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U.S. Deaths from Terrorism, 1995-2014

Considering recent claims that terrorism is an existential threat that should be driving Americans to costly actions such as

a prudent course of action would be to actually measure how many deaths have occurred due to terrorist attacks.  Fortunately, such measurements are being made by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a non-partisan, non-profit University of Maryland project that is both sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and named a Center of Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security.  I note these affiliations to indicate that such counts come from the heart of the Homeland Security apparatus, which if anything has a budgetary incentive to overestimate U.S. deaths from terrorist attacks.  The GTD’s latest data release, including deaths through the end of 2014, allows us to obtain a count of the total number of deaths of Americans due to terrorist attack from 1995-2014.  The following is an unabridged tally from the GTD, including both deaths in the United States and deaths of Americans occurring outside the United States:

1995: 189

1996: 36

1997: 14

1998: 135

1999: 25

2000: 36

2001: 2910

2002: 29

2003: 17

2004: 5

2006: 4

2007: 1

2008: 14

2009: 19

2010: 6

2011: 3

2012: 12

2013: 13

2014: 32

The average number of American deaths per year from terrorism during this period is 184.2.  The median number of American deaths per year during this period is 17.

To put the above numbers in relative perspective, the 13 deaths of Americans anywhere in the world due to terrorism in 2013 represents 0.000004107% of a population of 316.5 million.  The 32 terrorism deaths of Americans anywhere in the world in 2014 represents 0.00001003% of a population of 318.9 million.

The following are the top ten causes of death in the United States in 2014, also the last year for which statistics are available.  Indicated is the cause of death and number of deaths for each in the United States in 2014.  Source: Centers for Disease Control.

  1. Heart disease: 611,105
  2. Cancer: 584,881
  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
  4. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
  5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
  7. Diabetes: 75,578
  8. Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

Terrorism vs. Suicide 2014To put the above numbers in relative perspective, the 47,112 deaths of Americans anywhere in the world due to kidney (nephrotic) problems in 2014 represents 0.01477% of a population of 318.9 million.  The 2014 nephrotic death toll is 1,472.25 times larger than the 2014 death toll from terrorism.  The 41,149 suicide deaths of Americans anywhere in the world in 2014 represents 0.01003% of a population of 318.9 million.  The 2014 suicide death toll is 1,285.91 times larger than the 2014 death toll from terrorism.

8 thoughts on “U.S. Deaths from Terrorism, 1995-2014”

  1. ella says:

    These statistics show that having the Dept. of Homeland Security has been very beneficial to the American people, world wide. The drop in the number of foreign based terrorist killings dropped significantly and notably following the opening of national defense via the Homeland Security, year after year.

    1. J Clifford says:

      Do the statistics show that, Ella? The terrorism statistics of pre-2001 look an awful lot like the terrorism statistics of post-2001 – not anywhere close to up in the thousands.

      If we were to take your interpretation of the statistics seriously, to say that the Department of Homeland Security is the causal agent driving low terrorism rates post-2001, then we would have to conclude that, somehow, the Department of Homeland Security also has been able to cause a diminishment of terrorism backwards in time. Is that possible, Ella?

      I think it’s more likely that 2001 was an statistical outlier.

      1. ella says:

        “The terrorism statistics of pre-2001 look an awful lot like the terrorism statistics of post-2001. ” J Clifford

        Every four years prior to and including 2001, there was a spike in terrorist activity. Of course the Towers were taken down in 2001 which was the culmination of the last large four year spike.
        In 1995 there were 3.78 times more killings than in 1996 and 1997 combined. In 1998 there were 2.21 times more killings than 1999 and 2000 combined.
        In 2001 there were 63.26 times more killings than in 2002 and 2003 combined. In 2004 there were exactly the same number of killings that there were in 2005 and 2006 combined as killings declined. In 2006 there were .053846 fewer killings than in 2007 and 2008 combined when there was a reverse trend. In 2009 there were 2.11 more killings than in 2010 and 2011 combined as the trend resumed. In 2012 there were .266… fewer killings than in 2013 and 2014 combined, as the trend once again has reversed.
        You will notice that in all cases, the number of killings annually in the ‘between years’ since 2001 has been lower than before 2001, until 2014. Notice also the reversal every other four year cycle that is established up until 2014. We would need the following year to see the trend.

  2. Charles Manning says:

    Jim Cook, thanks for the statistics. You didn’t mention murders and deaths from overdoses of illegal drugs, two of the most serious consequences of crime. I think those statistics would be relevant because terrorism is really crime.

    It’s been unnoticed by American media that most Europeans, unlike Americans, treat terrorism as crime. I don’t recall them engaging in the “costly actions” you list. Rather, they seem to be increasing their law enforcement actions. We should do the same. What’s happening here is the wealthy are hyping terrorism as war so that more taxpayer money goes into the military/industrial complex. Of course, terrorists view that as a plus, since it drains resources that could benefit ordinary Americans, thereby increasing dissatisfaction with our way of life.

    1. Al Hopfmann says:

      You make some good points. It would also be interesting to see valid statistics on deaths from medical treatment mistakes and “legal” medicines.

  3. ella says:

    Someone here should know about this and if it is true. If it is true, can it possibly even be Constitutional? And if it isn’t shouldn’t someone be seriously be challenging it? It completely bypasses the Congress, requires Executive agencies and Homeland Security to report to the President directly in all instances. No function is given to the Congress what-so-ever. By-by American Flag. Democratic Republic, just became a Dictatorship. So – why is there still a Congress? Obama put out a $4.1 Trillion budget and “it passed”? Passed who by? For once I am actually surprised.
    Obama signed an Executive Order #13603
    http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/ndrp.asp
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/16/executive-order-national-defense-resources-preparedness

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Ella, as the link you yourself provided documents, the hype on this executive order is inaccurate. So why share the inaccurate hype here? I don’t understand your point.

      1. ella says:

        The war with North Korea began June 1950, which is why The Defense Production Act was written. And it has been revised through various administrations. Usually when war was considered a possibility. But it does indeed give the Executive Branch authority over agriculture, transportation, and industry. We are not at war, why now? Our military is running down mechanically.

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