About the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents

In 1972, shortly after the terrorist attacks at the Munich Olympics and the Red Army attack on Lod Airport in Israel, the U.S. government formed the first official government body charged with fighting terrorism, the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism. This Committee asked RAND to examine recent trends in terrorism, prompting a team of RAND analysts to begin development of a database — the first of its kind — known initially as the RAND Terrorism Chronology.

The Federal government imported RAND's database in the 1980s and built on it from there. RAND continued to develop the original and to use it, along with a parallel compilation of detailed case studies, to describe terrorism empirically so that the phenomenon could be systematically analyzed. As the database grew and evolved, it became an increasingly valuable tool for discerning trends in terrorist tactics and targeting and other developments. The database enabled RAND to inform government policymakers on how terrorists made decisions, managed their violent attacks and manipulated fear; how they viewed hostage situations and bargained in them, and how they viewed nuclear weapons; and what resources they were able to mobilize. To cite just a few examples, RAND analyses helped shape the first instructions to American officials going into high-risk posts, and informed the design and construction of diplomatic facilities abroad and the formulation of nuclear security measures in the United States. (For a list of RAND publications that used RDWTI data, see here.)

Data collection for the RDWTI ceased in 2009, though RAND's work on counterterrorism has only continued to grow. The database was available online for more than a decade afterwards, but has now been retired. Interested parties can still download a copy of its contents for their own use.

Numerous RAND terrorism analysts have been involved in developing and maintaining the dataset over time, including Brian Michael Jenkins, Bruce Hoffman, Mike Wermuth, Donald Temple, Nate Shestak, and Kim Cragin.