Lone Actor Terrorist Attack Planning and Preparation: A Data-Driven Analysis*,†
This article provides an in-depth assessment of lone actor terrorists' attack planning and preparation. A codebook of 198 variables related to different aspects of pre-attack behavior is applied to a sample of 55 lone actor terrorists. Data were drawn from open-source materials and complemented where possible with primary sources. Most lone actors are not highly lethal or surreptitious attackers. They are generally poor at maintaining operational security, leak their motivations and capabilities in numerous ways, and generally do so months and even years before an attack. Moreover, the “loneness” thought to define this type of terrorism is generally absent; most lone actors uphold social ties that are crucial to their adoption and maintenance of the motivation and capability to commit terrorist violence. The results offer concrete input for those working to detect and prevent this form of terrorism and argue for a re-evaluation of the “lone actor” concept.