During the last years I have seen news covering in great details all the terrorist attacks, mostly those that happened in West Europe and US. It is highly plausible that most people that have access to a TV and/or Internet know many things about terrorist attacks.

However, I have also seen that some officials warn about future attack. E.g.: US, France, Germany.

While these declarations are usually confirmed by subsequent attacks, they can also induce a state of panic. Of course, one should expect more police on the streets, security protocols to be improved etc. after such attacks, but why the need for such declarations that amplify the state of fear?

Question: Why do various officials insist on the fact that people should expect more terrorist attacks?

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    It's quite speculative either way but, given the near-certainty of future attack and the fact that prominent leaders have to react in some way, what's more likely to induce panic: Preparing for future attacks or promising or implying they won't happen, only to be proven wrong by the facts?
    – Relaxed
    Jul 7, 2017 at 20:37
  • Of course, they will most likely happen. But I see two main options: bluntly say this or stick to something like: there will be more police on the streets, stricter security controls etc. Of course, this is somewhat lying by omission, but I bet this one is one of the lightest "sins" of a politician / public figure. So, I am interested in why they choose to convey the message the way they do.
    – Alexei
    Jul 7, 2017 at 20:54
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    @Alexei That's not my point, though. You talked about panic: lying by omission, even if it's a minor sin, can backfire badly when the next attack comes. Meanwhile, I don't see much of a basis for your contention that the examples you found generated any panic. So, on that basis alone, it's not obvious that warning about future attacks is any worse than creating a false sense of safety or trying to dodge the issue.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 7, 2017 at 21:13
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    And of course, on balance, “more police, more security, we will defeat the terrorist”, silly as it is, is what has dominated public discourse in the last few years, isolated counter-examples notwithstanding.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 7, 2017 at 21:15
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    Possibly the officials "insist" on the virtual certainty (not just possibility) of future jihadist attacks because if they didn't, anyone with any knowledge of the motivation for such attacks would know that said officials were either lying or delusional.
    – jamesqf
    Jul 8, 2017 at 5:58

2 Answers 2


There can be several reasons. Each of your examples seems to have a different one.

As a general rule, governments need the support of the populace for programs to avoid terrorist attacks. Thus, Secretary John Kelly in the United States warns of future attacks in hopes of support for more resources for his Department of Homeland Security, which is supposed to stop such attacks.

In France, they mention a left-wing prime minister acknowledging the likelihood of future attacks while talking about a right-wing presidential candidate's proposals. If the prime minister instead said that attacks were not likely, then the next attack would tend to push support to the right-wing candidates. They would say how he had no idea of how the real world worked. By acknowledging the attacks, he blunts that future event at the cost of some current support for his position.

In Germany, this seems to have been a mostly internal report from the Intelligence head to the government that was then reported publicly. I.e. his reason was to let the rest of the government prepare. But in a transparent society, letting the government know often briefs the public as well. However, we wouldn't want the government to be making its decisions based on false pretenses.

There could be other reasons that are not as obvious from your examples. But this covers a nice range. Garnering popular support, trying to control the political narrative, and informing other parts of the government are all important things to do from the perspective of a government employee or politician.


If you say their will be attacks in the future, and you are proved wrong then it's smiles all around and you say that you are glad the worst hasn't come to pass as everyone is relieved of their fear. If you are proved right, then you look like you were in charge of the situation and you predicted it all along.

If you say there will be no attacks in the future, and you are proved right then nobody really cares because there was no tension that there may have been an attack and thus no relief. It's a bit like how if you live in a rich safe area you don't really thank your lucky stars that you didn't get mugged on the way home everyday, but if you live in a ghetto you may. If you are proved wrong and an attack happens, you look incompetent at best, and people stop trusting you.

Either way whether or not a threat exists claiming an imminent attack is always the better option. However in the case of Europe and the nature of modern day terrorism, specifically lone wolf attacks and using everyday acquirable weapons such as knives or trucks, no government can 100% resist an attack while keeping a reasonably free society. Therefore there is always some small probability of an attack, therefore it is best to side with this probability and claim an imminent attack for the reasons above.

  • 1
    I heard a story about a boy being eaten after his people were 'relieved of their fear' about wolves once too often.
    – user9389
    Jul 7, 2017 at 21:33

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