By Meg Wagner
Dozens of well-reported attacks included
The White House released a list of what it deems “underreported” international terrorist attacks on Monday night, in an apparent effort to bolster President Donald Trump’s claims earlier in the day that the media is not sufficiently covering terrorism.
The list, which is comprised of 78 domestic and foreign incidents between September 2014 and December 2016, includes the June attack on Florida’s Pulse nightclub and a California couple’s fatal shooting rampage at a San Bernardino office holiday party in December 2015.
Both of those cases continue to make headlines today amid ongoing legal issues: The Pulse gunman’s wife is charged with helping him before the attack and interfering with the investigation afterward, and a neighbor is facing gun charges in the San Bernardino case.
The list also includes other widely covered incidents: the attack in August 2015 on a train in France in which three Americans stopped the gunman; the massacre at and around the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in November 2015; and one in Berlin which a driver stole a truck and drove it through a Christmas market in 2016. It also includes one of the murders that occurred after the infamous shooting at the left-wing satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris — but confusingly not the Charlie Hebdo attack itself, in which the gunmen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and which was widely seen as an attack not only on liberal France but on press freedom.
It’s unclear on what basis the September 2014 through December 2016 timeline was chosen.
Trump had blasted the press’s coverage of terrorism while speaking to service members at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Monday.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported,” he said. “And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later clarified the comments, saying that Trump did not mean the attacks were not being covered at all, but rather they are “underreported.” Neither man defined what they meant by that term.
The list and the travel ban
Since taking office, Trump has swiftly and forcefully prioritized what he claims is his efforts to thwart terror in the U.S., and this list may be another part of that campaign. A week into his presidency, Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring certain travelers and immigrants from entering the U.S., claiming that the move would target “terror-prone” nations.
“It is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country!” Trump tweeted last week about the ban, which also indefinitely suspends entry for Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS’s wrath and a bloody civil war.
“We need to remind people that the Earth is a very dangerous place these days,” Spicer said at a Tuesday press briefing while discussing the list of attacks.
The underreported parts of the “underreported” list
The list is focused on attacks committed by Islamist extremists and those who have pledged their allegiance to groups deemed terrorist organizations, while ignoring violence carried out by extremists of other ideologies.
There’s no mention, for instance, of a white gunman’s June 2015 attack on a black church in South Carolina, which killed nine worshipers. Gunman Dylann Roof — who wrote a twisted manifesto detailing his hatred of black people before the attack — was convicted of hate crimes and murder in late 2016.
The list also does not include the fatal July 2017 ambush attack on Dallas police officers. Shooter Micah Johnson, who fatally shot five officers before he was killed by police, told negotiators that he wanted to “kill white people” during a tense standoff.
Even for a list that zeroed in on purely Islamist terror attacks, there are still major gaps, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The document doesn’t include any of ISIS’s campaigns in Syria and Iraq — where its violence is most heavily concentrated. About 98 percent of the group’s attacks between 2013 and 2015 were carried out in Syria and Iraq, a 2016 report by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism found.
Meanwhile, Trump’s travel ban order heads to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the federal judges to overturn a suspension of the ban, a move made by a Washington state judge last week. The court will hear arguments from both sides beginning at 6 p.m. ET, and a decision is expected later this week.