A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Apparent Intended Lethality: Toward a Behavioral Model of Intention to Harm in Single Issue Bombing Campaigns


This paper sets out the concept of Apparent Intended Lethality (AIL) with respect to terrorist bomb attacks and explores its measurement through objective behavioral indices. The concept is explored through investigation of single issue bomb attacks carried out by animal rights and antiabortion activists in the United States (US). In comparison to studies of international terrorist action, single issue terrorism (SIT) has received comparatively little attention in the academic literature, and therefore the domestic threat posed by SIT extremists is not well established. This paper investigates the behavioral intentions of two subsets of US SIT bombers and Multidimensional Scalogram Analysis (MSA) is used in order to reveal actual strategies that are used to maximize or minimize casualties. The strategies revealed in this analysis indicate that SIT bombers’ approaches to causing casualties (or not) can be modeled according to three independent dimensions of AIL; device strategy, targeting and pre-event warnings. The actual strategies used to promote or limit loss of life have received no attention in the literature to date and these results are unique in their empirical assessment of the terrorist strategies used to avoid or maximize casualties. The model can be used to measure the assumed intentions of an individual terrorist or campaign and can measure cumulative and compensatory AIL strategies. In this sample, a wide variety of AIL is displayed from hoax attacks that have no potential to harm and are therefore designed to cause fear and disruption, through to the most potentially lethal attacks with secondary bombs in occupied workplaces given no warning.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Wilson, Margaret, and Lucy Lemanski. 2010. "Apparent Intended Lethality: Toward a Behavioral Model of Intention to Harm in Single Issue Bombing Campaigns." College Park, MD: START, September. https://www.start.umd.edu/sites/default/files/publications/local_attachments/Apparent%20Intended%20Lethality%20Final%20Report.pdf

START Author(s):

Additional Info