Powell Explains Bogus Global Terrorism 2003 Stats.
Remarks upon the Release of the Revised Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003
Remarks on the Release of the Revised Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 Annual Report
Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC June 22, 2004
(2:25 p.m. EDT)
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry I'm a few minutes late. Before getting into the subject of our first briefing this afternoon on our corrected Global Terrorism Report for 2003, let me talk about another issue, and that is the tragedy that we see on our screens this afternoon indicating that the South Korean hostage in Iraq, Mr. Kim Sun-il, was beheaded by the evil terrorists who kidnapped him.
He was an innocent man there to help the people of Iraq, cut down by senseless barbarism. We condemn such acts of terrorism against civilians who are there to build a peaceful and democratic Iraq. We offer our sympathy and condolences to his family and we stand with the people of South Korea at this time. As the President said a few moments ago, these evildoers will not stop us from our work. I am pleased that the South Korean Government has been steadfast over the last several days and remains steadfast in the face of this kind of terrorism.
I am here today to brief you on the corrections that we have made to our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report for 2003. Let me start out with an observation about the report. The report is mostly a narrative document which goes through patterns and trends of terrorist activities in countries throughout the world and what progress those countries have made and what the pattern looks like within that country. On balance, it is a good report. The narrative is sound and we're not changing any of the narrative.
Shortly after the report was issued in late April, it came to our attention, principally through the efforts of Congressman Henry Waxman and his staff, that they saw data errors in some of the tables that were in the report and some of the trends that were divined from those data tables.
When I asked my staff about it and we began looking into it, we discovered that Congressman Waxman and his staff was correct; there were errors.
For the past two weeks now, we have had a major effort underway within the State Department and within the Terrorist Threat Information Center, the Center which accumulates this data, a new organization created last year, an independent organization that reports directly to the Director of Central Intelligence. And in earlier years, it was accumulated in a different manner within the CIA.
But the Terrorist Threat Information Center, the TTIC, and my staff have been hard at work for the past two weeks to get to the bottom of the data error and determine what corrections were appropriate and to make those corrections so we could show those corrections to the American people.
The State Department and the TC -- TTIC, 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.
The results of our review, which will be spelled out to you in greater detail in a moment or two, shows that from 2002 to 2003, using the rules that have been in place to analyze incidents and categorize them one way or another, the number of incidents as categorized by our system went up from 198 in 2002 to a corrected number in 2003 that will be explained to you momentarily of 208, a slight rise in the overall number of incidents both in what are called significant events or significant incidents and non-significant incidents that arrive at this total.
But the numbers don't tell the full story, the number of incidents. You also have to look at the number of individuals who were killed or injured as a result of these terrorist attacks. And, as we look at those numbers, we find that the number of killed going from 2002 to 2003 has dropped on an annual basis, but the number of injured have gone up quite a bit. And you will see that in a moment.
Why? In some cases, a particular instance gives rise to more casualties than another instance and so you can't expect a direct correlation between the number of incidents and the number of casualties. But we also found computational and accounting errors as we went through the data over the last several weeks, and that also will be explained to you in a moment.
Our effort is to put out the most accurate information we can. And as we go forward from this position, I think, as a result of the last two weeks' work, we have identified how we have to do this in the future in order to make sure that we don't run into this kind of problem again.
We have shared the results of our analysis with Mr. Waxman's staff yesterday, and I'm sure the Congressman will be making a statement of his own. Additional questions were presented to us by Mr. Waxman and his staff as to how we should go forward with this process in the future and we look forward to working with that committee and other committees of Congress to make sure that we all have a common understanding of what we are trying to accumulate in the way of data from the Terrorist Threat Information Center and how we use that data when it comes over to the State Department so we can put together this annual report.
The annual report is based on what we get from the TTIC in the form of data, but it also depends upon analyses that are done at our embassies around the world. The information we get from them, from other government agencies, resulting in this annual report, was a combination of narrative discussions of the pattern of terrorism around the world as well as the actual numbers of incidents and casualties reported under the reporting system.
We recognize that terrorism is a danger that is not going away soon, and even if you looked at the report that was issued on the 29th of April, before we found that there were data errors in it, that report makes it clear that terrorism is alive, it is affecting the entire civilized world, it makes us more determined to go after the perpetrators of terrorism, and I don't think there's any question that that was the import of the original report. The corrected report narrative remains the same and the numbers you will be able to see for yourself in a few moments.
