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Fact-Checking The Right Wing’s Attack On Al Gore

Earlier this week, in an attempt to shift attention away from Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, the right wing attacked former Vice President Al Gore for calling attention to the round-up of Arabs and Muslims that occurred in the days after 9/11. Labeling him “seditious,” Michelle Malkin said Gore “slandered” America for stating that Arabs had been “indiscriminately rounded up” after 9/11.

On Tuesday, Karl Rove’s White House deputy, Peter Wehner, emailed Gore’s comments on background to reporters urging them to editorialize on the issue. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert gave airtime to Paul Gigot, editor of the Wall Street Journal, so he could say this:

I think the remarks were notable. Because I think when you go to a country like that, particularly in the heart of Wahhabi Islam, and say we have indiscriminately rounded up Arabs in this country after 9/11 — first of all, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t remember us doing that.

While the right has been quick to politicize Gore’s remarks, they haven’t had the time to do a fact-check. Gore was merely stating what has been reported and well-documented over the past few years:

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Even some government officials are worried. In a secret meeting of top Justice Department officials hours after the attacks, then-immigration chief James Ziglar rebuked those in the room for proposing a “roundup” of Arabs and Muslims. “I’m not going to be part of this if we’re going to do things that blatantly violate the law,” Ziglar declared, according to people there. [Knight Ridder, 6/15/03]

The Census Bureau’s decision to give to the Department of Homeland Security data that identified populations of Arab-Americans was the modern-day equivalent of its pinpointing Japanese-American communities when internment camps were opened during World War II, members of an advisory board told the agency’s top officials Tuesday. “This for the Arab-American community is 1942,” said Barry Steinhardt, a civil liberties lawyer and member of the panel, the Decennial Census Advisory Committee. “Thousands of Arab-Americans have been rounded up and deported.” [New York Times, 11/10/04]

83,310: Number of foreign visitors from 24 predominantly Muslim nations who registered with the government after U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft required them to do so. (North Koreans also required to register.)

13,740: Number of those 83,310 who were ordered into deportation proceedings.

0: Number who were publicly charged with terrorism, although officials say a few have terrorism connections. [Chicago Tribune, 11/16/03]

[T]he United States was cited for detaining more than 1,100 people, mostly Arab or Muslim men, as part of an effort to round up potential terrorists. “Only a small number of those in custody were believed to have links to terrorism,” the [Human Rights Watch] report said. [AP, 1/17/02]

More than 1,000 people have already been rounded up for questioning and Attorney General John Ashcroft has made no apology for the aggressive tactics. … But none of the people detained since the attack have been indicted for terrorism. [CBS, 1/8/02]