U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

How Do We Know We're Winning the War Against Terrorists? Issues in Measurement

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 25 Issue: 3 Dated: May-June 2002 Pages: 151-160
Edward F. Mickolus
Date Published
10 pages
This study was intended to explore issues, using an events approach, in the measurement of international and transnational terrorism, using the ITERATE textual and numeric datasets.
Using the ITERATE textual and numeric datasets, the study begins with describing terrorism in general and then more specifically describing group characteristics, negotiation behavior, patron state support to terrorists, combating terrorism, links of groups, coverage by the media, and effectiveness of terrorists. The events approach assumes that the behaviors of terrorists are patterned and the patterns can be identified through the use of statistical analysis, aiding in the combating of terrorism. ITERATE codes for circa 150 variables also common to HOSTAGE and HIJACKING incidents files to attempt to answer the question, "Is terrorism increasing?" Issues of equality of incidents, confirming attribution, intercoder reliability, reliability of sources, melding of datasets covering different aspects of same events, can limit the usefulness of the resulting analysis. In terms of the patron state, a scale indicating the attitudes and behaviors that governments take which make life easier for the terrorist can aid governments in deciding who and how to sanction patron state behaviors that assist terrorists. FATE files are developed to identify how governments that actively battle terrorism deal with terrorists in their jails; the amount of money, material, and personnel devoted to counterterrorist activities, and the degree of cooperation between governmental agencies. It is noted that access to these types of sensitive and often classified information is difficult for academics. A traditionally conducted study of the influence of publicity and media on public perception is somewhat confounded by the growth of terrorist group web sites. There is an apparent disinterest of recent terrorist groups for identification, including those that don't care how many people are watching, just how many are dead, introduces new variables into events approach research. In conclusion, it is noted that the events approach is useful in giving a general feeling for trends in terrorist behavior, i.e. how many have occurred and the relative effectiveness of instilling terror by each event, but cannot predict when and where the next attack will occur, which it is noted can only be done by penetrating the terrorist cells rather than by academics' numeric manipulation.