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A chart plotted from the data in the GTD. A total of 182,438 incidents are plotted.

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a database of incidents of terrorism from 1970 onward. As of July 2017, the list extended through 2016, with an incomplete data of 1993 due to issues with that year.[1] The database is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States.[1] It is also the basis for other terrorism-related measures, such as the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.[2]



The GTD describe itself as the "most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world" and includes over 170,000 terrorist attacks in June 2017 version.[1] The entire database (about 80 MB excel file and 9 MB Geodatabase file) is available for download via the website.[3] The GTD includes more than 83,000 bombings . It also includes more than 18000 assassinations and more than 11000 kidnappings. [4] The manner of encoding of the data is described in a codebook, also available as PDF download from the website.[citation needed]


In 2001, the University of Maryland, College Park obtained a large database of terrorist attacks from 1970 to 1997 collated by Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services (data from 1993 was missing because it got lost in an office move by Pinkerton, however, some summary data from 1993 is still available). With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the University of Maryland finished digitizing the data in December 2005. In April 2006, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), working with the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), received additional funding from the Human Factors Division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend the GTD beyond 1997. The data generated for 1997 to 2007 was then harmonized with the Pinkerton data from 1970 to 1997 to create a unified database of terrorist events from 1970 to 2007 (excluding 1993). New years were periodically added, and as of August 2014, the data goes up to 2014.[5]

The GTD was formally introduced in a paper in Terrorism and Political Violence by Gary LaFree and Laura Dugan of START, published in 2007.[6] An update on the GTD by LaFree was published by Perspectives on Terrorism in 2010.[7] Another update was published in Evidence-based Counterterrorism Policy in 2012.[8] In 2017, Benjamin Acosta and Kristen Ramos published the 1993 Terrorism and Political Violence Dataset, which marks a comprehensive recollection of the previously missing 1993 data.[9]


Use in other databases and indicesEdit

Data from the Global Terrorism Database is used to generate the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.[2]

Academic receptionEdit

A number of academic papers studying various aspects of terrorism, including trends in the amount and types of terrorism, draws on data from the GTD for its empirical analysis.[10][11][12]

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, author Steven Pinker used data from the Global Terrorism Database for his analysis of trends in terrorism, calling it "the major publicly available dataset on terrorist attacks."[13]

In 2014 Pape et al. observed that, “according to the GTD data today, there were over 70 percent more suicide attacks in 2013 (619) than the previous peak in 2007 (359) during the Iraq war." Meanwhile, their Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST) claims a 19 percent decrease for the same period:[14]

Pape's comparison of GTD and CPOST[15]
2007 359 521
2013 619 423
% change +72% -19%

Pape et al. noted that this difference can be explained by a change in methodology between 2007 and 2013. As noted above, the GTD data were collected by four different organizations:[16]

GTD Data Collection Phases by Collection Institution
start end organization / methodology
1/1/1970 12/13/1997 Pinkerton Global Intelligence Service (PGIS)
1/1/1998 3/31/2008 Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS)
4/1/2008 10/31/2011 Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG)
11/1/2011 12/31/2014 (ongoing) National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

Pape et al. quote GTD officials as claiming that their “researchers, past and present, have ensured that the entire database uses the same standards for inclusion and is as comprehensive as possible.” Pape et al. disagree while noting that their CPOST methodology has been consistent since their first recorded incident in 1982. They conclude, “American policy makers and the public deserve the best data available on terrorism, one of the most important national security issues of our time.”[14]

Reception in news media and blogsEdit

The Global Terrorism Database has been cited in The Guardian,[17][18] using a database of terrorism we look at how the frequency and type of attack has changed the New York Times,[19][20][21] the Washington Post,[22][23] the Wall Street Journal,[24] and Foreign Policy.[25][26]

While calling the Global Terrorism Database a treasure trove of information, a 2013 Washington Post fact-checking article criticized its use by government officials to hype the threat of terrorism around the world, given its use of a definition of terrorism conflicting with Congressionally required law.[27]

