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U.S.: Washington Says Terror Attacks Actually Rose Last Year, Despite Earlier Claims

Colin Powell (file photo) Washington, 23 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department has corrected its global terrorism report, saying the original study was wrong to conclude that attacks worldwide dropped last year.

In fact, the State Department, which issued the original report in April, said yesterday that acts of terrorism worldwide increased in 2003 and that the number of people killed was more than twice what was originally cited.

Initially, 190 acts of terrorism were reported in 2003 -- the fewest in 30 years. The revised report increases that figure to 208. The corrected figures show that 625 people were killed by terrorists worldwide in 2003. The earlier report had said 307 people had been killed last year.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the initial report was not altered to make the administration look good. He said it was an honest mistake and blamed it on clerical and administrative errors. "The report is not designed to make our efforts look better or worse, or terrorism look better or worse, but to provide the facts to the American people," Powell said.

The findings of the earlier report had been cited by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as an indication that President George W. Bush's policies against terrorism have been effective. Armitage had said that the United States and other nations around the world are "successfully waging this campaign."
"It is still a war on terror. I don't think even Mr. Armitage said it is won. It is not won. It continues." - Powell

Critics charge that the faulty statistics were used by the administration in an effort to gain political advantage in the run-up to the November presidential and congressional elections.

Powell denied this. He said no one in the administration had suggested that the earlier statistics meant that the war on terrorism was being won. "It is still a war on terror. I don't think even Mr. Armitage said it is won. It is not won. It continues," he said.

The annual report is mandated by the U.S. Congress.

"The State Department and the TTIC [Terrorist Threat Integration Center] and, of course, all of us in the administration, and the president, take seriously our responsibility to provide the Congress, and the American people, with the best information and analysis available and, therefore, I welcome this opportunity to correct the record," Powell said.

Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told RFE/RL that the original study contained obvious and stupid mistakes. He praised Powell for appearing before reporters to correct the errors. The American Enterprise Institute is a Washington think tank that favors limited government, private enterprise, and a strong foreign policy and national defense.

Responding to the corrected version, Phil Singer, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry -- who is challenging Bush for the U.S. presidency -- said the incident is "just the latest example of an administration playing fast and loose with the truth when it comes to the war on terror."

Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California had challenged the initial findings. Waxman said yesterday that he is pleased that officials "have now recognized that they have a report that has been inaccurate, and based on the inaccurate information they tried to take self-serving credit for the results that were wrong."

Raphael Perl, a terrorism expert for the U.S. Congressional Research Service, believes the Bush administration's credibility has been damaged by the incident. But he noted that the administration has corrected and hopefully "rehabilitated" the report.