Fact Check

GOP candidates stumble on facts in debate

The following statements came from the Nov. 22 debate on national security and foreign policy sponsored by CNN, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute.

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann: “[President Obama] has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He has outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.’’

In 2009, in response to reports of prisoner abuses, Obama began requiring the Central Intelligence Agency to use only the interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual. The manual recommends psychological strategies for interrogations - things like developing rapport, offering incentives, threatening, rapid-fire questioning, or appealing to a prisoner’s ego. It prohibits the use of torture or force. But that is not the same is giving the CIA “no ability’’ to interrogate terrorists.

Also in 2009, the Obama administration created a specialized group made up of officials from law enforcement, the US intelligence community, and the Department of Defense that was dedicated to conducting interrogations of high-value terrorism suspects.


The ACLU has actually criticized Obama in a report for continuing policies such as indefinite detentions and trial by military commissions.

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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, talking about which passengers airport security officers should be profiling: “Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes . . . Obviously, Muslims would be - would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are - the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes . . . by and large, as well as younger males.’’

According to the National Counterterrorism Center database, there were 21,584 attacks by Muslims worldwide from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2010. The next most common perpetrators were classified as secular/political/anarchist, and they accounted for 17,659 attacks. No other individual group had more than 1,000 terrorist attacks. (Christian extremists were responsible for 344 attacks and Jewish extremists for 53.) But by far, the largest numbers of attacks were in Iraq and Afghanistan - largely Muslim countries where the United States is at war. The statistics include things like improvised explosive devices that are placed to kill and injure soldiers.

That said, the situation in the United States is vastly different. The FBI’s report on domestic terrorism from 2002 to 2005 shows that 22 of 24 recorded terrorists attacks were committed by extremists in the animal rights and environmental movements. Among the recent high-profile cases not committed by Muslims are the shooting at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller, the shooting of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the Virginia Tech shootings. While reports have documented cases of American Muslims becoming radicalized, the numbers are tiny, compared to the total Muslim American population.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich: “The fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.’’


According to the US Energy Information Administration, the United States produced about 9,141,000 barrels of oil a day as of 2009. Iran produced 4,177,000 barrels of oil a day. So in order to supplant Iranian oil, the United States would have to increase its production by more than 50 percent - a very tall order.

Bachmann, speaking about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons: “We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites, are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites.’’

The National Journal found that this information had not been previously reported publicly. CNN said Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, whose information is available only by subscription, found six incidents at sites considered known or likely nuclear installations. CNN found that the incidents did not appear to represent threats to the country’s nuclear arsenal. For example, one included a suicide bomber who drove a motorcycle into the side of a bus.