Exploring Geographical Aspects of the tPP Dataset

This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.

Another dimension to researching our data involves looking at some of the geographical aspects of our data.  This is mainly through looking at the location of attacks within our dataset.  Although our data explores terrorism prosecutions within the United States, some of these attacks have taken place outside of the country.  These are especially interesting to look into as they are attacks that occurred outside of the United States, but were prosecuted within the United States.  These attacks often contain attacks on American citizens.  Concerning these attacks abroad, international law aids in determining jurisdiction over crimes occurring abroad (Kane 297).  There are five determinations of which country has jurisdiction over crimes that occur abroad.  These include: “(1) territoriality; (2) nationality of the accused; (3) nationality of the victim; (4) protection of state interests; and (5) universality of certain offences” (Kane 297).  These determinations aid in determining where crimes will be prosecuted that happen abroad.

Twenty-five of these cases involved support or association with a terrorist organization.  Nineteen involved kidnapping and these all occurred within Colombia. Another nineteen involved IEDs and military explosives.  The remaining cases involved multiple tactics.  With the country map, you can hover over each country to see the number of defendants who attacked in each specific country.  Many of the attacks that involved IEDs, explosives, and kidnappings dealt with attacks against American citizens and these defendants were therefore extradited to the United States for trial.  As for the case with support and association with a terrorist organization, most of these people were either American citizens looking to join a terrorist organization and/or someone who was caught because of an informant.


When looking at prosecutions of terrorism within the United States, one may believe that all of these attacks associated with these prosecutions also occurred within the United States.  However, through the tPP dataset, this was not found.  Of our current number of cases (1,130), 67 of these cases involved attacks that occurred outside of the United States. This is about only 6% of cases that we have coded so far, but it is an important look into some of the prosecutions of terrorism that occurs within the United States.  Through these cases, we can begin to see what type of attacks that occur outside the United States are prosecuted within the United States.  We can also begin to see why these cases are prosecuted within the United States and not in the country in which the attack occurred.  Through looking at these cases and the qualities of them, one can conclude that most of these attacks that occurred abroad were prosecuted in the United States because either the victims were American citizens or the defendants were American citizens.

– Lizzy Springer


Kane, Terry Richard. 1987. “Prosecuting International Terrorist in United States Courts: Gaining the Jurisdictional Threshold.” Yale Journal of International Law. Vol. 12, Is. 2, 294-341.

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