March 12th, 2010
11:09 AM ET

Are there 300 terrorists in jail?

Vice President Joe Biden has argued that civilian trials have a better record than military trials for terror suspects. On "Face the Nation," Biden threw out some supporting figures: "There have been over 300 tried in federal courts by the last administration and by us. They're all in jail now. None of them are out seeing the light of day."

Fact Check: Is Biden correct? Are there over 300 terrorists in jail?

- Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, federal prosecutors have brought 346 cases against people charged with terrorism or national security violations and obtained 174 convictions, according to a 2009 report by New York University's law school. Another 24 people were convicted of lesser crimes in those cases.

- The Justice Department says 319 people were convicted of terrorism-related charges between 2001 and 2008 in federal courts. Those figures include non-al Qaeda-affiliated groups like Colombia's FARC rebel group and Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers.

- Human Rights First, counting only Islamic terrorists, comes up with 195 convictions as of last summer.

- The NYU report identifies 471 successful "terrorism associated prosecutions." Of these, 213 were sentenced to less than one year, 200 received sentences between one and 14 years, and 58 received sentences upwards of 15 years.

- According to Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd, as of late January there were "348 international or domestic terrorists in Bureau of Prisons custody as a result of successful prosecutions in federal court." However, some of those were prosecuted before 9/11.

Bottom Line:

Biden is correct; the Department of Justices figures support his statement that 300 terrorists are in jail. However, an unknown number of those 348 terrorists now in prison were convicted before the Obama administration and the Bush administration. The DOJ has not released that information.

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