The purposes of this research were to create a database of lone wolf terrorism in America, along with a theory-informed case study component based on direct contact with incarcerated lone wolf terrorists, and a comparative analysis seeking to distinguish lone wolves from those who undergo radicalization in a group setting.
Information on the 98 cases was gathered from an extensive review of previous research, biographies and memoirs, journalistic sources, government reports, court documents, encyclopedias and documentary films.
Researchers attempted to conduct in-depth personal interviews with seven inmates. Due to refusals and issues with informed consent, only one such interview was conducted. It was not made available for archiving.
To be included in the database and case studies, a case was required to meet the following definition: Lone wolf terrorism is political violence perpetrated by individuals who act alone; who do not belong to an organized terrorist group or network; who act without the direct influence of a leader or hierarchy; and whose tactics and methods are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or direction. Researchers discovered 98 cases fitting this definition between 1940 and 2013 - representing all known cases of American lone wolf terrorism for the period.
Of the 98 cases in the database, 38 cases occurred before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 60 took place after 9/11. Of the 60 lone wolf cases after 9/11, however, 15 cases were law enforcement sting operations involving confidential informants and undercover agents; hence,
they do not qualify as authentic lone wolf cases since more than one individual was involved. The sting cases were nevertheless included in the database because stings against standalone extremists have become a major counterterrorism strategy since 9/11.
All known cases of lone wolf terrorism from 1940-2013 within the United States.
For a full list of sources, users should consult the accompanying documentation file.
administrative records data
The data file consists of 23 variables (n=98). All variables within this collection are qualitative. Variables include a case number, name, years active, attacks/plots, fatalities/injuries, weapons used, age at time of attack/plot, race/ethnicity, prior criminal history, social/political grievance, military history, employment status at time of attack/plot, psychological disorder, affinity with extremist groups, marital status, broadcasting intent, enabler of terrorism, locus of radicalization, triggering event, capture/arrest, popular culture influence, influences on popular culture, and sources of materials used by researchers.