Monday, February 27, 2017

Homeland Security report contradicts Trump ban

Rachel Maddow reported on her Friday night MSNBC show that a "senior White House official" had told CNN that the "Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate that the security threat from these seven countries is substantial."

Notice the wording.  They "are working on . . . will demonstrate."  Remember that the Appeals Court refused to lift the stay on Trump's immigration ban on the seven countries, in part, because they had produced no evidence that this was a rational executive order.   In other words, does the ban make sense, based on the reality of the threat?

So it looks like the administration ordered DHS and DOJ to find the evidence -- and write a report that will prove we need the ban.

Sound familiar?   Dick Cheney hounded the CIA, pushing them to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the invasion they were already far along in planning.   And they finally did somehow concoct this "fake news" about yellow cake uranium in Niger -- which turned out to be false -- and those aluminum tubes that could be, maybe, for centrifuges, but weren't.   All false,  despite the deceptive assurances they gave Colin Powell, who had to present this "evidence" to the United Nations.   It was the concocted "news" used to sell the Iraq invasion that Cheney demanded they produce.

That should have been a cautionary tale, but this administration ignores -- or is ignorant of -- history.    Or blinded by a drive to gain power and disrupt our "administrative government."  [Actually, I think Bannon ignores history, and he can manipulate Trump, who is ignorant of history.]

Back to now, and the requested report from DHS.  Then came the bombshell.   The intelligence group within DHS did write a report that says the exact opposite.   Now the new people brought in by the Trump administration to run DHS saw this report and apparently decided to put a hold on it.    But someone from the intelligence group leaked it to the Associated Press.   This is probably one of those "leaks" that has Trump so agitated -- and no wonder.   It shoots a hole in his travel ban and humiliates him.

Now, to put some balance on this, the response from DHS to explain their action was that this was only a preliminary draft and is only one piece of the evidence that DHS will consider in writing its final, comprehensive report.   Maybe.  The DHS spokeswoman also said that the seven countries were selected, in part, because they lack the ability to properly vet their citizens and refuse to cooperate with the U.S. efforts to screen would-be travelers.  That sounds more plausible, but I've become very cynical about believing anything that comes from a Trump-appointed person.

But maybe the truth is in this report, and someone leaked it, because they knew it would never be released otherwise.   The situation seems to be widespread throughout all the intelligence -- and other -- agencies.   Professionals in these government jobs suddenly have bosses who often have very different motives and goals for their departments.  "Government sources" told CBS News that there has been friction between some intelligence analysts and their supervisors.

So, for what it may be worth, what does the report say?

As reported for the AP by Vivian Salama and Alicia Caldwell, it says that DHS's intelligence arm "found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States."  It further states that being a citizen of one of these countries "is unlikely to be a reliable indicator" of a terrorist threat.                      

They found that, of 82 people that our government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in the United States, slightly more than half were U.S. citizens born in the United States.   That number, 82, includes the 19 who attacked us on 9/11.

The others were from 26 different countries.  If you pick the seven countries, from those 26, that have spawned the most threats to us, only two from Trump's ban list would be included -- Somalia and Iraq.   Iran, Sudan, and Yemen had only one each.

Not a single one of them came from Syria.   And yet, Trump's ban would indefinitely bar anyone from Syria coming in, even as a fully vetted refugee seeking asylum.

So does the data in this report -- preliminary though it may be -- support the Trump travel ban as a rationally based decision?  No.

Let's look at it from the likelihood of an American citizen here in the U.S. being killed by a terrorist attacker from any country, not just these seven.  And remember, the most deaths by far from terrorists on U.S. soil was in the 9/11 attack.   That was carried out by men mostly from Saudi Arabia (not on Trump's list -- he has business there), and they were legally in the U.S. on tourist visas.

Based on statistics from 1975 through 2015, calculated by Alex Nowrasteh, an Immigration Policy Analyst with the Cato Institute, the chances of an American dying in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil by a foreign national are 1 in 3,609,709 per year.   That is a risk of 0.00003%.   If you narrow it down to the chance of being killed by an immigrant terrorist, the risk is astronomic:  1 in 10.9 billion.

Compare that to the chances of being murdered overall:   1 in 14,000, about 252 times greater than the chance of being killed by a foreigner, period.  Think about that when Trump insists we have to build a wall.   You probably do ten things a day that put you at more risk of dying than does someone sneaking into our country illegally and killing you.

Nowrasteh, the rational, number-crunching, statistical analyst, concludes:   "The harm that [imposing the immigration ban] has done to lawful permanent residents in the U.S., to folks who had a legal visa who were stuck overseas for days, to American businesses who had hiring and business operations frustrated as a result -- for almost zero benefit to U.S. national security -- is truly unforgivable."

To answer the question asked by the 9th Circuit Appeals Court:  No, there is no rational basis for this travel ban.   There is nothing rational about the whole Trump debacle.


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