Where's the data, Mr. Clarke?

Richard Clarke continues to criticize the Bush Administration's handling of its War on Terror, but is the data all there?

Tech Culture

Richard Clarke isn't letting up on the Bush Administration for what he continues to argue is its wrongheaded tactics on terrorism.

Clarke, a 30-year counterterrorism veteran of the U.S. government and, now, an analyst for network TV, criticized the Bush Administration's response to September 11 in a speech kicking off the smart-card industry's conference in San Francisco today.

"By every measure, the indicators are that the threat (of terrorism) is at least as great as it was three years ago," Clarke told the attendees of the Smart Card Alliance. Clarke is also the controversial author of the book, Against All Enemies.

He added that terrorism incidents worldwide have increased in the three years since Sept. 11 as compared to the three years before, that funding to terrorists groups had not been stopped, and that recruitment had picked up, not flagged. The last two assertions will have to go unquestioned for now; it's the first with which I would have to take some issue.

I don't doubt that people feel less secure today. A poll conducted by CNET News.com and Harris Interactive found that only 15 percent of respondents felt safer than they were a year ago, and only 20 percent expected to be more secure in the near future. However, that has more to do with people's safety being color coded in yellow with orange highlights and the evening news than actual data.

Especially because the data doesn't seem to support Clarke's claims. According to the U.S. State Department's Patterns of Global Terror, an annual report summarizing the year's bloody events, the period between 1999 and 2001 had about twice as many incidents of terror as 2002 and 2003. (The data for 2004 will not be released until next April.)

Richard Clarke has deep connections within the intelligence community, and perhaps there is data that supports his assertions. If so, I would like to see it.

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