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Researchers Release Terrorism Database To Scholars Nationwide

Sociology professor Brent Smith, University of Oklahoma sociologist Kelly Damphousse and the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism have released a database that contains information on nearly 500 indicted terrorists, spanning two decades of federal terrorist investigations from 1978 to 1999. The information could help scholars recognize trends in terrorist activity or aid prosecutors in sending known terrorists to jail.

Cataloging 2,851 criminal counts from 121 federal terrorism cases, the American Terrorism Study database is the most comprehensive compendium of terrorism investigations and activity ever compiled in the United States.

“We could publish books off this data for the rest of our lives. The database is so complete, there’s so much information — one research team simply can’t mine it all,” said Smith. “We believe if our database can help mitigate or prevent terrorist activity, it would be selfish to restrict it for the sake of our own academic interests.”

Organized by criminal count, the database provides information on approximately 75 variables, including demographic descriptions of indicted and convicted individuals, terrorist group affiliations, intended and actual targets, and outcomes cases such as conviction or acquittal. The database grew out of a project called the American Terrorism Study, which Smith founded in 1989, when the FBI Terrorist Research and Analytical Center began furnishing him with the names and court case numbers of terrorist indictments.

Smith and his colleagues have used the American Terrorism Study database to note what criminal charges are most often leveled against terrorist suspects and which charges are most likely to result in conviction. His latest project, funded by the National Institute of Justice, will use information from the database to identify the ancillary crimes that frequently precede terrorist acts. Such early indicators of a terrorist plot could help authorities intervene and save lives.

In addition to helping academic researchers, the database will aid prosecutors in their attempts to bring terrorists to justice.

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