The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law filed a lawsuit this week against the Justice Department after it failed to turn over key information about terrorism-related prosecutions. The information is needed to provide context for President Trump’s misleading assertion that the vast majority of people convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related crimes are foreign born.
“This stonewalling by the Department of Justice is getting old,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “This is already public data. We’re simply asking for an additional piece of information so we can better understand how the department is fighting terrorism. Rather than just trusting the selective information the DOJ occasionally publishes to serve its own purposes, the public deserves a full accounting of the department’s prosecutions of cases of both domestic and international terrorism.”
The administration’s claim that three out of four terrorists are foreign-born is based solely on 549 international terrorism prosecution identified by the DOJ. But U.S. Attorneys around the country have identified an additional 1,366 federal domestic terrorism prosecutions. A complete and balanced assessment of U.S. terrorism prosecutions should include all kinds of terrorism.
The original Brennan Center freedom of information law request sought public docket numbers, or case numbers, from the Justice Department’s Legal Information Office Network System, or LIONS database. Those docket numbers are the only reliable way to link LIONS records with the public prosecutions stemming from those cases. Without those numbers, there is no way to track down the cases that government lawyers say are related to terrorism.
“Without this critical information, no one can fully and effectively review what activities the Justice Department considers to be terrorism-related,” said the Brennan Center’s Patel. “Sorry, but the era of ‘trust us,’ especially on sensitive terrorism cases, is over.”
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Brennan Center and Charles Kurzman.
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