Homeland Security Policy Institute releases report that lends support for increased police state measures, ignores all contrary facts and statistics
By End the Lie
A report, called “Counterterrorism Intelligence: Law Enforcement Perspectives” was released earlier this month through the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute which lends heavy support for increasing local law enforcement efforts to thwart the threat of terrorism.
The report, authored by Frank J. Cilluffo, Joseph R. Clark, and Michael P. Downing, also advocates increased synergy between local, state and federal law enforcement authorities, which is completely reasonable and justified.
Where it gets problematic is the heavy support the report lends to increasing police state measures in the United States and the highly questionable methodology employed in the report.
The report is essentially the findings of a survey conducted with less than 50 participants. You did not read that wrong. They are making attempts at generalizing statements made by a sample of less than 50 so-called experts, all of essentially homogenous opinion.
Even the authors of the report must point out this massive methodological flaw, although they employ classic Orwellian doublethink by claiming just moments later that it isn’t a flaw at all.
The basis for the report was a 44 question survey conducted by the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute with funds from both GWU and the Ahmanson Foundation at a conference of the Intelligence Unit Commanders Group of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which “is a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada.”
The most astounding part of the study is that there were even less participants than there were questions on the survey. You don’t need to take a statistics course to realize that this is a bit unusual.
Would you consider a two-question study legitimate if they asked one person? Probably not, but the Homeland Security Policy Institute, or HSPI, thinks it is a reasonable way to go about compiling research.
For this 44-question study, the sample size was a measly 42 individuals. On page five of the report, they aptly point out that, “From a purely statistical standpoint, such a sample raises questions about the generalizability of HSPI’s findings.”
That is a massive understatement. These findings are not even remotely generalizable. If someone attempted to get research published with such a meaningless sample size, they would get laughed out of the room. This is like polling a single class in a single high school then generalizing it to every high school student in the nation.
To justify their incredibly small sample, HSPI uses what is known as argumentum ad verecundiam, or more commonly, argument from authority or appeal to authority. This type of argument is not always fallacious, and so there are some rough guidelines for determining if an appeal to authority is warranted.
One question is if the authority in question is significantly biased. In this case, it is hard to argue that law enforcement professionals with an emphasis on counterterrorism would not be biased. If terrorism were to cease being a real issue and a threat, all of their positions would become obsolete, along with a lot of their alleged expertise.
Another question is if the alleged expert or authority in question is representative of the majority of the rest of the experts’ opinions. This is highly arguable in this case since the sample size is ludicrously small but one might argue that all law enforcement professionals with a focus on counterterrorism will make every effort to highlight the alleged threat terrorism poses because their job security relies on said threat.
Let’s put these massive methodological flaws and the questionable logical basis of their generalizations aside. They claim that these individuals “represent expert opinions about the relative threat posed by terrorism and the importance of counterterrorism activities.” For the sake of analysis let us just accept this claim, regardless of the fact that all of the individuals surveyed were completely biased and an infinitesimal fraction of the actual law enforcement community.
On the same page, the authors make sure to warp the mind of the reader to accept any claim made by the authors by saying, “the data cannot be taken ‘as is’ – it must be placed into context and interpreted with care.”
Obviously, the authors are those who can interpret “with care” to draw the conclusions they want, while the layperson is likely to be characterized as unable to place it into context or interpret the findings with care.
Making this somewhat laughable assertion is prudent as there are many findings which significantly detract from the authors’ and the Department of Homeland Security’s stance.
In the next sentence they give us an example of why we shouldn’t actually pay attention to the findings and instead to what the authors tell us to think, “many respondents reported that the information they received from their local fusion center often lacks value.” One reading this would rightly take away that the fusion centers issue lots of useless intelligence, opposed to actionable intelligence which would be used to actually thwart terrorism.
Yet, we are not supposed to read this as it is written as we are unable to place it into context and interpret it with care, since only the self-proclaimed experts can do such a thing. Laypeople apparently can’t muster the cognitive fortitude required to read simple English, no, you must be a counterterrorism expert to do such mental heavy-lifting!
They tell us why we can’t take away a simple conclusion directly from the word of “many respondents” by saying, “It would be a mistake to draw from this a direct conclusion about the utility of fusion centers.”
Apparently the fact that information being issued by local fusion centers is useless is no indication of the utility of fusion centers. The rational line of thinking required to come to this conclusion is beyond me, but maybe it is just because I am not a counterterrorism expert.
The authors say that instead of reading the statement and coming to the obvious conclusion, “the data must be taken as a perception of the fusion centers or of the relationships the respondents have with those centers. Such raw information cannot be taken as an out of context objective measure of fusion center performance.”
