Four Decades of Terrorism: A Message from START’s Director

June 2011

Our understanding of terrorism was forever transformed by the events of September 11, 2001. As we approach the 10th anniversary of those attacks, this new release of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) marks a milestone in our collective knowledge of terrorist activity. For the first time, we have information spanning four decades on both domestic and international terrorist attacks from around the world. Nine years ago, when we began the challenging process of investigating and coding tens of thousands of terrorist attacks dating back to 1970, our goal was to bring the collection of the GTD into near real-time. In the past year, our research team at START and our partners at the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups at the University of New Haven have accomplished this goal, and the website now includes information on attacks through December 2010. With continuing government support, we plan to release future versions of the GTD on an annual basis.

While data collection is ongoing, the GTD team at START continues to supplement the existing data with cases from additional sources. The current GTD includes additional information on terrorism from over 15 major chronologies, academic sources, and media outlets. In particular, we have made a substantial effort to update data on terrorism in the United States since 1970. In addition, we have undertaken several multi-source projects to improve the validity and comprehensiveness of data for critical areas, including Sri Lanka and North Africa. These supplemental data collection efforts have doubled the number of events recorded for the United States, and contributed another 3,500 attacks worldwide to the database.

Today, with over 98,000 discrete attacks in our database -- both domestic and international -- the updated and expanded GTD is accessible through this website. The nature of terrorist threats facing the United States and other countries continues to evolve over time. An objective empirical understanding of the causes and consequences of terrorism has never been more important. The GTD team and START are pleased to be able to collect, validate, and distribute these data to policy makers and researchers. We plan to continue to expand and enhance GTD in the coming years to ensure that it remains a valuable resource to homeland security practitioners and to the research community.

Best Wishes,

Gary LaFree

Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)