Deadly Detours: Why Terrorists Do Not Attack US Bridges and Tunnels

Benjamin V. Allison 16 Dec 2022

Keywords: Terrorism, US, infrastructure, transportation, target selection, decision making

Given the potential economic, psychological, and human consequences of such attacks, it seems terrorists would attack US bridges and tunnels regularly. After all, terrorists have attacked such critical infrastructure in other countries; why not in the United States? Shockingly, while there has been some discussion of the risk of such attacks, there is a lack of research addressing why they have not happened. Using foiled plots as case studies, I present several major explanations as to why these plots fail—and, more importantly, what deters terrorists from pursuing them. These include counter-terrorism measures, perceived structural soundness and target hardness, expense, and terrorist preference for high body counts.

Related Readings:

Cook, J. “Episode 1: Counter-Terrorism in Policing with Frank Straub.” Counter-Terrorism After 9/11, 8 September 2021. Podcast, website, 47:46.

Rosenbach, A. von. Episode 4: Counter-Terrorism Developments and Future Directions with Tom Parker. Counter-Terrorism After 9/11, 13 October 2021. Podcast, website, 56:14.

Van Dongen, T. The Fate of the Perpetrator in the Jihadist Modus Operandi: Suicide Attacks and Non-Suicide Attacks in the West, 2004-2017. Research Paper, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 12 December 2017.

Gurski, P. What If Some Terrorist Attacks Are Unstoppable? Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 26 April 2017.