Preliminary Graph on Motives for Terrorist Attacks in U.S. (1995-2015)

Preliminary Graph on Motives for Terrorist Attacks in U.S. (1995-2015)

Since I am kind of a fan of facts, as opposed to say, “alternative facts” and because I see our conversations about terrorism/violent extremism running afar from the first of these; I decided to dig into the Global Terrorism Database ( over the last day. I am putting together some (hopefully) informative and accessible illustrations of what the data actually show about the phenomenon generally and specifically within the United States.

I am aware that there is a wealth of information out there on this, and part of my approach to this and world affairs more generally, is (and will continue to be) to direct a broader audience to those resources so that they can be more informed about the array of strategic challenges that we confront. Nevertheless, I find that I understand things at a deeper level when I actually dig into the data myself, and so I often do this sort of thing for my own benefit. It seems like perhaps it could benefit others if I share more of this.

The graph that I have included here is a preliminary breakdown of terrorist attacks in the United States between 1995 and 2015 by the political motivation of the attacker(s). Of the 610 events that occurred during this time period, 242 are not attributed to a political motivation. I intend to try to look into these attacks more, to see if I can eke out any more information, but a number of these are attributable to individual causes that are difficult to categorize. For example, there are two attacks (armed assaults) in 2011 in which “The specific motive for the attack was to show opposition to highway signs that urge motorists to report suspicious activity.” I also will be going back and fine-tuning the classifications that I am using here.

Given that events and decisions are moving at such a rapid pace though, I wanted to put this out now. We have banned people from 7 Muslim countries and were informed yesterday that our approach to countering violent extremism will be focusing exclusively on Islam. You can draw your own conclusions about the strategic rationale for this.

Terrorist Incidents in U.S. by Motivation 95-15

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