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State Department retracts terrorism assertion

Corrected report will show 'sharp increase'


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government acknowledged Thursday that a recent report declaring a decline in terrorism in 2003 was wrong.

The report, released in April and touted by top administration officials as a sign of the success of the war on terrorism, was based on faulty data, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

In fact, he told reporters, the corrected report will show "a sharp increase over the previous year." The corrected version is not yet completed, he said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell denied the errors were the result of an effort to make the administration look good.

"Of course not," he told reporters. "I'm very disturbed that there were errors in the report."

Given that officials touted the original report as a positive, reporters asked Powell whether the corrected report indicates the war on terrorism is not working.

"Nobody has suggested that the war on terrorism has been won," responded Powell. "The president has made it clear that it is a war that continues and that we have to redouble our efforts."

The government's goal in releasing the corrected report "is to give the American people the facts," he said.

Boucher, facing similar questions, said, "When we're sure we have the new facts, the right facts, we will prepare an appropriate analysis and give you our assessment at that moment."

Boucher released a statement saying the State Department initiated a review of the data in the 2003 edition of "Patterns of Global Terrorism" -- released April 29 -- after learning of possible discrepancies during the first week of May.

A May 17 letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, "added impetus to our efforts," the statement said.

"The data in the report was compiled by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was established in January 2003 and includes elements from the CIA, FBI and Departments of Homeland Security and Defense.

"Based on our review, we have determined that the data in the report is incomplete and in some cases incorrect. Here at the Department of State, we did not check and verify the data sufficiently," the statement said.

At his briefing with reporters, Boucher said, "We got the wrong data and we didn't check it enough. I think that's the simplest explanation for what happened."

He added, "the errors that were made, we're still trying to get to the bottom of. Apparently they were different types. It was several errors that led to a significant omissions in the figures."

Uncorrected report says acts of terror lowest since 1969

The people who tabulated the report apparently did not look at the entire year and did not include attacks that should be defined as acts of terrorism, he said.

"So it seems like there were a variety of things like that ... and over here at State Department, we didn't check it out. We didn't check it or verify it sufficiently. We took the numbers. We did an analysis and we gave you what our assessment was."

The inaccurate report says 190 acts of international terrorism occurred in 2003 -- a slight drop from 198 attacks the previous year and the lowest total since 1969.

When the report was released, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Cofer Black, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism, extolled it at a news conference.

Armitage said nations around the world, along with the United States, are "successfully waging this campaign."

Black attributed the decrease in attacks to "unprecedented collaboration between the United States and foreign partners to defeat terrorism."


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