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As Trump Administration Continues to Disseminate Biased Terrorism Report, We Push Back

Both agencies have admitted that the information quality concerns first raised by the groups in January 2018 have merit, but still refuse to retract or correct the Report, in violation of federal law.

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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.

January 2018

We first submitted our request for correction or retraction of the Report

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April 2018

After the agencies failed to respond, we filed a complaint.

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Summer 2018

The agencies provided responses in the face of litigation.

The responses, which denied the request for correction or retraction, were inadequate.

September 2018

We filed administrative appeals seeking reconsideration.

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September 2018

The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center submitted a letter to the agencies in support of the appeal.

This letter was signed by nearly a dozen counterterrorism experts, including Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The ICAP letter emphasized the damage to our national security that this kind of misleading Report causes.

December 2018

DOJ admitted that its Report “could be criticized” for failing to “promote the perception of objectivity,” but still refused to correct the Report.

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May 2019

We filed our opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss.

Robin Thurston

Senior Counsel

Challenging Executive Branch illegality.

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Ben Seel

Counsel & Legal Analyst

Focusing on justice, national security, immigration, and health care issues.

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