RAND/Terrorism Chronology Database

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Concept.png RAND/Terrorism Chronology Database

The RAND Terrorism Chronology Database is a database of international terrorist incidents that occurred between 1968 and 1997.

The database was developed after the US Department of State and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) approached the RAND Corporation and asked its researchers to examine trends in international terrorism. [1] The database was developed by Brian Jenkins in 1972 originally on 3” x 5” cards. [2] Jenkins left the RAND Corporation to become a managing partner at Kroll Associates, and the datebase was taken over by Bruce Hoffman. Hoffman took over the database, assumed directorship of the program, and expanded it to include domestic as well as international terrorism.[3] For a brief time the Chronology was jointly held by RAND and the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence and known as the RAND-St Andrews database, but this ended in 1997, and the database lay dormant until 2001. That year RAND recieved funding from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and developed the Terrorism Incident Database, which documented terrorism incidents from 1998 onwards. That new database in turn formed part of the now discontinued Terrorism Knowledge Base.[4]

Criticism

In a 2005 article, British academics Jonny Burnett and Dave Whyte criticise the methodology employed in the compilation of the database, which was and is the basis of much of the mainstream terrorism research:

Since the RAND-St Andrews chronology only records those incidents that are ‘international’, the database is orientated towards the recording of attacks on foreign visitors to, and military occupiers of, relatively poor countries. By definition those victims are normally business representatives and military personnel from economically strong, normally Western, nations. The second observation, which reinforces this latter point, is that the Chronology explicitly excludes acts of state terror committed by any government against its own citizens, and acts of violence occurring in war or in war-like situations. Incidents involving Western armies of occupation and businesses are included in the Chronology only where they are victims rather than the perpetrators of violence. Third, some of the methodological inconsistencies in the use of data in the Chronology database are reminiscent of the counter-insurgency position. It is possible to find non-violent activities and protests against state violence recorded in the database as ‘terrorism.’ [5]


References

  1. Laura Dugan, Gary LaFree, Kim Cragin, Anna Kasupski, 'Building and Analyzing a Comprehensive Open Source Data Base on Global Terrorist Events (PDF)' (National Institute of Justice/NCJRS, March 2008 p.11
  2. Brian K. Houghton, 'Terrorism Knowledge Base: A Eulogy (2004-2008)', Perspectives on Terrorism Volume II, Issue 7
  3. RAND Corporation News Release, 'BRUCE HOFFMAN TO HEAD RAND’S WASHINGTON OFFICE. LEADING TERRORISM EXPERT RETURNS AS THINK TANK BEEFS UP PROGRAM. ALSO BACK AT RAND: BRIAN JENKINS', 31 August 1998
  4. RAND Website, The RAND Worldwide Terrorism Incident Knowledge Database Project, (accessed 22 March 2008)
  5. Jonny Burnett & Dave Whyte, 'Embedded Expertise and the New Terrorism (PDF)', Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media 1 (4) pp.9-10