It is time to blow the whistle on the hype and exaggeration surrounding terrorism. While terrorism is a threat, it is not the greatest nor the most dangerous threat we face or have ever faced. Frankly, the most serious danger posed by terrorism is that we allow our fear of it to justify suspending our Constitution, surrendering our civil liberties and engaging in the grotesque human rights violations that tarnish America’s destiny to be a light of freedom and justice to the world.

This is not a matter of my “opinion.” I will show you the cold, hard facts. The source of this is the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. You can go there and download for yourself.

Consider this chart:

Terrorism Casualties and Incidents by Region 1991-2010

Let me give you the actual numbers.

From 1991 thru 2010 there were 133,178 terrorist attacks around the world. Sounds like alot, but a closer look at the data shows that the activity is concentrated–big surprise–in the Middle East, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Deaths from terrorism? 53,162. That works out to an average of 2.5 deaths per incident. A terrible loss for the families and friends of the deceased, but let’s put this in context.

Let’s consider the drug violence in Mexico. Since 2006 at least 47,515 people have been slaughtered in Mexico. And that number is probably a low estimate:

The new official tally provided by the attorney general’s office included data only through September, and it showed that drug-related killings increased 11 percent, to 12,903, compared with the same nine-month period in 2010. Still, a government statement sought to find a silver lining, asserting that it was the first year since 2006 “that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to the previous years.”

But that will hardly calm a public scared by the recent arrival of grisly violence in once-safe cities like Guadalajara, nor will Wednesday’s limited data release silence the increasingly loud call for better, more transparent government record keeping.

The Mexican government has failed to create the tracking system it needs to understand criminal trends and improve security, experts say, even as it has become more secretive with the limited information it has.

Most of the murders in Mexicoare not captured by the University of Maryland database because it does not fit the definition of terrorism they rely on to decide whether or not an attack is “terrorist.”

You remember the trauma we experienced with the loss of almost 3000 souls on 9-11. So multiply that by a factor of 15 and tell me that is less of a concern. In twenty years, less than 4000 Americans died in terrorist attacks. A sad loss to be sure. But more Americans die in automobile accidents–32,885 were killed in 2010.

How about our losses in Vietnam? That war cost us 58,000 American lives. The Vietnamese? More than 1.4 million Vietnamese, North and South combined, died during the period 1955 to 1975.

World War II? That conflict saw the slaughter of 60 million human beings.

Next time you hear a politician justify sacrificing your liberties in the name of security, please blow the bullshit whistle. We can deal with the threat of terrorism without deluding ourselves into believing that it is the greatest threat of our lives.

Both the Bush and Obama Administrations are guilty of hyping the threat. Want another example of how out of whack things are? During the Cold War there were 6000 analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) working on the Soviet threat. The Soviets had a massive military force numbering more than one million. They had (and have) inter-continental ballistic missiles, long range bombers, nuclear armed submarines and a global network of spies.

How many at DIA are assigned to terrorism? More than 12,000. When you combine the total number of U.S. Government agencies spending your tax dollars on combating the threat of terrorism the number exceeds 100,000.

But why worry about facts? Let’s just keep pretending that the threat of terrorism justifies shredding the Constitution and wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on chasing small, isolated groups of extremists. If you are comfortable with that, so be it. I think it borders close to criminal negligence.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.