Dynamics of Terror and Counterterrorism

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Project Details


This project builds on the existing Global Terrorism Data base to allow analysis of: (1) terrorism country-level trends, (2) terrorism group-level trends, (3) economic effects of terrorism, (4) terrorist groups that target the United States, (5) examples of sudden desistance of terrorist activities, (6) terrorist target selection, and (7) RAND-MIPT terrorism event data base.  The work on this project focuses on the behavior of terrorist groups after they have formed, researching, for instance, the conditions that lead groups to change behaviors, using the GTD to examine global patterns of terrorist strikes, dynamics of terrorist organizations, trends in terrorist targeting, and the impact of counter-terrorism activities.

Primary Findings:

Analyses for the project were divided into three main research projects:

  1. First, along with Robert Greenbaum, Dugan and LaFree examined the indirect impact of terrorism on employment and business outcomes in Italy from 1985 to 1997. We find that terrorist attacks reduce the number of firms and employment in the year following an attack. By disaggregating net outcomes into their component gross flows, we also find that these impacts are primarily attributable to reduced business formations and expansions.
  2. Second, we worked with the RAND Corporation to merge GTD data from 1970 to 1997 with RAND data from 1970 to 2007. For the years prior to 1998, RAND only collected international attacks. Based on the merged data base, we did descriptive analyses and country-level trajectory analysis. The country level analysis indicated that terrorist attacks, are highly concentrated across specific countries and these concentrations are fairly stable over time. Ten countries account for 38 percent of all terrorist attacks in our data since 1970; 32 countries account for more than three-quarters of all attacks. The trajectory analysis also reveals a rapidly rising new terrorist threat concentrated especially among countries in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
  3. And finally, we also conducted a major project with Martha Crenshaw and Sue-Ming Yang aimed at determining the attack patterns of foreign terrorist groups that targeted the United States. This project was especially demanding because it required not only GTD data but also data on terrorist groups over time. We examined 53 foreign terrorist groups that have been identified by U.S. State Department and other government sources as posing a special threat to the United States. Using GTD data we examine 16,916 attacks attributed to these groups between 1970 and 2004. We find that just over three percent of attacks by these designated anti-U.S. groups were actually directed at the United States. Moreover, 99 percent of the attacks that targeted the United States did not occur on U.S. soil, but were aimed at U.S. targets in other countries (e.g., embassies or multilateral corporations). We also find that over 90 percent of the non-U.S. attacks were domestic (nationals from one country attacking targets of the same nationality in the same country). Our results underscore the importance of proximity for terrorist targeting. Given that the vast majority of attacks by groups identified as threats by the American government are in fact aimed at non-U.S. domestic targets, the United States should pursue efforts to strengthen the capacity of local governments to combat terrorism and to communicate to them our understanding that groups that are anti-U.S. are also a threat to them.

We used a combination of descriptive statistics, multivariate time series models with fixed effects, hazard modeling and group-based trajectory analysis.


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