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In the Trump administration's terror report, read the fine print

I'm starting to think the Trump administration tried to scare people by massaging terrorism data to arrive at a politically convenient result.
Image: U.S. Attorney General Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington...

The title of the new Trump administration report isn't subtle. The document, released this morning by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, says its focus is "protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States."

At The Hill, the administration appeared to get the kind of write-up officials were hoping for.

Three out of four individuals convicted on international terrorism charges in the U.S. were foreign born, according to a new report released by the Trump administration amid a contentious debate on national security and immigration.Between Sept. 11, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2016, 549 individuals were convicted on international terrorism charges, of whom 254 were foreign citizens, 148 were naturalized U.S. citizens and 147 were natural born U.S. citizens, according to Department of Justice numbers.

An unnamed senior administration official told reporters the report is intended to "illuminate basic statistics that should be at the hands of the American people to inform public discourse on the issue."

And while that may seem like a worthwhile goal, it's worth considering the fine print in the report when evaluating the "basic statistics."

Simon Maloy, for example, took note of the Trump administration's methodology. From the second full page of the newly released report: "This information includes both individuals who committed offenses while located in the United States and those who committed offenses while located abroad, including defendants who were transported to the United States for prosecution. It does not include individuals convicted of offenses relating to domestic terrorism, nor does it include information related to terrorism-related convictions in state courts."

Oh. So the point of the report appears to be bolster Trump World's argument that those concerned about terrorism on American soil should necessarily be concerned with immigrants and foreigners. After all, as the document put it, approximately 73 percent of those convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts "were foreign-born."

But that includes convicted terrorists who weren't in the United States until we brought them here for trial and it excludes instances of domestic terrorism -- which, as we know, is often at least as dangerous to the American public as international terrorism.

And yet, there was Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying this morning, "This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality -- our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety."

It's a nice trick: as part of an anti-immigration push, the Trump administration is counting people who weren't even on American soil. It's almost as if Trump World were trying to scare people by massaging the data to arrive at a politically convenient result.