WASHINGTON — An annotated version of Donald Trump’s speech on combatting terrorism would be heavy with asterisks. The presumptive GOP nominee’s speech Monday painted a picture of a nation overrun by terrorists and with cowed leaders — including the State Department under Hillary Clinton’s leadership — doing little to keep them out. The reality is far more complex.
Clinton, too, spoke about how to fight the terrorist issue, but relied on thin data in an implied scold of her GOP opponent.
A look at some of the candidates’ claims:
TRUMP: “The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why she believes immigration from these dangerous countries should be increased without any effective system to really screen. We’re not screening people.”
THE FACTS: Refugees entering the U.S. are subject to rigorous background checks, including a search of government databases that list people suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. Processing of refugees can take anywhere from 18 months to 24 months — and usually longer for those coming from Syria.
Refugees are subject to in-person interviews overseas and are required to provide biographical data about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email addresses and other information, along with biometric information including fingerprints.
The vetting process is led by the Homeland Security Department, with involvement from the State Department and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
For all that caution, though, U.S. officials have acknowledged there is a risk the Islamic State group could try to place operatives among refugees. Last year, FBI Director James Comey said data about people coming from Syria may be limited, adding, “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our database.”
TRUMP: “Immigration from Afghanistan into the United States has increased nearly five-fold — five-fold in just one year.”
THE FACTS: Data from the State Department suggests Trump is off the mark: In fiscal 2015, about 7,200 Afghans were admitted to the United States as either refugees or holders of a special immigrant visa, given mostly to Afghans who worked as translators or in another capacity helping U.S. forces in the country. The majority were in the latter category.
That’s down from 7,910 in fiscal 2014. The number is creeping up this year: Between Oct. 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016, 9,018 Afghans arrived. Most of them traveled on the special visa reserved for those who were helping the U.S., not refugees.
It’s possible Trump was relying on the Homeland Security Department’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. It shows a nearly five-fold increase in the number of people from Afghanistan who became lawful permanent residents between 2013 and 2014, the most recent statistics available. But it is unclear from the government’s data if all those people arrived during the same year they were granted permanent residency.
CLINTON: “Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric” and a ban on Muslims entering the country, as Trump has advocated, are counterproductive. “It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino.”
THE FACTS: There are no official government data available for the period Clinton specified. Her campaign said the statistic came from a December report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, which relied on a single month of U.S. media reports of “anti-Muslim hate crime attacks,” beginning with the Nov. 13, 2015, date of the Paris attacks. It then compared that number with a different data source, the average monthly totals for the prior five years of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to the FBI.
The study’s author, UC San Bernardino Professor Brian Levin, acknowledged limitations to his findings, including comparing disparate data sets. And because he measured only one month, he couldn’t say whether the increase he observed in December persisted until now, as Clinton implied. Levin said reports of hate crimes generally peak in the month after a terror attack and then fall back to something near the average.
TRUMP: “Clinton’s State Department was in charge of admissions and the admissions process for people applying to enter from overseas. Having learned nothing from these attacks, she now plans to massively increase admissions without a screening plan, including a 500 percent increase in Syrian refugees coming into our country.”
THE FACTS: Between Oct. 1 and the end of May, the U.S. resettled about 2,800 Syrian refugees in the United States.
President Barack Obama has pledged to bring 10,000 Syrians into the country this year. Since 2011, 5,763 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States. Clinton supports allowing in 65,000 refugees. That would be more than a 500 percent increase. But the vetting process is so lengthy and in depth that it would likely be difficult to speed up the pace without a major overhaul of the screening process or a big increase in resources.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton “says the solution is to ban guns. … Her plan is to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us.”
THE FACTS: Trump is overstating Clinton’s gun proposals. She supports a ban on certain military-style weapons, similar to the law President Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s. That ban expired after 10 years and has not been renewed. Clinton also backs an expansion of existing criminal background checks to apply to weapons sales at gun shows. The checks now apply mainly to sales by federally licensed gun dealers.
Federal authorities have said the Orlando shooter legally obtained the weapons he used at the night club. The assault weapons ban barred AR-15 rifles, but the exact model used by Mateen may not have been covered by the ban. The AR-15-style firearm also was used in the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Newtown, Connecticut.
CLINTON: “We have to do more to support our first responders, law enforcement and intelligence officers who do incredible work every day at great personal risk to keep our country safe. … Too often, state and local officials can’t get access to intelligence from the federal government that would help them do their jobs. We need to change that. ”
TRUMP: “We need an intelligence-gathering system second to none. Second to none. That includes better cooperation between state, local and federal officials — and with our allies.”
THE FACTS: Neither candidate was specific about what kinds of improvements are needed in the federal government’s relationship with state and local officials in the fight against terrorism. And it is too early in the Orlando investigation to know whether the federal government had failed to support state and local law enforcement or to share information that might have prevented the attack.
But the need to support first responders and share information with local law enforcement has been a rallying cry since the 9/11 attacks. Billions of dollars have been provided to cities and states for counterterrorism efforts, and new policies and procedures have been put in place to share information. The federal government has provided billions in counterterrorism grants to first responders over the past 15 years, though the budget for these grants has been cut more recently.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Manchester, N.H., Lisa Lerer in Cleveland, Bill Barrow in Atlanta and Eileen Sullivan, Chad Day, Steve Braun and Michael Biesecker in Washington contributed to this report.