State Department doubles calculation of terrorism deaths, after flaws found by Laitin

The State Department has doubled its calculation of the number of people wounded or killed by global terrorism in 2003, after methodological flaws in the department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report were uncovered by CISAC affiliated faculty member David Laitin and Princeton University's Alan Krueger. The revised State Department report says 625 people were killed and 3,646 were wounded in terror attacks last year, compared with the original report's findings that 307 people were killed and 1,593 were wounded in such attacks. The Bush administration had cited the earlier figures in saying that terrorism had been brought to its lowest levels in decades, calling it "a remarkable achievement."

Laitin and Krueger, who are studying patterns of terrorism, suspected something was wrong as soon as they saw the original terrorism report. Upon further analysis of the report, they saw that the supposed decline in terrorism cited in the report resulted from two factors: a decline in the number of so-called "nonsignificant" terrorist events that occurred in 2003, and the fact that the report's authors did not include several major attacks which occurred after Nov. 11, 2003.

After Laitin and Krueger exposed these flaws in the report, Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, challenged the State Department's reporting.

The revision of the terrorism report -- and Laitin and Krueger's role in exposing the original reports flaws -- was covered by the New York Times and CNN.