In essence, terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to acheive ideological ends. However, collecting and analyzing terrorism data is complicated by the fact that there is no universal definition of terrorism. For example, some organizations define it as violence against civilians only; others define it as violence perpretrated by “non-state actors.”
The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) out of the University of Michigan is one of the most widely-used sources of terrorism data. Other academic institutions provide terrorism data, as well, as do multi-national organizations like the UN, NGOs, private think tanks, and governments. However, since terrorist organizations generally have a goal they want to impress upon a population, theoretically anyone can collect terrorism data by following the news and publications by terrorist organizations.
Terrorist organizations themselves also contribute a good amount of data, especially on recruitment and motive.
Terrorism data may be available in the form sf maps, charts, tables, and more. It may include number of deaths per year per country, number of incidents per year per country, type of incident, and whether the incidents were foreign (transnational), domestic, or both.
Additional terrorism data attributes include public concern and fear of terrorism, media coverage, and public policy changes related to/following terror incidents.
The primary use of this data is to understand the motivations behind terror in order to prevent, predict, and respond to it. Part of this response includes efforts to de-radicalize individuals.
Naturally, certain organizations focus on some uses of the data more than others. Security and law enforcement, for example, focus on the security breaches that terrorists exploit to perpetrate acts of violence. First responders focus on reacting to and defusing violent situations in real time. Outreach programs concern themselves with de-radicalization. And, finally, politicians use the data to craft public policy informed by real information rather than fear.
Terrorist organizations may also use the data as inspiration or a guideline for future acts.
The first step toward building a quality terrorism data set is defining terror. Once done, you can use data from any resource but keep in mind that their definition may not match yours.
Key to the problem of assessing the effectiveness of assassination is the problem of measurement: For obvious reasons, it’s hard to assign an objective, long-term value to the assassination of terrorists like al-Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki or Osama Bin Laden. There is, for example, copious evidence that while al-Qaeda’s central leadership was hollowed out by CIA targeted assassinations, the organisation has reinvented itself and today enjoys significantly enhanced reach in Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Africa.
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