The State Department acknowledged Thursday there were errors in its latest report
on global terrorism that greatly understated the number of terrorist attacks
and resultant casualties last year. It insists that this was not a deliberate
attempt to make the Bush administration's record on fighting terrorism appear
better than it was.
In an embarrassing admission, the State Department has acknowledged that
the global terrorism report it issued in late April contained significant errors
and that a corrected edition being prepared will show that terrorist attacks
and fatalities in 2003 increased, rather than declined as initially stated.
The State Department began a review of the report earlier this month after
private terrorism experts publicly challenged the figures contained in it,
saying that some major incidents of international terrorism last year had been
When it launched the report April 29, State Department officials hailed the
purported terrorism decline as "good news" and clear evidence that the United
States was prevailing in the fight against terror.
After hearing the subsequent criticism of the document, a senior Democrat
in the House of Representatives, Henry Waxman, wrote Secretary of State Colin
Powell saying it was "deplorable" that the report had claimed a decline in
attacks while in fact significant terrorist activity was, he said, at a 20-year-high.
In a talk with reporters Thursday, Mr. Powell acknowledged the reporting errors,
calling them "very disturbing." But he insisted they were the result of poor
coordination between the State Department and other agencies tabulating terrorist
incidents and "had nothing to do" with any attempt to manipulate the figures.
Those comments were echoed by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher,
who said the CIA, FBI and other agencies contributing data had differing definitions
of terrorist acts and the time-frame covered by the report.
"When we got the data here at the State Department, I have to say we obviously
did not check it thoroughly enough or verify the conclusion that had been reached
because of the apparent change in the numbers and so we got the wrong data
and we didn't check it enough," he said. "I think that's the simplest explanation
for what happened. As the secretary said outside, there was no attempt at manipulation
or political distortion. But we did walk down a road that was the wrong one."
Mr. Boucher said he could not be precise about the figures that will be in
the corrected report, expected within a few weeks, but he said numbers would
be sharply higher than the 190 acts of terrorism and 307 deaths attributed
to them that were cited in the original document.
He also said he expected that terrorism overall will be shown to have increased
in 2003 from the previous year, rather than the decline depicted in the original
Critics of the initial report said it omitted, for unknown reasons, significant
acts of terror, including several in Russia last year, attributed to Chechen
extremists, and also did not count a suicide bombing in Istanbul last November
that killed 61 people.