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Dr. Christopher Hull discusses flawed data on terrorism and foreign influence on academia

Dr. Christopher C. Hull, a Senior Fellow at Americans for Intelligence Reform, gave a lecture at IWP on March 3 on two major issues facing U.S. national security. Dr. Hull broke down his presentation into two sections, the first covering biased terror data with a specific focus on the federally funded Terrorism and Extremist Violence in the United States (TEVUS) Database, and the second focusing on Gulf State cash flowing into U.S. academic institutions.

In the first half of the lecture, Dr. Hull discussed how one of the most-used databases covering terrorism, TEVUS, is a flawed resource. He argued that its budget should be reduced or cut entirely, as it is an inadequate government resource paid for by taxpayer money. However, TEVUS is viewed as a respectable database and is used systematically by both scholars and outside experts. The problem is that a database with faulty information can, in turn, discredit the research work done by experts in their fields of work and can only further perpetuate false statistics.

Dr. Hull believes that TEVUS is an inadequate database because the parameters state that an act of terrorism or extremism cannot be caused by ideologies and that religious rationale cannot be associated with these acts. Dr. Hull went on to provide a multitude of examples, such as the 2012 bridge bomb plot in Cleveland, 2012 Family Research Council shooting, 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, 2016 Dallas Black Lives Matter shooting, and many others. Additionally, Dr. Hull noted that only 41% of cases associated with religions of peace are present in TEVUS; 85% of terror-related cases are missing, coinciding with what the Department of Justice (DOJ) has deemed as acts of terrorism; of the names with missing labels (labels that are missing ideological connotations), 94% were responsible for an active Islamic terror-related case; and finally, TEVUS is missing 96% of the DOJ terror ideologies cases. In closing the first part of his lecture, Dr. Hull stated, “this seems by my likes deliberately biased terrorism data, and this is an important database.”

The second part of Dr. Hull’s lecture focused on Gulf State funds going to American academic organizations. There exists a great influx of foreign money flowing into U.S. academic institutions, and only now are we becoming more aware of this situation, he noted. Nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have pumped billions of dollars into U.S. academic institutions and are doing so at a rate of more than a billion USD per year.

In 2004, the book The Stealth Curriculum was released, and it discussed how U.S. federal funds were being used under the auspices of the Harvard Center for Middle East Studies that initially was supposed to be a National Resource Center. It was later found to have promoted Islam as a religion with little historical or academic analysis. This is a difficult case for U.S. national security because it is such a nuanced topic. Dr. Hull posed the question, where do we draw the line between foreign influence in academia and terrorism, as certain ideologies taught are more extreme than others.

A report in February 2020 found academic institutions that were already being paid by foreign nationals to fund specific academic studies had been allocated an additional six billion dollars, which was unreported and unidentifiable. To combat foreign extremist influence in academia, Dr. Hull stated there is currently a bipartisan bill underway called the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, which will combat these issues mentioned above.

“First, I would argue we need to tell the truth. The truth is not pretty in some cases, but we cannot allow the political correctness to dictate the national security policy of the U.S.,” said Dr. Hull.

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