Terrorism Threat Assessment

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In light of the global increase in the number and lethality of terrorist attacks, it has become imperative that nations, states, and private citizens become more involved in a strategic vision to recognize, prepare for, and—if possible—prevent such events. RAND research and analysis has provided policymakers with objective guidance and recommendations to improve preparedness, international collaboration, response, and recovery to this global threat.

  • A cyclist rides along fencing surrounding the U.S. Capitol that was erected in the wake of the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., July 8, 2021, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Politicians Face Violence and Threats from Voters—and Each Other. Are We Nearing a Civil War?

    Nov 15, 2021

    Does America's increasingly uncivil behavior mean we are heading toward civil war? The historical record seems to indicate that the country has a high tolerance for violence without breaking apart. But the threat of civil wars cannot be dismissed.

  • Man thinking at his laptop, photo by Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

    Essay

    How to Avoid Extremism on Social Media

    May 3, 2022

    Extremist groups have been trolling the internet for decades, and they have learned to temper their words and disguise their intentions. A new scorecard can help users—or parents, or advertisers, or the social media companies themselves—understand when they might be interacting with extremist content.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    State Targeted Violence Prevention: Programming & Key Performance Indicators

    This resource is a guide for U.S. state governments as they seek to implement comprehensive targeted violence prevention (TVP) programming and evaluate its implementation, outcomes, and impact.

    May 18, 2022

  • Illustration of online extremists by Jessica Arana/RAND Corporation from Sean Rayford/Alamy; dem10/Getty Images; sestovic/Getty Images; Dilok Klaisataporn/Getty Images; Comstock/Getty Images

    Report

    How Extremism Operates Online

    Extremist groups use internet-based tools for financing, networking and coordination, recruitment and radicalization, inter- and intra-group knowledge transfer, and mobilization to action. How do internet users engage with these efforts? And can the internet be leveraged to counter extremism?

    Apr 12, 2022

  • Terrorist photos on top of an illustration of data clusters, photos by DPA Picture Alliance and Sean Rayford/Alamy; background by Astibuag/Adobe Stock

    Blog

    Terrorism Research: How RAND Defined and Built a New Field of Knowledge

    In the early 1970s, amid a worldwide rash of bombings, hijackings, and hostage-takings, RAND researchers began creating the first international database of terrorist incidents. Maintained until 2009, it chronicles more than 40,000 terrorist attacks since 1968.

    Mar 9, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Atomization of Political Violence

    The conclusion that terrorism is likely to persist at low levels does not preclude large-scale attacks. The present tumultuous state of the world and growing domestic extremism could produce dramatic changes in the future trajectory of political violence.

    Feb 25, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Scenarios of Transnational Islamist Terrorism. Trends and Developments: A Fact-Based Threat Assessment

    Some scholars have speculated that the current religious wave of terrorism, epitomized by the global jihadist movement, might finally be starting to ebb. But the movement could very well roar back to life.

    Feb 25, 2022

  • A woman with a smartphone is seen in front of social media logos, May 25, 2021, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    Report

    Understanding the Online Extremist Ecosystem

    By the early 2010s, it was clear that the internet provided white supremacists and other extremists a tool to operationalize their hateful ideas and cause real-world harms. How can the average user understand their risk of exposure to extremist content and make informed decisions about the platforms they use?

    Dec 2, 2021

  • Blog

    News Manipulation, the Risk of Civil War, Russia and Ukraine: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on tracking news manipulation during the pandemic, the threat of another civil war, preventing health insurance loss, and more.

    Nov 19, 2021

  • A member of the local Explosives and Ordnance Division wearing a specialized suit tries to install a water diffuser to an improvised explosive device during a bomb drill in a high school courtyard in Manila, Philippines, July 14, 2017, photo by Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

    Commentary

    Defining 'Terrorism' Is the First Step to Defeating It

    Western policy- and decisionmakers continue to grapple with how to define acts of terrorism and when it is appropriate to bring terrorism charges. Establishing a consensus on the definition of terrorism and bringing to center stage the importance of adequately charging acts of terrorism could be more important than ever.

    Nov 8, 2021

  • U.S. Army soldiers participate in a parade in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2013, photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    The Link Between Extremism and Military Functioning

    U.S. Department of Defense policy prohibits service members from actively participating in extremist activities. Broadening the policy to include passive forms of participation could introduce two challenges.

    May 20, 2021

  • A protester is detained inside the U.S. Capitol as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    Capitol Rioters Face FBI Arrests and Prosecution. How Not to Make Them Martyrs in the Process

    The righteous wrath of those who view January 6 as an insurrection and believe we need uncompromising prosecution is understandable. But is it strategic thinking? History has shown that prosecutions based on less severe and politically-fraught charges have a greater chance of resulting in the convictions needed to stop this behavior.

    May 14, 2021

  • National Guardmen on U.S. Capitol security detail in Washington, DC, January 11, 2021, photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht/U.S. Air National Guard

    Commentary

    How to Root Out Extremism in the U.S. Military

    The military has a growing extremism problem because America does. Service members who embrace violent extremism are thankfully few; Americans citizens who do so are sadly far too many. As a nation we need to deal with both.

    Feb 1, 2021

  • Supporters of Donald Trump scale a wall as they storm the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021, photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    Commentary

    Domestic Violent Extremists Will Be Harder to Combat Than Homegrown Jihadists

    The beliefs driving today's domestic extremists are deeply rooted in American history and society. For this and several other reasons, shutting them down will prove far more difficult than combating homegrown jihadists.

    Feb 1, 2021

  • News Release

    News Release

    Interest in a U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint May Be Growing, So Advocates Need to Provide More Details

    As the Biden Administration takes over, some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a new approach to America's role in the world: a realist grand strategy of restraint under which the U.S. would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence and end or renegotiate some security commitments.

    Jan 22, 2021

  • A world map puzzle with a piece on top, photo by Yuriy Panyukov/Adobe Stock

    Report

    A U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint

    Some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a realist grand strategy of restraint. Under this approach, the United States would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence, and end or renegotiate some security commitments. What are the policy implications of embarking down this path?

    Jan 21, 2021

  • Supporters of the outgoing president, Donald Trump, climb a wall during a deadly mob assault on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, January 6, 2021, photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Battle of Capitol Hill

    The deadly mob assault on the U.S. Capitol Building was a predictable possibility. Democracy held, but security failed, spectacularly. We need to be better prepared for future acts of political violence.

    Jan 11, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    Counter-Radicalization Bot Research: Using Social Bots to Fight Violent Extremism

    As the online recruitment of violent extremist organizations grows, the U.S. government may benefit from promising emerging technology tools to rapidly detect targets of such recruitment efforts and deliver counter-radicalization content to them.

    Oct 8, 2020

  • People line up to cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 2020, photo by Megan Jelinger/Reuters

    Commentary

    Will There Be Domestic Terrorism During Election Season?

    The COVID-19 pandemic has roiled the elections. The United States is deeply divided and the political system is polarized. Under these fraught circumstances, even a minor event can have far-reaching repercussions. What are the prospects for domestic terrorism in the context of U.S. elections?

    Oct 7, 2020

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    The American Jihad Was a Failure. For Those Who Joined, It Was a Path to Destruction

    To keep the jihad going after 9/11, al Qaeda exhorted homegrown terrorists to take up arms in the United States. ISIS later made similar appeals. These calls to arms yielded some plots and a few attacks, but overall, the American jihad was a failure.

    Sep 23, 2020