Lessons Learned Part 4 – The Intimidation Factor By Tom Taylor

“The god who ruled the battlefield was Phobos. Fear.” – Steven Pressfield, Warrior Ethos (2011).

“Let us conduct ourselves so that all men wish to be our friends and all fear to be our enemies.” – Alexander the Great, 336–323 BC.

Attackers are frustrated by overt security measures (The Intimidation Factor):

The agent in sunglasses, glaring at a crowd as though reading their minds, and whispering into his sleeve to some unseen comrade; bomb dogs sniffing about; yellow police tape strung like holiday garland; uniformed officers screening lines of people with magnetometers — all of these images have an impact of the person who comes to do more than listen to the public figure. For the bad guy, they are like an electric fence, which will deliver a lethal shock if he comes too close. It can accurately be stated that the mere presence of a bodyguard or uniformed officer will provide a degree of deterrence. While stalking President Nixon, Arthur Bremer wrote in his diary that he was often deterred by tight security and noted, “Didn’t want to get imprisoned or killed in an unsuccessful attempt. To have absolutely nothing to show – I couldn’t take that chance … Can’t kill Nixy-boy if you ain’t close to him.”

These people tend to be paranoid and will see countermeasures even where they do not exist. “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind,” Shakespeare comments in King Henry VI. “The thief doth fear each bush an officer.” The Greek writer Xenophon (c. 430-c. 355 B.C.) described the concern that Hiero, the tyrant of Syracuse, had for his safety. The king questioned Simonides about the wisdom of using mercenaries as bodyguards: “But what about the mercenaries? Can you tell me how to employ them without incurring unpopularity? Or do you say that a ruler, once he becomes popular, will have no further need of a bodyguard?” Simonides responds, “No, no, he will need them, of course. For I know that some human beings are like horses — the more they get what they want, the more unruly they are apt to become. The way to manage men like that is to put the fear of the bodyguard into them.” In high- profile protective operations, the use of overt security measures — putting the fear of the bodyguard into the adversary — can turn away all but the most determined adversary.

At one presidential visit, a would-be assassin came to the event site armed with a .32 revolver, prepared to shoot at the president. She was alarmed by the sight of magnetometers at the entrance and knew she couldn’t get the weapon into the event. She then decided to shoot at the president’s motorcade as it went past her. She approached the arrival area, but encountered a strand of yellow police tape, barring her access to the area. The tape might as well have been a 10,000-volt power line. She stood in the crowd, trying to decide whether to shoot the president, shoot herself, or just go home. A nearby agent watching the crowd seemed to be staring right at her. She decided to go home, convinced that her attempt would fail. The Secret Service learned of the attempt when she confided the incident to her psychiatrist.

At a large, outdoor political rally for a vice president, a would-be assassin showed up with a .45 pistol concealed under his shirt. During the rally, he took three pictures of the vice president speaking to the crowd and left. He later mailed the pictures with an anonymous letter to the president and stated that he would kill the vice president at his next opportunity, if he didn’t drop out of the race. An examination of his photos revealed that he had been about 90 feet from the vice president when he took the pictures. The Secret Service identified the man through pictures and videotape taken at the rally and arrested him. During an interview at a prison facility, the man stated that he had also stalked the governor of his state, showing up at a rally with a knife concealed in his sleeve. When asked why he didn’t carry out that attack, he stated that “a Secret Service agent was in the back of the room, watching me, so I left.” When asked why he didn’t shoot the vice president at the outdoor rally, he stated that he went into a restroom to chamber a round into the weapon, but “a Secret Service agent was in there, using the bathroom, and I couldn’t do it or he would have heard me. So I went home.” The Secret Service doesn’t protect governors, unless they are recognized presidential or vice presidential candidates. The assassin probably saw a state trooper assigned to the governor’s detail. In addition, he might have seen anyone in the restroom at the VP’s rally, a staff person or even a reporter, and thought he was an agent. Agents don’t desert their post to use the restroom.

In 1998, members of a white-supremacy group in Southern Illinois obtained a LAW rocket and planned to fire it through the front door of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. When they conducted their surveillance of the property, they were alarmed at the heavy amount of security around the building and scrapped their plans. That same year, Russell Weston first visited the White House, standing across the street in Lafayette Park, before deciding to attack the Capitol. Most likely, he was deterred from trying to get at the president, because of the obvious level of security around the White House, and went in search of a softer target.

In 1999, Buford O. Furrow Jr. walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center in a suburb of Los Angeles, and opened fire in August 1999. He wounded five people, including three children. Investigators found a map on which Furrow had marked three other targets: the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the University of Judaism, and the Skirball Cultural Center. Farrow told police that he didn’t attack any of these locations because he had scouted them out and found that security was too tight. When he got off the freeway to get gas, he stumbled across the softer target, the Jewish Community Center, which had no security. It seems that a high level of security put the “fear of the bodyguard” into even the heavily armed and mentally unstable Buford Furrow.

World-class protective specialists will never know how many times in their career a disaster was averted, because the person who showed up to do harm got cold feet! They understand and use “The Intimidation Factor” to their advantage. The sharper and more professional the security team presents itself, the greater the chance that the bad guys will choose someone else. General John W. Vessey Jr. once declared that “our strategy is one of preventing war by making it self-evident to our enemies that they are going to get their clocks cleaned if they start one.” Countersnipers for the U.S. Capitol Police and Secret Service are usually visible on the rooftops overlooking events for their protectees, and state clearly, “We want to be seen!”

“A protector’s appearance matters. When you are fully present in body and mind, attentive but not anxious, and well grounded, everyone who observes you will sense your readiness, including the most important observer of all: the one who came here intending to attack.” – Just 2 Seconds, Chapter 3, Mind

Books Authored By Tom Taylor

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