Today the U.S. government released its 2005 report on worldwide terrorism. It reveals that, compared to the 2004 figures, the number of terrorist attacks more than tripled and the number of people killed in those attacks more than doubled. The hard data: last year saw 14,602 people killed in 11,111 attacks.
Those are startling increases. Earlier this year, I reported on a different data set, compiled by the RAND Corporation, which showed much lower, but still substantial, increases of 62% in the number of deaths and 87% in the number of attacks.
Why the big differences? Essentially, what the Bush administration has been doing, ever since terrorism numbers started to shoot up after the invasion of Iraq, is try to obfuscate and spin the numbers in order to disguise the increases.
In 2004, they omitted almost two months of data from the 2003 report, so that it showed a decline in terrorism when actually there had been an increase. The Bush campaign started bragging about how great their War on Terror® was going, and they probably would have gotten away with it if a couple of college professors hadn’t complained. The State Department had to issue a corrected report a month later.
In 2005, Condoleezza Rice deleted all data from the 2004 report. After an outcry, some data was released by the National Counterterrorism Center, to whom the responsibility for deciding whether or not to release the data had been transferred. The numbers were high (significant attacks had tripled), but John Brennan, head of the NCTC, said that the increase was meaningless:
“The numbers can’t be compared in any meaningful way,” said John Brennan, acting head of the center, which compiled the statistics. He said his agency had revamped the process of counting terrorist attacks.
Later that year, the NCTC released a full report. But now, the numbers were so shockingly high (thanks to a change in methodology) that it was impossible to compare 2004 data with any previous year’s:
“It really would be comparing apples and oranges,” said John Brennan.
You see the strategy? If life hands you a lemon, make unsweetened lemonade. Preferably spiked with cyanide. Nobody will complain about how bad it tastes.
Now, in 2006, they’re still playing the same game. From today’s report:
The 2004 data set was compiled in a relatively short time and focused on those incidents that had relatively high fatality levels; as such it did not completely capture those incidents where there were few or no casualties and can not be compared to the far more comprehensive 2005 data set.
And the “apples to oranges” line has already reappeared. What will they come up with next year?
Meanwhile, if you want to know what’s really happening with terrorism, ask the RAND Corporation, or BTC News.