Fact-Checking the Sunday Shows: June 22
By Aaron Sharockman
Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed the foreign policy of President Barack Obama on Sunday, arguing that the United States is less safe because of Obama’s indifference in the Middle East.
“I don't intend any disrespect for the president, but I fundamentally disagree with him,” Cheney said on ABC’s This Week. “I think he's dead wrong in terms of the course he's taken this nation, and I think we're in for big trouble in the years ahead because of his refusal to recognize reality and because of his continual emphasis upon getting the U.S. basically to withdraw from that part of the world.”
While the rise of ISIS in Iraq presents a current crisis, Cheney said the issues are broader and more fundamental.
“We’ve got a much bigger problem than just the current crisis in Iraq. The Rand Corporation was out in the last week with a report that showed that there’s been a 58 percent increase in the number of groups like al-Qaida, salafi jihadists, and it stretches from West Africa all across North Africa, East Africa through the Middle East all the way around to Indonesia—a doubling of the number of terrorists out there,” Cheney said.
PunditFact was curious about the statistic that the number of terrorists has doubled.
It checks out.
Cheney’s claim is nearly verbatim the findings of a report released June 2014 and prepared for the Secretary of Defense by the Rand Corporation, a nonpartisan think tank whose work is cited by Democrats and Republicans. The report focused on Salafi-jihadist groups, which are a specific category of militant Sunni Islamists marked by their emphasis on reclaiming a “pure” Islam and the belief that violent jihad is required as part of religious duty. The report focused on these groups because most deem the United States an enemy and are willing to kill civilians on a large scale.
The number of Salafi-jihadist groups (al-Qaida, its affiliates, other violent Islamists) jumped 58 percent, as Cheney said, from 31 groups in 2010 to 49 in 2013, Rand found. The growth primarily happened in North Africa and countries along the Mediterranean Sea, known as the Levant, which includes Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel.
Figuring out how many jihadist fighters that amounts to is tricky, as the groups don’t report their membership and their numbers can fluctuate. Still, the report says the population of fighters more than doubled between 2010 and 2013 looking at estimates both low (under 20,000 fighters to more than 40,000) and high (about 50,000 to more than 100,000).
Either way, Cheney is right on the numbers. We rate his claim True.
Aside from foreign policy, the other big story Sunday was the latest in the investigation in the Internal Revenue Service and claims that it targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Last week, Republicans in Congress grilled IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about emails lost on the computer of ex-IRS official Lois Lerner, one of the people at the center of the controversy. The missing emails, the result of a computer hard drive crash, has led to more suggestions of a conspiracy to protect Obama’s administration.
Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile tried to put the controversy in perspective on CNN’s State of the Union, claiming that liberals and progressives were targeted right along with conservatives.
The IRS "also investigated liberal groups, groups that had progressive in their name. Groups that had Israel in their name. The IRS was basically looking at everybody."
This question was essentially answered last year by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, who investigated the IRS’s handling of tax exempt requests between 2010 and 2012.
In March 2010, the IRS office began looking at the tax exempt status of tea party groups. Ten tea party cases were identified and sent to a Washington office for greater scrutiny. IRS officials told investigators that “tea party” was used in the office as a catch-all phrase for groups engaging in political activity, and indeed not all 10 groups had “tea party” in their names.
In August 2010, a formal “Be on the Lookout” list was created instructing staff to flag applications of tea party groups. In June 2011, the list was expanded to include the words “patriot” and “9/12 project,” a movement started by conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck, and applications with missions to “make America a better place to live,” statements that criticized how the country is being run, or groups focused on government spending, debt or taxes.
The investigation ultimately found the Cincinnati office used inappropriate criteria to single out certain cases. Over the course of two years, 298 total cases were sent to Washington for greater scrutiny. According to the investigation, 72 of those groups had the name “tea party,” 13 had “patriot” and 11 had “9/12.” The other 202 cases were listed as “other.” In 160 of these cases, the application remained open between 206 and 1,138 days, while 108 were approved.
Democrats said 202 is a lot of “other.” And later it came out that the word “progressive” was also used to flag applications on another IRS “Be on the Lookout” list.
Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., the ranking member of the House Ways and Means committee asked Inspector General J. Russell George why he singled out all the mentions of conservative groups, but did not note in his investigation liberal groups were scrutinized as well.
George replied that the investigation wasn’t only looking at which groups were flagged. Progressive groups were on a different lookout list that “did not include instructions on how to refer cases that met the criteria.” However, the lookout list for tea party groups did, and also resulted in delayed processing and unnecessary questioning of those groups, such as inquiries into their donors.
George also noted that while 16 groups with “progressive” in the name showed up among the 298 cases, that represented just 30 percent of all “progressive” applications. That is in stark contrast to groups with “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” in their name, of which 100 percent saw their applications held up.
As such, Brazile’s statement rates Half True.
Katie Sanders and Steve Contorno contributed to this story. Aaron Sharockman is editor of PunditFact.com.