Two new, high-profile reports on terrorism in the United States were released this week. One was incredibly dishonest. Of course that’s the one President Trump tweeted about:
New report from DOJ & DHS shows that nearly 3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign-born. We have submitted to Congress a list of resources and reforms….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2018
The other, released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League, shows that in 2017, domestic right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists, were responsible for twice as many fatalities — 56 percent of the total — compared to domestic Islamist extremists who accounted for 26 percent. This is in stark contrast to 2016, when right-wing terrorists accounted for only 20 percent of killings. And, of course, killings are only the most visible aspect of the danger:
It is important to note that the deaths described here represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence and crime in the United States; for each person actually killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide variety of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions. Moreover, extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime.
This is, of course, consistent with patterns I have highlighted over and again in this space: that the threat of violence from the far-right of the political spectrum is a far more serious concern than the trumped up fears of phantom jihadists lurking around every corner.
Others have already pointed out the myriad problems with the joint DHS/DOJ report, a shameless attempt to put an seemingly dispassionate analytic gloss on the president’s xenophobic project of barring Muslim immigrants and refugees from the United States by tarring them as likely terrorists.
How it inflates the numbers by counting as foreign-born terrorists those who committed attacks outside the United States, or who were arrested abroad but then brought in to the United States for the purpose of standing trial.
How it cherry-picks its “illustrative examples” to include only perpetrators from majority-Muslim countries and who came into the United States via means the president and his allies in Congress would like to eliminate, as family members of lawful permanent residents or naturalized citizens, through the diversity lottery program, or as refugees.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called the report an attempt “to vilify the immigrant community and justify an exclusionary immigration policy,” adding in their statement, “The American people will not be fooled by such naked bigotry, and we should not allow this administration to get away with its abuse of the facts to further its extremist, xenophobic agenda.”
As Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law put it:
“I think they are doing everything they can to justify the Muslim ban, and the unfortunate part of this is the backing away from the homegrown terrorist suspect … and how to prevent it,” Greenberg said. “And if you are born in another country and, 20 years later, you become a terrorist, whose fault is that— the country you were born in or the country you’ve lived in?”
All of this is bad enough. But wait, there’s more. The DHS/DOJ report also effectively discounts the very real domestic terrorism dangers that the ADL report highlights so effectively:
The report also does not address the threat posed by domestic terrorism — namely by white supremacist and white nationalist groups, who grabbed headlines following last year’s so-called “Summer of Hate.” The report notes the have only gleaned their data from “terror-related” cases tried in federal court. Because there’s no federal domestic terrorism law, domestic terror cases are either tried in state court or on other federal charges, like homicide or using a weapon of mass destruction.
It’s one thing for Trump administration to ask for cooked analysis to justify their xenophobic approach to immigration. It’s something else entirely to see the agencies responsible for keeping the homeland safe so readily oblige.