Why is the State Department altering its annual report on global terrorism?

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Consumer alert! If you're the sort of person who likes to curl up in bed on a Friday night with a bag of Fritos, three 20-ounce Dr. Peppers, seven cats and a book version of your favorite government report, please note that the upcoming edition of one of the most popular titles in the U.S. Government Printing Office's vast and enjoyable catalog is about to undergo a major revision!

At this point, you're probably thinking, "Man, they'd better not be fiddling around with 'One Hundred and One Common Mosses, Liverworts and Lichens of the Olympic Peninsula.' That's the best book the GPO has put out since 1998's 'Life Events and Your Retirement and Insurance Benefits (for Annuitants).'"

Relax. Those two titles will remain as they are.

The report that's getting messed with is the new edition of "Patterns of Global Terrorism." Written each year since 1985 by the State Department, "Patterns of Global Terrorism" is a summary of where terrorism is taking place and who is responsible. The State Department produces the report not because they love us (although I'm sure they do), but because Congress mandates it. It is, in the words of U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, "the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world."

The 2005 edition, which reports on terrorism in 2004, comes out April 30. This year's edition will be different from the previous 20 or so because, for the first time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has ordered the report's authors to omit any terrorism statistics in the report.

Let me repeat that in case you missed it.

We're in the middle of a supposed War on Terror™, and the government's most important report on terrorism will no longer include data such as the number of terrorist attacks in 2004 or the number of people killed and wounded in those attacks. Pardon my freedom, but what the fuck is going on here?

Perhaps the State Department's sudden unwillingness has something to do with the fact that, if released, the data would show a dramatic jump in the number of global terrorist attacks in 2004.

Knight-Ridder's wire service reported on April 21 that Rice's office decided to yank the terrorism data from the reports after the National Counterterrorism Center informed the State Department that there were "655 significant terrorist attacks" in 2004. That is by far the highest number of significant terrorist attacks in a single year since the State Department started writing the report. There were 175 significant terrorist attacks worldwide in 2003, 138 in 2002 and 124 in 2001. That's right, America, since the Bush administration has been in charge, the number of significant global terrorist attacks is up by 528 percent.

And that's just according to those numbers. They don't include the more than 17,000 Americans killed and wounded in Iraq by people who are described by the administration (often correctly, I should add) as "terrorists." Bush himself calls Iraq a "central front in the war on terror."

Is the State Department trying to save the White House from embarrassing numbers? Condi doesn't return my calls anymore, so I can't tell you with certainty. I can tell you with certainty, however, that last year the State Department "accidentally" released the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report with erroneously low numbers for 2003 (they left out attacks occurring in November and December 2003).

Until the "error" was "discovered," the White House and its peeps bragged about how there was statistical proof that Bush's policies were making us safer from terrorism. Now that there's dramatic numerical proof showing the opposite is true (a 374 percent increase in the number of attacks in just one year!), they're leaving the numerical proof out of the report.

You can draw your own conclusions. Or, if it's easier, go ahead and infer from my sarcasm and carefully placed quotation marks around words like "accident" and "discovered" that your government is actively trying to misinform you.