More on the Politics of Fear

Audit: Anti-terror case data flawed
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
Associated Press Writer

02/21/07 “AP” — – Federal prosecutors counted immigration violations, marriage fraud and drug trafficking among anti-terror cases in the four years after 9/11 even though no evidence linked them to terror activity, a Justice Department audit said Tuesday.

Overall, nearly all of the terrorism-related statistics on investigations, referrals and cases examined by department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were either diminished or inflated. Only two of 26 sets of department data reported between 2001 and 2005 were accurate, the audit found.

Responding, a Justice spokesman pointed to figures showing that prosecutors in the department’s headquarters for the most part either accurately or underreported their data — underscoring what he called efforts to avoid pumping up federal terror statistics.

The numbers, used to monitor the department’s progress in battling terrorists, are reported to Congress and the public and help, in part, shape the department’s budget.

“For these and other reasons, it is essential that the department report accurate terrorism-related statistics,” the audit concluded.

Fine’s office took care to say the flawed data appear to be the result of “decentralized and haphazard” methods of collection or disagreement over how the numbers are reported, and do not appear to be intentional.

Still, the errors led Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to question whether the department had exaggerated the number of terror cases.

“If the Department of Justice can’t even get their own books in order, how are we supposed to have any confidence they are doing the job they should be?” said Schumer, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the department. “Whether this is just an accounting error or an attempt to pad terror prosecution statistics for some other reason, the Department of Justice of all places should be classifying cases for what they are, not what they want us to think them to be.”

Auditors looked at 26 categories of statistics — including numbers of suspects charged and convicted in terror cases, and terror-related threats against cities and other U.S. targets — compiled by the FBI, Justice’s Criminal Division, and the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.

It found that data from the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys were the most severely flawed. Auditors said the office, which compiles statistics from the 94 federal prosecutors’ districts nationwide, both under- and over-counted the number of terror-related cases during a four-year period.

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