Perhaps frustrated by the fact that since 9/11 no Americans have been killed on US soil by terrorists from the seven countries affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban, the conservative media have rallied around a dubious “study” purporting to show that 72 people from those countries have been convicted on terror charges since 9/11. But an honest reading of their data only reveals how thin the basis for the order really is.
The “study” is based on media reports compiled last year by Republican staffers on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, which was then headed by newly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)—an anti-immigration think tank—then combed through that data and pulled out incidents involving people born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
The study’s release has been greeted by conservative publications with enthusiastic headlines like “New Study Proves Trump Right,” “Study Proves Judges Wrong,” (a reference to the Ninth Circuit court’s decision blocking the ban), and “Whoops! Turns Out 72 Terrorists Came From Banned Countries.”
But the underlying data reveal a different story. The first thing that jumps out is that it cites a few well-publicized plots that were foiled by authorities—like the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was found guilty of attempting to set off a “bomb” that an FBI informant had provided him at an event in Portland, Oregon, in 2012–and none of the other “terrorists” highlighted in the study were involved in plots within the United States, which, presumably, is the whole point of the exercise.
That’s right—these 72 evil-doers carried out zero attacks, and killed a grand total of zero people in the United States.
David Sterman, an analyst at New America, a think tank, did a serious study of the 856,000 immigrants, visa holders, and green-card holders from the seven affected countries, and found that over the past 15 years, a grand total of three individuals carried out attacks in the United States, wounding a number of people but, thankfully, killing none (those three cases aren’t included in the CIS study; two were killed at the scene by police and the third was convicted of multiple counts of attempted murder).