WASHINGTON — The federal judge who halted President Donald Trump's travel ban was wrong in stating that no one from the seven countries targeted in Trump's order has been arrested for extremism in the United States since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Just last October, an Iraqi refugee living in Texas pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group, accused of taking tactical training and wanting to blow himself up in an act of martyrdom. In November, a Somali refugee injured 11 in a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University, and he surely would have been arrested had he not been killed by an officer.
The judge, James Robart, was correct in his larger point that the deadliest and most high-profile terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 — like the Boston Marathon bombings and the shootings in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California — were committed either by U.S. citizens or by people from countries other than the seven majority-Muslim nations named in Trump's order.
But he went a step too far at a hearing in Seattle on Friday.
He asked a Justice Department lawyer how many arrests of foreign nationals from the countries have occurred since 9/11. When the lawyer said she didn't know, Robart answered his own question: "Let me tell, you, the answer to that is none, as best I can tell. You're here arguing on behalf of someone that says we have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries and there's no support for that."
Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says his research shows no Americans have been killed in the U.S. at the hands of people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — since Sept. 11. But it's not quite right to say no one from those nations has been arrested or accused in an extremist-related plot while living in the U.S.
In addition to the cases from last fall, for instance, two men from Iraq were arrested in Kentucky in 2011 and convicted on charges that they plotted to send money and weapons to al-Qaida.
They were never accused, though, of plotting attacks on the U.S. Last week, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway wrongly cited their case as a "Bowling Green massacre," which never happened.
All told, Kurzman said, 23 percent of Muslim Americans involved with extremist plots since Sept. 11 had family backgrounds from the seven countries.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by public figures