PBS's Woodruff Wrongly Claims No Terror Attacks from Restricted Countries

In a pre-recorded interview in which PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff pressed Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan over whether President Donald Trump's travel ban for some Muslim countries is a good idea, at one point she incorrectly claimed that there had not been any "terrorist incidents" by people from the seven countries on the list. Woodruff: "But there haven't been terrorist incidents perpetrated by people from these countries."

But, as documented by The Federalist, there have been two Somalis who made terrorist attacks in the U.S., as well as others who came to the U.S. to give support to Islamic terrorism.

At one point in the interview, the PBS host fretted over Trump's past words of support for a "Muslim ban." Woodruff: "And that raises a question because the President himself and others around him have talked about -- they've talked about their preference for a Muslim ban."

After the Speaker recalled his opposition to such a ban, she followed up: "I understand that, but my question is, are you confident this administration is not going in the direction ever of a Muslim ban?"

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She then brought up opposition to the current travel ban by former CIA director Michael Hayden as she recounted that he "joined a legal brief with a number of other national security experts in saying that they not only don't think this is going to make the United States safer, but they don't see a threat from these seven countries. But they think it could make the country less safe because it's going to be easier to attract people who want to work with terrorist groups against the U.S. to say the U.S. is anti-Muslim."

Ryan brought up some of the terrorist attacks in Europe as he responded:

Yeah, I think the rhetoric is damaging -- no two ways about it. Let's back up for a second. After the Paris shooting, we brought the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI up to Capitol Hill to say, "What's happening? Could this happen here?" because if you remember the Paris shooting, there was an infiltration of ISIS among the Syrian refugee population into Europe.

Woodruff jumped in: "But it turned out there were not refugees involved."

After Ryan argued for the need to be careful about accepting refugees from the relevant seven countries because of reasons that it is difficult to vet for these countries, Woodruff followed up: "But there haven't been terrorist incidents perpetrated by people from these countries."

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, February 8, PBS NewsHour:

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that raises a question because the President himself and others around him have talked about -- they've talked about their preference for a Muslim ban.

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: And I disagreed with them. I disagreed with them. I disagree with them now. I disagreed with them then. But that's not what this is.

WOODRUFF: I understand that, but my question is, are you confident this administration is not going in the direction ever of a Muslim ban?

RYAN: Yeah, because we will -- I and many others would oppose that.

WOODRUFF: I want to stay with the immigration ban for just a moment because former CIA director Michael Hayden -- whom you know -- joined a legal brief with a number of other national security experts in saying that they not only don't think this is going to make the United States safer, but they don't see a threat from these seven countries. But they think it could make the country less safe because it's going to be easier to attract people who want to work with terrorist groups against the U.S. to say the U.S. is anti-Muslim.

RYAN: Yeah, I think the rhetoric is damaging -- no two ways about it. Let's back up for a second. After the Paris shooting, we brought the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI up to Capitol Hill to say, "What's happening? Could this happen here?" because if you remember the Paris shooting, there was an infiltration of ISIS among the Syrian refugee population into Europe.

WOODRUFF: But it turned out there were not refugees involved.

RYAN: But that was the issue at the time. And what Homeland Security and the FBI told us is they can't vet these people. There isn't a Syria to talk to to vet these people. And so what we discovered was there was a hole in the vetting process to guard against people trying to infiltrate the refugee population. And so that is why we passed legislation then -- about a year ago -- the bill passed the House, but it got filibustered in the Senate. So it never actually went into law. So we've been long on record on a bipartisan basis that we need to get these vetting standards right. And we need to take a pause in these programs to make sure that we have the vetting standards right. 

The reason these seven countries which were identified by the Obama administration are listed is because we have a hard time corroborating the veracity of people's claims coming from those countries. Those countries, in particular, we have a hard time discerning who exactly these people are that are coming into the country. That is why it's totally reasonable and rational to have a pause in this program so that we can update and upgrade our vetting standards so we can better secure to make sure we don't have somebody trying to infiltrate the network.

WOODRUFF: But there haven't been terrorist incidents perpetrated by people from these countries. I mean, that's -- that's-

RYAN: From these countries? Or from -- through the refugee population? From these countries, absolutely. From the refugee population -- but the point is, we now know that ISIS is trying to infiltrate refugee populations. That's intelligence that's already been unclassified. So the question is: Are we doing everything we need to guard against that? The point -- I think you made a good point, though, which is, this isn't a Muslim ban. If it were, I would be opposed to it. But the rhetoric around it makes it look like it's a ban on a religion or a religious test. And I think that rhetoric is inflammatory and does not help us.

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