Debunked: FBI Data Reveal 7,700 Terrorist Encounters in US

Mick West

Staff member
Encounters Per population.jpg

In a misleading article on, Brandon Darby attempts to portray a relatively small number (7,700) of positive matches that were made against the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database (1,877,133 people) as evidence that "terrorists" are streaming across the border, particularly in Arizona.

In fact the number of matches (which were generally from routine things, like traffic stops, and TSA passenger screening), generally matches the population of the states (highest in the states with the highest populations: New York, Florida, California, and Texas). When ranked by matches per head of population then Arizona actually ranks behind several other states, including Nevada, New York, and Vermont.

Breitbart's headline and article say the matches are "Terrorist Encounters" however the briefing itself calls them "Known or Suspected Terrorist Encounters", and the vast majority of them are simply "suspected", just people on the 1.87 Million names on the Terrorist Screening Database. The FBI's terrorist screening database is the same database that Breitbart (along with the NRA) previously criticized as being overly broad when they opposed the use of the list to deny gun sales to people on it.

The information is contained in what Breitbart describe as "leaked documents", a briefing by the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.

Here's the slides, with Breitbart's take on them, and my response:

Slide 1 is just the title
Slide 2:
Breitbart's claim:
However what the map is basically showing is a simple reflection of the population of each state. Here's a map of states by population. Compare it to the map above.

The use of maps like this is a common misinformation tactic by people wanting to focus on "Border States". The simple fact is that in the US most people live in a border state. Breitbart seems want you to focus on the border with Mexico, as their aim here seems to be supporting Trump's plan for a Mexican border wall. But they skip over the high numbers in Florida (bordered by the ocean), New York and Minnesota (bordering Canada) and Illinois (not a border state).

A more accurate number is the Encounters per 100,000 head of population. (spreadsheet attached). Using the 2010 census figures for population, and ignoring the D.C. area (high because of all the government offices processing cases there), the highest rate of encounters is not actually in a border state, it's in the landlocked Nevada. Arizona actually falls behind Nevada, Minnesota, Vermont, New York, and Michigan. The other Mexican border states (California, Texas, and New Mexico) rank #19, #20 and #25


Slide 3:
Breitbart says:
Again though this simply reflects population centers. The population of Arizona is 6.7 million, but 4.3 million of them (65%) live in the Phoenix metro area. So this slide simply shows exactly what you'd expect from a random sampling of the population.

Breitbart skips over slides 4 & 5, which just show a few encounters in the Downtown Phoenix and Glendale areas:
Slide six:
Breitbart claims:
Correct, although somewhat misleading in the use of "the majority" for 54%, which might be better described as "just over half". It's quite interesting that nearly half of the matches are not Sunni or Shi'a.

Slide 7:
Breitbart says:
This is actually a breakdown of the reasons that the watchlist checks were made. Interesting here is the very low number of Land Border crossings that make up the total. Just 10 out of 267 (3.7%). The majority are just routine Law Enforcement encounters, or TSA screenings.

The next slide (8) breaks this down into more detail:

TSA screening and traffic stops make up most of it. 10 of them are weapons purchases.

Slide 9 is just a summary of the numbers:


  • Encounters Per 100000.xlsx
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Mick West

Staff member
Part of the reason why I wrote this is that ten years ago I wrote a related article about the characterization of "Morgellons" as a "Border disease"


Senior Member
or the statistic that says "most shark attacks occur in 3 feet of water"

the conclusion

you are in greater danger of being attacked by a shark in 3 feet of water than anywhere else in the ocean

or simply

most people are in 3 feet of water
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