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Powell 'not a happy camper' about terror report

Revised look at attacks in 2003 will show sharp increase

Secretary of State Colin Powell is interviewed Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
State Department
Acts of terror
Colin Powell
Richard Boucher

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell found himself regretting and backpedaling Sunday for the second time in a month as he acknowledged that an erroneous terror report was a mistake and insisted politics did not lead to the report's omissions.

Released in April, the State Department's annual report on global terrorism incorrectly declared that terrorist attacks declined in 2003. But figures from a corrected report "will be up sharply," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has said.

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

The report found that 169 of those were "significant" attacks, which involved death, serious injury or major property damage. However, researchers Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University and David Laitin of Stanford University reported in May that the number of significant attacks represented a 36 percent increase over the 124 events in 2001.

Sunday, Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the report "doesn't downplay terrorism in the slightest. But unfortunately, the data that is within the report -- the actual number of incidents -- is wrong."

Powell said the information was compiled by the CIA and the Terrorist Threat Information Center, which includes officials from the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and CIA. He said State Department officials were working during the weekend to find out how the mistakes occurred, and he said he would meet Monday with officials from those agencies to discuss the errors

"All sorts of alarm bells should have gone off" when the data were being compiled, Powell said, but he denied that the figures were skewed for political purposes.

"I am not a happy camper over this," he said. "We were wrong."

California Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said the 2003 report did not include attacks that happened after the report's November 11 printing deadline.

That deadline prevented the inclusion of the bombings of two synagogues, the British consulate and a bank in Istanbul later that month, among other attacks, the researchers reported.

In a letter to Powell, Waxman accused the Bush administration of manipulating figures to show a decline in terrorist attacks ahead of the elections in November.

After the report's release, top Bush administration officials pointed to it as a sign that the war on terrorism was succeeding.

"This manipulation may serve the administration's political interests, but it calls into serious doubt the integrity of the report," Waxman wrote in May.

Powell denied any duplicity was behind the mistakes.

"There's nothing political about it," Powell said. "It's a data collection and reporting error. We'll get to the bottom of it, issue a corrected report and talk to Congressman Waxman."

The report marks the second time in a month that Powell disavowed information initially presented as accurate.

In May, he said much of the sourcing for his February 2003 presentation to the U.N. Security Council -- in which he outlined the U.S. arguments in favor of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein from Iraq -- was "inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading."

About the latest incident, "I am regretful that this has happened," he said Sunday. "We are going to get it fixed. We are going to get it corrected."

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