NTI-TERROR CASE DATA FLAWED
Lara Jakes Jordan
WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors counted immigration violations,
marriage fraud and drug trafficking among anti-terror cases in the
four years after 9/11 despite no evidence linking 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 its 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 panel that 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,
the Justice Department'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
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