Trump Administration Draws Fire for ‘Misleading’ Report Linking Terrorism, Immigration

Eighteen former counterterrorism officials are urging the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to retract or correct a report that implies a link between terrorism and immigration, calling its findings “misleading” and counterproductive.

Released in January, the report says that 402 of the 549 people — almost three out of four — convicted of terrorism charges since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were foreign-born. That’s a data point that President Trump has highlighted as justification for his administration’s hard-line immigration policies — namely his desire to shift from a “random chain migration and lottery system, to one that is merit-based,” as he has tweeted. But critics dubious of the report’s conclusions have said it relies on irrelevant and, in some cases, flawed data.

Failure to correct the document is likely to undermine counterterrorism efforts by fueling misperceptions about the nature of radicalization and stoking societal divisions around immigration, according to a letter released Thursday by the former government officials, including former National Counterterrorism Center directors Nicholas Rasmussen and Matthew Olsen, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former acting assistant attorney general for national security Mary McCord.

“Overall,” their letter says, “the report appears designed to give the misleading impression that immigrants — and even their citizen family members — are responsible for the vast majority of terrorist attacks that have occurred in the United States.”

The report was written to comply with an executive order Trump issued in March 2017 banning citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

[Unpacking the president’s claim that ‘nearly 3 in 4’ convicted of terrorism are foreign-born]

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Katie Waldman, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said the agency is “focused on anticipating terrorist trends and movements and, more importantly, blocking all terrorist pathways into the United States.”

She said “as recently as last month, U.S. authorities arrested an Iraqi refugee in California — wanted for murder in Iraq — who is alleged to have been a member of both [the Islamic State] and al-Qaeda. We cannot let dangerous individuals slip through the cracks and exploit our refugee program.”

By Ellen Nakashima for THE WASHINGTON POST
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