And so now it is my pleasure to turn the briefing over to the experts on this matter, Ambassador Cofer Black, my Coordinator in the State Department for Counterterrorism, and Mr. John Brennan, who is the Director of the Terrorism Threat Information Center reporting directly to the Director of Central Intelligence.
With that, I will turn it over to Cofer and John. Thank you.
QUESTION: Sir, before you --
QUESTION: Can you take a question on --
QUESTION: Can you take one question? Why should the American people have confidence in the Terrorist Threat Information Center, which was created to help the government prevent attacks like the September 11th attacks? Why should the American people have confidence it can do that when it was unable to accurately count what happened last year?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you will hear in a moment what the problem was. TTIC is a new organization, and when we found out there was a problem in the data -- and frankly, we have spent the last two weeks going back through years and years of data, and assembling not only the data, but how were things categorized, what system was in place, so to see if we could have solid trend analysis over time. And we discovered gaps in the data. We discovered errors in the way the data was being added up.
And over the last two weeks, and this is working seven days a week, all of the analysts have come together and agreed on what you are about to -- what you're about to receive from these two gentlemen, and this will be the basis upon which the TTIC and the State Department will be doing our work in the future. And we will be also consulting with Congress and any other experts who can help us do a better job.
We have only one goal with this report, and that is to accurately reflect the pattern of terrorism that existed throughout the world during the period of the report. 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.
And I think the way in which we have responded to this challenge to the report, by coming straight out and saying, you're right, it needs correction, and it has been corrected, and as soon as this briefing is over, before the afternoon is over, I expect that the corrected information will be on our websites and then we'll figure out how to put out errata sheets or additional information that will correct the hard copy versions of the report.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
SECRETARY POWELL: But the American people can have confidence in what we are doing and what we have done. This report is inaccurate in the sense that the numbers were off. When you hear the briefing, you will see that they were off, but not off by wild amounts. The number of wounded is off quite a bit, which is a function of, as I said, some calculating errors as well as the nature of the particular incidents.
Thank you. I've got to get to the White House.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
QUESTION: Sir, just a couple of questions.
SECRETARY POWELL: I've got to get --
QUESTION: On another subject --
SECRETARY POWELL: I've got to the get to the White House.
QUESTION: I'll be very quick.
SECRETARY POWELL: Be very quick, please.
QUESTION: Interrogation documents, the practice, the procedures used for interrogating prisoners are coming out, apparently, today. As a former Chief of Staff, do you have any observations on the Pentagon's system of interrogating prisoners?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm going to let the Pentagon present whatever information it's going to present. All I know is that the President has made it clear, and it has always been my position, as well and a code that I've lived with for 35 years and four months, that we don't torture people who are in our care.
QUESTION: Sir, a question about your characterization of the report on terrorism. Last time, Secretary -- Mr. Armitage did it and I wonder if you could --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm aware of what Mr. Armitage said and what Mr. Armitage said reflected the report as he received it on the 29th of April, and he honestly presented the information that was in here. And if I had been given the report as he was and as Cofer was, I would have said what the report said at that time. We have subsequently found errors in the report, and I'm sure that if all of us had been aware of these errors and had the corrected copy of the report at that time, the statements that were made at that time would have reflected the corrected report. It was --
QUESTION: Would you amend how he characterized this report?
SECRETARY POWELL: His characterization, obviously, was based on a report that had errors in it. I don't know how I can go beyond that. He characterized the report, the data in the report, gave it a trend interpretation that is not accurate because the report at that time was not accurate.
Now, the narrative -- we're not changing the narrative with respect to the different country. We will change the narrative wherever the narrative relates to the data. The corrected data will be in the report and that portion of the report that describes that data will also be corrected.
QUESTION: But how --
QUESTION: Is the U.S. still prevailing in the war on terrorism?
QUESTION: Are we winning the war on terrorism?
SECRETARY POWELL: Why don't you listen to it and then you can have a better understanding. It is still a war on terror. I don't think even Mr. Armitage said that it is won. It is not won. It continues.
QUESTION: He said you're prevailing.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. It continues. He said something at a time when he had incorrect information in front of him. And now we have correct information.
QUESTION: And you're not prevailing?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't say that. Why don't you listen to the briefing and then we can -- they will have more than enough time for questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I have got to get a meeting, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Will you be updating the --
QUESTION: -- you have the final report?
SECRETARY POWELL: Here are the experts. They will tell you.