Bad data forces changes in terrorism report

The State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 Annual Report

Outdated databases and mismanaged data input were to blame, in part, for errors in the Bush administration's global terrorism report, officials said.

The newly revised Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 annual report includes significant changes in the number of terrorism-related deaths, injuries and incidents. The report, compiled by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) and presented by the State Department, showed much higher numbers than in the original release. The initial mistake was not intentional and was partly caused by technology and personnel problems, officials said.

"Numerous factors contributed to the inaccurate information contained in the 2003 Patterns of Global Terrorism publication," TTIC Director John Brennan said at a June 23 press briefing. Launched in May 2003, TTIC is a partnership among the CIA, FBI and departments of Homeland Security and Defense. The center is tasked with compiling and analyzing terrorist threat information.

"There was insufficient review and quality control throughout the entire data compilation, drafting and publication process, including the inaccurate and incomplete database numbers provided by TTIC," Brennan said, according to a transcript of the briefing.

The revised report indicates that 625 people were killed by terrorist attacks in 2003, up from the 307 reported in the April release. There were 3,646 wounded, a rise from the reported 1,593, and 208 acts of international terrorism, as opposed to the reported 190.

Since about Nov. 11, 2003, information was not properly entered into databases, which is among the issues contributing to the mistakes, according to Ambassador Cofer Black, State's coordinator for counterterrorism. Further, moving the terrorism-tracking responsibilities from the CIA to the newly formed TTIC led to staff vacancies and contractor mismanagement, he said.

"There were individual contractors who actually had the inputting responsibilities for the database," Black said at the briefing. "Contractors rotate, and so the individual who was in charge of those contractors who left then misinput the information into the databases."

"So it was a combination of things: inattention, personnel shortages and [a] database that is awkward and is antiquated," Black said.

The inaccuracies prompted TTIC officials to review the databases, technology and processes for compiling and entering the terrorist data, Brennan said, which will lead to changes in the center's technology.

"This review has exposed serious deficiencies and ambiguities that need to be addressed immediately," Brennan said. "As a result, I have directed that the interagency process that has been used to compile statistics and to support the department in its annual Patterns publication be overhauled and that changes be made in the staffing, database and computer technology involved in this effort."

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