(U//FOUO) New York Fusion Center Historical Pre-Election Terrorist Attacks Analysis

New York State Counter Terrorism Bulletin

  • 4 pages
  • For Official Use Only
  • October 5, 2012


In light of the upcoming 2012 US presidential election, NYSIC is providing a snapshot of four historical cases where terrorists conducted attacks in conjunction with upcoming local or national elections, including the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used and how the attacks met or failed to meet the terrorists’ goals of altering the outcome of the election.

Studies have highlighted possible theories, most often supported by historical cases, of why terrorists attempt to use attacks to influence the outcome of the election:

  • Terrorist attacks greatly increase the probability that the incumbent government will lose re-election.
  • Rightist parties are viewed as less conciliatory toward terrorist demands, while leftist parties are viewed as more likely to negotiate or give concessions. In general, relative support for rightist parties is expected to increase after terrorist attacks and to decrease after periods of inactivity.

Historically, terrorist violence has been used more often to extract direct concessions through negotiations after an attack. One such example is the February 9, 1996, Docklands Bombing in Northern Ireland: the Irish Republican Army (IRA) put an end to its 17-month ceasefire experiment by detonating an explosives-laden truck near a plaza where three office towers, a light-railway station and a hotel converge. The bombing successfully forced the British government back to the negotiating table without the precondition that the Provisional Irish Republican Army decommission all its weapons.

In 2004, al-Qa’ida was able to indirectly extract concessions from the Spanish government by influencing the election outcome after the Madrid train bombings, securing a Spanish withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Implications for New York:

At this time, there is no known credible intelligence suggesting an attack against New York State during the 2012 election period. However, considering the overall security environment, threats could emanate from a variety of actors wanting to influence US policy, including: al-Qa’ida and affiliates; state-sponsored groups; homegrown violent extremists; or anti-government domestic terrorists. Law enforcement and first responders throughout New York State should remain vigilant and consider proactive outreach regarding suspicious activity at or near potential targets in their jurisdictions, including campaign facilities, upcoming political event venues, and previously targeted locations such as shopping centers, recruiting centers, transportation hubs, and social/recreation venues.

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