(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump's assertion about terrorism had a major falsehood

The president's claim about foreign terrorists missed a key fact

Matthew Rozsa
March 1, 2017 10:02PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress was filled with exaggerations and falsehoods, one of which warrants particular attention — namely, his claims about foreign terrorists.

"According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country," Trump claimed. After citing the terrorist attacks from Sept. 11, the Boston Marathon bombing and the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center — as well as attacks in other countries like Belgium, France and Germany — Trump tied his argument about foreign terrorists to his controversial anti-immigration policy.


"It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur," Trump said. "Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values. We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists."

In fact, most of America's recent terrorist attacks were committed by either native-born American citizens or immigrants who had received American citizenship. Last week the Department of Homeland Security disclosed that out of 82 terrorists who were directly inspired by international terrorist organizations, slightly more than half had been born in the United States. Similarly, a study by the think tank the New America Foundation determined that out of 330 terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 80 percent were committed by American citizens.

These conclusions hold up even when looking at the most notorious terrorist attacks. The Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing, had been naturalized as American citizens after being born in Kyrgystan. The terrorist behind the San Bernardino attack, Syed Rizwan Farook, was born in Chicago, while his wife was born in Pakistan. Most notably, the majority of the perpetrators behind the Sept. 11th attacks hailed from Saudi Arabia.


It's also worth noting that these are not the countries that Trump singled out in his infamous Muslim travel ban, which covered Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (Iraq was dropped from the list earlier today). In fact, no Americans have been killed on their own nation's soil by residents of those countries since at least 1975, and no Syrian refugees in the United States have been officially accused of involvement in any terrorist activities.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Immigrants Immigration Terrorism Terrorists

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