An article for Stratfor stated that the Database does not pull incidents from thin air, but expressed concern that claims of a 70% increase in 2017 North American terrorist fatalities were based on the GTD classifying the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting as an essentially certain case of goal-driven ideological terrorism; when no clear ideological or political motive has been found. Excluding that one incident would have yielded a 10% decline.[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "GTD Frequently Asked Questions". Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "About GTI Index". Vision of Humanity. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  3. ^ "Download GTD". Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  4. ^ "Overview of the GTD". Global Terrorism Database.
  5. ^ "History of the GTD". National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  6. ^ LaFree, Gary; Dugan, Laura (2007). "Introducing the Global Terrorism Database" (PDF). Terrorism and Political Violence. 19 (2): 181–204. doi:10.1080/09546550701246817.
  7. ^ LaFree, Gary (2010). "The Global Terrorism Database: Accomplishments and Challenges". Perspectives on Terrorism. 4 (1). Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ LaFree, Gary (2012). Generating Terrorism Event Databases: Results from the Global Terrorism Database, 1970 to 2008. Evidence-based Counterterrorism Policy. 3. pp. 41–64. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0953-3_3. ISBN 978-1-4614-0952-6.
  9. ^ Acosta, Benjamin; Ramos, Kristen (2017). "Introducing the 1993 Terrorism and Political Violence Dataset". Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 40 (3): 232–247. doi:10.1080/1057610X.2016.1184061.
  10. ^ Wang, Xiaoyu; Miller, Eric; Smarick, Kathleen; Ribarsky, William; Chang, Remco (May 2008). "Investigative Visual Analysis of Global Terrorism". Computer Graphics Forum. 27 (3): 919–926. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1467-8659.2008.01225.x.
  11. ^ Lee, Joonghoon (December 2008). "Exploring Global Terrorism Data: A Web-based Visualization of Temporal Data" (PDF). Crossroads. 15 (2): 7–14. doi:10.1145/1519390.1519393. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Godwin, Alex; Chang, Remco; Kosara, Robert; Ribarsky, William (2008). "Visual analysis of entity relationships in the Global Terrorism Database" (PDF). Visual Analysis of Entity Relationships in Global Terrorism Database. Defense and Security 2008: Special Sessions on Food Safety, Visual Analytics, Resource Restricted Embedded and Sensor Networks, and 3D Imaging and Display. 6983. SPIE Proceedings. pp. 69830G. CiteSeerX doi:10.1117/12.778084.
  13. ^ Pinker, Steven (October 4, 2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature. ISBN 978-1-101-54464-8.
  14. ^ a b Pape, Robert; Ruby, Kevin; Bauer, Vincent; Jenkins, Gentry (August 11, 2014), "How to fix the flaws in the Global Terrorism Database and why it matters", New York Times, retrieved 2016-01-08
  15. ^ If the numbers in 2007 and 2013 are independent Poisson counts, then the GTD results show an increase of 8.3 standard deviations, while CPOST reports a 3.2 standard deviation decrease; both are statistically significant by all commonly used standards.
  16. ^ GTD Global Terrorism Database Codebook: Inclusion Criteria and Variables, University of Maryland, College Park, MD: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), June 2015, p. 4, retrieved 2015-11-28
  17. ^ Rogers, Simon (April 17, 2013). "Four decades of US terror attacks listed and detailed. How many terror attacks have hit the US since 1970 - and how serious are they?". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  18. ^ Chalabi, Mona (December 30, 2013). "Russian terrorist attacks since 1991: what's changed? Two bomb attacks today in Volgograd are thought to be the work of terrorists". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  19. ^ Shane, Scott (April 16, 2013). "Bombings End Decade of Strikingly Few Successful Terrorism Attacks in U.S." New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  20. ^ "Nigerian Television Becomes Front for U.S. in Terrorism Fight. State Department Ramps Up Efforts Against Boko Haram". New York Times. May 17, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  21. ^ Fernandez, Manny; Blinder, Alan (April 8, 2014). "At Fort Hood, Wrestling With Label of Terrorism". New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  22. ^ Kessler, Glenn (November 6, 2013). "Hyping the number of deaths from terrorism". Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Plumer, Brad (April 16, 2013). "Eight facts about terrorism in the United States". Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  24. ^ Jones, Seth G. (April 30, 2012). "Al Qaeda Is Far From Defeated". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  25. ^ Groll, Elias (April 15, 2013). "A brief history of terrorist attacks in Boston". Foreign Policy. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  26. ^ Groll, Elias (May 23, 2013). "Obama's counterterrorism policy, by the numbers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  27. ^ Glenn Kessler (November 6, 2013). "Fact Checker Analysis - Hyping the number of deaths from terrorism". Washington Post.
  28. ^ Ben West (Aug 28, 2018). "Understanding Terrorism Is More Than a Numbers Game". Stratfor.

External linksEdit