Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 19, 2009

New version of global terrorism database available

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 19, 2009

From: The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to
Terrorism (START).  START has released a new version of its Global Terrorism
Database (GTD).  The database can be found here.

The GTD is an open-source database including information on terrorist events
around the world.  Unlike many other event databases, the GTD includes
systematic data on domestic as well as transnational and international
terrorist incidents that have occurred during this time period.  For each
GTD incident, information is available on the date and location of the
incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of
casualties, and—when identifiable—the perpetrator.  Over 80,000 of these
incidents have been included in the updated database, and this information
can be extracted from the database to provide reference data as it was after
the attacks in Mumbai.

The history of the Global Terrorism Database can be found here.

According to the website, the GTD:

  • Contains information on over 80,000 terrorist attacks
  • Currently the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world
  • Includes information on more than 27,000 bombings, 12,000 assassinations, and 2,900 kidnappings since 1970
  • Includes information on at least 45 variables for each case, with more recent incidents including information on more than 120 variables
  • Supervised by an advisory panel of 12 terrorism research experts
  • Over 3,500,000 news articles and 25,000 news sources were reviewed to collect incident data from 1998 to 2007
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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2009 @ 7:55 am

Phil and Chris:
What do you think of the definition of “terrorism” used in this report?

There are lies, damned lies, and STATISTICS?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2009 @ 10:34 am


As the website explains, the original definition behind the collection was:

“The threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

A subsequent version has expanded the definition to include:

“The intentional act of violence or threat of violence by a non-state actor. In addition, two of the following three criteria also had to be met for inclusion in GTD2:

The violent act was aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal;

The violent act included evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) other than the immediate victims; and

The violent act was outside the precepts of International Humanitarian Law.”

This new version attempts to synthesize the two data-sets consistent with the expanded definition.

I much preferred the original definition. Terrorism is a serious threat. But as we have already seen in some US prosecutions, there is a temptation to fuse and confuse criminal acts with terrorist acts, which I do not believe is in the long-term interest of effective counter-terrorism or the preservation of our constitutional liberties. It is better, I think, for terrorism to be narrowly defined.

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