WASHINGTON – Significant acts of terror worldwide reached a 21-year high in 2003, the State Department (search) announced Tuesday as it corrected a mistaken report that had been cited to boost President Bush's war on terror.
Incidents of terrorism increased slightly during the year, and the number of people wounded rose dramatically, the department said.
J. Cofer Black (search), who heads the department's counterterrorism office, said the report, even as revised, showed "we have made significant progress" in the campaign against international terror.
The corrected report shows that the Bush administration is "playing fast and loose with the truth when it comes to the war on terror," said Phil Singer, spokesman for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign. The administration "has now been caught trying to inflate its success on terrorism," he said.
In all, the department recorded 208 incidents of terror last year, compared with 205 in 2002.
There were 175 "significant events" in 2003, which Black said was the highest number since 1982.
Americans were victims in 1 percent to 1.5 percent of all the attacks, and Muslim militants were responsible for most of them, he said.
About half the casualties resulted from 11 incidents in seven countries, and all were the result of Islamic terrorists, Black said.
The department also reported a decline in the number of people killed, to 625 last year from 725 during 2002. The department reported in its April report that 307 people had been killed last year.
"The numbers were off," Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said, and "we have identified how we have to do this in the future." He also said the initial report was not designed "to make our efforts look better or worse."
The findings had been used by senior administration officials to bolster Bush's claim of success in countering terror.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage (search), for instance, declared in April the report provided "clear evidence that we are prevailing in this fight."
On Tuesday, Powell said Armitage did not have correct information and also had not claimed that the war on terror was won. "It is not won," Powell said. "It continues."
"We should have caught errors in the draft," Black said at a news conference. "It was an honest mistake, not a deliberate deception."
Thirty-five U.S. citizens died in international terror attacks last year. The deadliest was a suicide bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May that counted nine Americans among the 26 victims.
The report did not include U.S. troops killed or wounded in Iraq, or attacks by resistance fighters against American troops, "because they were directed at combatants." Attacks in Iraq against civilians and unarmed military personnel were included.
In all, 3,646 people were wounded worldwide in terror attacks last year, the report said. This represented a sharp increase from the 2,013 wounded in 2002.
In April, the department had said that 1,593 people were wounded in 2003, a sharp decline from the previous year.
The initial report was issued April 29. On June 10, in response to inquiries by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., and several analysts, the State Department acknowledged the findings were inaccurate. Powell attributed the errors partly to a new data system and said there was no attempt to manipulate the figures to buttress Bush's stature.
Powell telephoned Waxman that day, and the congressman said he accepted the explanation.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., was sharply critical Tuesday.
"Funny things happened on the way to the printer," he said. "Unfortunately, this is not the first, second or third instance, for that matter, of a Bush Cabinet secretary having to rewrite a report from their own department."
Emanuel cited inaccurate reports on racial disparities in health care, misleading estimates of the Medicare prescription drug bill and the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed mercury emissions rules.
And Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., who had questioned the initial report, said Tuesday the new version omitted terrorist attacks committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she said the administration thereby "continues to deny the true cost of the war and refuses to be honest with the American people."