DOJ Says It Knows It Fudged Numbers On Its Dangerous Immigrants Report, But Refuses To Correct Them Or Release Underlying Data

from the another-federal-level-shrug dept

The DOJ doesn’t care if it lies to the American people. This isn’t exactly a shocking accusation. The DOJ isn’t anyone’s idea of honest, no matter what its name implies. The DOJ has encouraged and supported parallel construction, entrapment (ATF stash house stings, almost every FBI terrorism bust), and shown itself to be a willing extension of every administration it’s attached to. If a narrative needs bolstering, the DOJ will comply.

When the Trump administration wanted to push its narrative about the southern border crawling with dangerous terrorists and criminals, the DOJ leapt in to help. It had to, since the agency charged with immigration enforcement (ICE) couldn’t actually find very many dangerous criminals to detain and deport, even as the President continued to make daily assertions about the national security threat directly across the border.

The DOJ and DHS presented its “findings” to Congress and the American public — a bunch of paper masquerading as a set of facts that contained very little factual information. It claimed a “vast majority” of terrorist acts were perpetrated by foreigners illegally in the United States. This was not simply wrong, but an apparently deliberate attempt to inflate numbers into a national security threat-sized problem. To do this, the DOJ and DHS added in foreign citizens who had been extradited to the US to face trial for terrorism-related charges. Subtracting these, the actual percentage was closer to 20% — not anywhere near the “majority” the agencies claimed.

This was only part of the report’s misrepresentations. Another assertion claimed immigrants were convicted of almost 70,000 sex offenses from 2003 to 2009. Again, the facts did not back this claim up.

The nearly 70,000 offenses spanned a period from 1955 to 2010 — 55 years, not six; the data covered arrests, not convictions…

The DOJ has finally admitted it screwed up when compiling this fact hack job. This admission isn’t going to help it fare any better in the litigation that resulted from the release of the DOJ/DHS’s fact-free report. The agencies are being sued under a little-used law called the Information Quality Act. But larger than this problem is the DOJ’s refusal to truly own its skewed report and the misinformation it spread to support the President’s xenophobic agenda.

Now, after two rounds, the Justice Department has told the groups it will not retract or correct the document. Rather, “in future reports, the department can strive to minimize the potential for misinterpretation,” Michael H. Allen, deputy assistant attorney general for policy, management and planning, wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to the groups.

The DOJ’s counsel claims the misrepresentations were merely “editorial errors.” That hardly seems likely. The addition of extradited individuals to bring up the percentage of foreign-born persons charged for terrorist acts could not have been accidental. And perhaps someone may have slipped up when tallying sexual offenses by foreigners, but it would be a whole lot more believable if the error had been a couple of extra years, rather than five additional decades.

The DOJ and DHS — despite admitting error — also refuse to release the underlying data used to compile the disingenuous report. Certainly the numbers won’t back up the government’s claims, which is likely the reason it won’t hand those numbers over. But the DOJ is being even more obtuse than it needs to be. Here’s the DOJ’s counsel explaining why the DOJ won’t be providing anyone with the underlying data.

“There is no requirement in either the [law or department guidelines] that agencies must always provide underlying data when disseminating information to the public,” Allen wrote.

Well, fuck you too. That’s a hell of a reason to refuse to own up to your misrepresentations. The law doesn’t prevent the DOJ from handing over this info. It simply doesn’t make it mandatory. The DOJ could claw back a bit of goodwill by openly admitting its errors and allowing the public to view the data for itself. But it won’t because no one’s making it. This is what it looks like at the top of the governmental org chart: a bunch of children who’ve spent their free time looking for legal loopholes. What a disgrace, especially for an agency with the word “justice” in its title.

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Comments on “DOJ Says It Knows It Fudged Numbers On Its Dangerous Immigrants Report, But Refuses To Correct Them Or Release Underlying Data”

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17 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah the classics...

Now, after two rounds, the Justice Department has told the groups it will not retract or correct the document. Rather, “in future reports, the department can strive to minimize the potential for misinterpretation,” Michael H. Allen, deputy assistant attorney general for policy, management and planning, wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to the groups.

Good old dodging responsibility and shifting the blame. ‘It’s not our fault for using laughably bogus stats, it’s your fault for ‘misinterpreting’ them.’

“There is no requirement in either the [law or department guidelines] that agencies must always provide underlying data when disseminating information to the public,” Allen wrote.

‘… especially when doing so would allow others to check our work, showing how grossly incompetent and/or dishonest we are.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ah the classics...

‘… especially when doing so would allow others to check our work, showing how grossly incompetent and/or dishonest we are.’

Yes, the general rule is “Do not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence”. But with the current administration I’m wondering if that rule should be reversed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reports lose all credibility if the underlying data is not made available for review and to be probed. Too easy to fit any narrative through selective treatment of outliers or gaps in data using assumptions that trend one way or another.

Thus the DOJ’s report is not credible due to withholding of backup data. Reality can swing better or worse than presented, we don’t know. The data has been withheld.

I would disagree with the assertion that the DOJ is willing to withhold data and put out a biased report on behalf of President Trump.

The DOJ has given President Trump fits from the moment he stepped into office. It would be contradiction for them to participate in all the headaches caused by the Steele report, then at the same time help the administration deliver on campaign promises.

In this case I think the DOJ is being completely self-serving in their report and withholding of information. The funding and power of the DOJ is supported best by holding potential threats up high while withholding information that could be used to refute claims made by the DOJ. Thus they keep making scary noises while working to avoid being backed into a corner in a situation where they must show their work.

They’re walking that line right down the middle.

Anonymous Coward says:

A Proposal

We offer to allow them to collect information about us which is exactly as complete and accurate as the information they provide about them…

…then watch their brains explode as their unreasoning desire for more information comes into conflict with their allergy to transparency and accountability.

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