world. 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.”
Johnson, in the story he broke on his blog, calls for action by the intelligence community:
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.