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Is terrorism increasing or decreasing?

Last April, the State Department issued its annual report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report: Trends, State Sponsors, and Related Issues." Last week the Congressional Research Service produced a report on the State Department's report. Its overview reported that the State Department indicated reductions in several measure of terrorism in 2003 vs. 2002:

Data, as originally published, show minimal change in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2003 over 2002 levels — a decrease from 199 attacks to 190. In 2003, the overall number of reported anti-U.S. attacks remained more or less constant as well, 82 anti-US attacks in 2003 as opposed to 77 attacks in the previous year. The report indicates that worldwide deaths from international terrorist activity were down roughly 58% in 2003 (from 725 to 307) and the number of wounded was down roughly 21% from 2,013 to 1,593. In 2003, as in 2002, both the highest number of attacks (70) and highest number of casualties (159 dead and 951 wounded) continued to occur in Asia where the number of attacks declined roughly by one-third, and the number of casualties declined roughly 13%. The report emphasizes that most of the attacks in Iraq that occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom do not meet the U.S. definition of international terrorism employed by Patterns because they were directed at combatants, that is, "American and coalition forces on duty."

But in May Senator Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to Colin Powell rather pointedly doubting whether these claims match reality:

Last month, the Department of State released its annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report, announcing that international terror was on the decline in 2003. It appears, however, that the decline in terrorism reported by the State Department results from manipulation of the data, not an actual decline in terrorism incidents. This manipulation may serve the Administration's political interests, but it calls into serious doubt the integrity of the report.

[via Secrecy News.]

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