By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 11, 2004
WASHINGTON, June 10 - The State Department acknowledged Thursday that it was wrong in reporting that terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding the Bush administration had pointed to as evidence of its success in countering terror.
Instead, the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said. Statements by senior administration officials claiming success were based "on the facts as we had them at the time; the facts that we had were wrong," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman said.
When the report was issued April 29, senior administration officials used it as evidence that the war was being won. J. Cofer Black, coordinator of the State Department's Counterterrorism Office, cited the 190 acts of terrorism in 2003, down from 198 in 2002, as "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." His office did not respond Thursday to a request for a statement on disclosures that some of the findings were inaccurate. The erroneous report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," said that attacks declined last year to the lowest level in 34 years and dropped 45 percent since 2001, Mr. Bush's first year as president, when 346 attacks occurred.
Among the mistakes, Mr. Boucher said, was that only part of 2003 was taken into account.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Thursday that the errors were partly the result of new proce dures for collecting data. "I can assure you it had nothing to do with putting out anything but the most honest, accurate information we can," Mr. Powell said said.
"Errors crept in that, frankly, we did not catch here," he said of the report, which showed a decline in the number of attacks worldwide in 2003.
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said this week that the administration had refused to address his contention that the findings were manipulated for political purposes. Mr. Waxman wrote to Mr. Powell in May asking for an explanation.
Mr. Boucher said the department was preparing a reply. "We wanted to make sure that we give the congressman the best and most accurate picture of what we know and what's going on as we can," he said.
"When we are sure we have the new facts, the right facts, we will prepare an appropriate analysis and give you our assessment at that moment," Mr. Boucher said.
He said the errors began to become apparent in early May. "We g ot phone calls from people who were going through our report and who said to themselves, as we should have said to ourselves: 'This doesn't feel right. This doesn't look right.' And who started asking us questions," he said.