This sets the stage for the cherry-picking of data and fallacious logic employed by the authors to give the impression they desire. Instead of presenting objective evidence and allowing it to speak for itself, they instead tell us what to take into account and what not to. The authors, as the self-proclaimed arbiters of truth, tell us when a piece of data is out of context and what the context should be.
We can immediately see the impression that the authors are seeking to leave on the reader: terrorism is a huge threat, the majority of which “is motivated by Islamic radicalism” and that “the threat now manifests itself via homegrown individuals or organizations.”
Right off the bat, on page 6, the authors write, “When asked to rate the risk terrorism poses to their jurisdiction on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 equals no threat and 10 equals high threat – twenty-seven out of forty-two respondents rated the threat as either 6, 7, or 8.”
These so-called professionals must be some of the most egregiously uninformed individuals on the job. If they had any remote grasp of the statistics, they would realize that terrorism in America is far the problem they are making it out to be.
In fact, the National Counterterrorism Center’s 2009 Report on Terrorism has a graph on page 18 which displays the top 15 countries in terms of fatalities as a result of terror attacks. Where is the United States on this graph? Nowhere. Why? Because we do not have the problem with terrorism that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, the DRC, India, Thailand, Russia, Colombia, Sudan, the Philippines, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Iran or Yemen have.
Yet, if you read this most recent report and were completely ignorant of the statistical realities of terrorism in America (like so many law enforcement professionals apparently are) you would walk away frightened and thinking a homegrown terrorist is under your car, around the corner or even under your bed.
Another statistic that significantly hinders the conclusion the authors are attempting to draw in this report is found in the FBI report covering terrorism from 2002-2005.
This report includes a list of terrorist incidents in the United States from 1980-2005 which reveals that in 1980-1984 there were more than twice the amount of terrorist incidents in the United States, at 167, than 1994-2005, during which there were 71.
In fact, the amount of terrorist incidents in the U.S. in years of 1980 and 1981 alone match the number of incidents for the 11 years between 1994 and 2005. Why isn’t this statistic cited more often? Because it would suggest that we have actually been winning the so-called “War on Terror” long before such a war was even declared. That statistic would not help the defense contractors and “experts” who make a healthy living off of the non-existent threat of terrorism in the United States.
I would have hoped that anyone calling themselves an expert on terrorism and counterterrorism would be at least remotely familiar with the hard facts, but unfortunately I was completely wrong. These experts are either so biased that they have no interest in telling the truth or they are wholly misinformed.
Even though the statistics completely debunk the entire narrative peddled by this report, the “experts” now believe that the biggest threat is coming from within. On page 6 of the report they reveal, “When asked to compare the relative threat of homegrown terrorism to that posed by other terrorists or traditional criminal activity, a majority of respondents indicated that homegrown extremists posed the most significant danger.”
Again, a statement which is in complete opposition to the facts coming from these alleged law enforcement experts. Apparently homegrown terrorists are a bigger threat than “traditional criminal activity” which results in far more injuries and fatalities yearly in the United States.
In the aforementioned 2009 NCTC report, it is stated that 25 US citizens died throughout the world as a result of terror attacks, according to the Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs along with numbers provided by the FBI.
How many of these US citizens were killed in America? 16. Yet, these 16 people represent victims of a threat larger than the threat represented by the 15,241 people murdered along with the 89,000 people who were victims of rape in 2009 alone?
That means that for every 100,000 people, 5 were murdered and 28.7 were raped in 2009. Is this really a smaller problem than domestic terrorism? How are over 15,000 American lives worth less than 25?
Besides the disturbing lack of knowledge possessed by these so-called experts, the report reveals wide-spread support of even more police state measures being implemented here in the United States.
Because homegrown extremists apparently pose more of a danger than all of the murderers and rapists who do far more damage, there is a need for an increased counterterrorism effort here at home.
Part of these domestic efforts highlighted in the report is combating the “spread of the [terrorist] entity’s narrative” but never addressed is why exactly extremist groups have the ability to spread their narrative.
A frightening conclusion that can be drawn from the focus on the “spread of the entity’s narrative” is that such claims could be used to justify limiting the American right to free speech.
It would be very easy to justify eliminating free speech if much of the United States was convinced of the danger of spreading terrorist narrative.
The report doesn’t specifically explain what the narrative is or why it is so dangerous. Essentially, anything that criticizes or questions the United States could easily be demonized because it is allegedly spreading “the entity’s narrative”.
The report also lends support for a crackdown on the Second Amendment to the Constitution by saying that, “a few respondents expressed concern for the potential of small arms attacks against targets within the United States potentially including ‘large venues/schools/transportation critical choke points.’”