Tracking and Analyzing Incidents of Terrorism Worldwide
To keep Americans safe from terrorism, Congress must have access to the best information available on the nature of the threats this country faces. Accordingly, Congress requires the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to provide an annual report on international terrorism. This report, the Country Reports on Terrorism, is produced by the DOS Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. An important feature of the report is the Annex of Statistical Information, which contains a synthesis of data on the worldwide incidence of terrorism.
In years past, DOS worked with various organizations to obtain the data to be included in the Annex of Statistical Information. In 2018, it asked Development Services Group, Inc. (DSG), and our partner, the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University, to create a new counterterrorism reporting database to track and analyze terrorism.
Title 22, Section 2656f, of the United States Code requires the U.S. Department of State to present an annual report on terrorism, detailing “to the extent practicable, complete statistical information on the number of individuals, including United States citizens and dual nationals, killed, injured, or kidnapped by each terrorist group during the preceding calendar year.”
To continue work begun in 2004 to support this congressional mandate, the Department of State in August 2018 awarded the contract for the Annex of Statistical Information for the annual Country Reports on Terrorism to Development Services Group, Inc. (DSG), a global research firm with headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. DSG is supported by its subcontractor, the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center operated by the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University (GMU).
Our team is responsible for collecting and analyzing data, creating a global database of terrorist incidents, producing the Annex of Statistical Information, and editing the annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
DSG established the Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Center (GTTAC) in 2018 and designed a new database as part of the center to house terrorist incident data. The data in the 2018 Annex of Statistical Information, compiled from open-source unclassified reporting, describe patterns of worldwide terrorist activity, including the frequency of terrorist incidents, fatalities resulting from terrorist incidents, hostages/kidnappings, and where and by whom these incidents were committed. The report also interprets data trends regarding incident locations, perpetrators, tactics, weapons used, victims, and facilities targeted by terrorists.
Our MANAGEMENT Team
Project Director Adam Blackwell, a former Ambassador and Vice President of International Development at DSG, Inc., is ably supported by Co–Project Director Dr. Louise Shelley, the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TRaCCC) at GMU’s Schar School. They lead our team of established data scientists, ex–foreign service personnel, and academics who have come together to contribute to this counterterrorism project.
GTTAC accesses five of the most comprehensive, open-source, multimedia data aggregators to identify reports of potential terrorist incidents. Data acquisition begins with using open-source technology tools developed in Python atop a Linux platform for text analysis, predictive modeling, and feature extraction. GTTAC applies ontologies for terrorist incidents, perpetrators, tactics for attack, weapon use, and the targeting of victims and facilities. Once the automated processes have established a body of data for human review and validation, the global terrorism incidents database begins to take form within regional and other geographic locales.
As GTTAC uses open-source data to identify reports of terrorist incidents, we want to ensure that the process is not distorted by biased and unreliable media coverage, especially in conflict zones.
We overcome these challenges with our well-trained multilingual and multicultural team of subject-matter experts, technologists, and researchers who continually monitor and enhance the methodology and thereby maintain a comprehensive, accurate, and systematic data collection process. This is essential, as our source material has been extracted from more than 90 languages worldwide.
To support this report, GTTAC created a Global Terrorism Experts Group, an international advisory board that reviews content and ensures objectivity by capturing local context and nuance.