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Trump Administration Concedes Fault in Distorted Terrorism Report But Refuses to Retract It

The Department of Justice admitted that its joint terrorism report contained a number of misleading assertions that "could be criticized" for failing to "promote the perception of objectivity." Despite this admission of error, the Trump Administration still refuses to correct the report, which remains available to the public and continues to support the Administration's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim narrative.

On behalf of Muslim Advocates, Democracy Forward sued the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) for issuing a misleading, biased, and harmful government report on terrorism. The groups invoked the Information Quality Act (“IQA”) – a data accuracy law – to seek legal redress for the Trump Administration’s baseless claim that most terrorism-related offenses are committed by foreign-born persons. The misleading claim flagrantly violates information quality requirements imposed by the IQA and is part of a concerted effort by the Administration to advance a false and discriminatory view that immigrants and Muslims pose a threat to national security.

As set forth in the complaint, and confirmed by other reports, the Administration’s analysis mangles the facts in order to fabricate a threat posed by immigrants, particularly those of Muslim background — in an effort to promote the Administration’s extreme and anti-Muslim immigration policies.  For example, the complaint explains that DOJ and DHS violated the IQA in asserting that 73 percent of individuals convicted of international terrorism-related offenses were foreign-born, a statistic that is based on an unreliable methodology and misleading presentation of the data.  The Report has been used explicitly to stoke anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment and is likely to continue to be used in this manner. It therefore not only contributes on its face to their stigmatization, but it is also likely to contribute to increasing hate violence against these communities.

DHS officials have reportedly confirmed career experts were not consulted in the development of the report.

In January, Muslim Advocates and Democracy Forward invoked the IQA—a little-known data quality law requiring federal agencies to provide accurate and unbiased information to the public—to petition the Trump Administration retract and correct the misleading terror report. The Administration failed to respond, forcing the groups to seek judicial intervention.

Under the IQA, government agencies must meet quality standards when disseminating information to the public, particularly when such information has a “clear and substantial impact on important public policies,” like the current debates on immigration policy and national security.

Robin Thurston

Senior Counsel

Challenging Executive Branch illegality.

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Ben Seel

Legal Analyst

Focusing on justice, law enforcement, national security, and immigration issues.

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