Over the past four decades, and especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, many countries around the world have passed various types of counterterrorist legislation. It remains unclear, however, whether such laws are effective in achieving their most important declared goal: reducing terrorist activities. Some scholars believe that counterterrorist legislation should indeed reduce terrorist activities through protecting people and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist plots, and deterring some potential terrorists. Others, however, remain doubtful, suggesting that such legislation often serves merely as lip service or, worse, actually contributes to increasing terrorist activities. Using a newly assembled database on national-level counterterrorist legislation, I conduct a cross-national time-series analysis of legislation and subsequent terrorism for the years 1981–2009. The analyses demonstrate a discrepancy between the short- and long-term effects of national-level counterterrorist legislation. In the short term, laws have no effect on the number of terrorist attacks and their severity. In the long term, however, the cumulative effects of most legislation are counterproductive and harmful, although some types of legislation do produce beneficial results and are associated with a reduction in future attacks.


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pp. 525-557
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