Large-scale study finds most acts of terrorism lack in-depth planning and sophisticated weaponry as well as rarely kill many people and rarely hit U.S. soil.
The events of 9-11 are the quintessential example of the high-cost, low probability event. But the images from that day have clouded the ability of Americans to calmly weigh the risks of terrorism, according to a study reported by The Washington Times .
The study from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) , based at the University of Maryland and primarily funded by the Department of Homeland Security, analyzed over 80,000 attacks from 1970 to 2007. Of those attacks, only 1,350 attacks, or 1.6 percent, hit American targets—mostly overseas.
That small percentage plummets to 0.08 percent when attacks on domestic targets are calculated. The Times has more:
Regardless of public perceptions, the START researchers deal only with hard numbers, and they found that there have been 25 terrorist attacks against American religious figures or institutions and 38 terrorist attacks against military targets in the United States since 1970.
The analysis also found that of 53 foreign terrorist groups judged to be "the most dangerous to the U.S.," 97 percent of their attacks were not on American soil.
"Unlike 9/11, most terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere are from domestic groups, not international ones," Mr. LaFree said. "Unlike 9/11, most terrorist attacks include few if any fatalities. Unlike 9/11, most attacks do not involve in-depth planning or sophisticated weaponry. Unlike al Qaeda, most terrorist groups are not long-lasting."
Gary LaFree, director of START, told the Times that 9-11 created a conceptual problem for the United States because one very big, audacious, and deadly terrorist attack has become synonymous with all terrorist attacks.
"[I]f we consider [9-11] to be typical of terrorist attacks, we will have a very misleading view of terrorism," he said.
♦ Photo by Sister72/Flickr