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October 09, 2001
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Corporate Advisory: Why Executives and Corporations Are Vulnerable To Terrorism

by Tony Scotti

(From the Informed Source Newsletter, published by Profiles Threat Countermeasures Group.)

How Terrorists See You.....
The person best equipped to protect you against terrorism is you. Surprised? Don’t be. The personal battle against terrorism is not as difficult as you may imagine. The first step is learning how to assess the threat that terrorism poses to you. Just how vulnerable are you? Is there an immediate threat to you or your company?

You must be concerned about your own personal vulnerability. By far, the biggest threat against you is kidnapping. In executive kidnapping, the important issue is who the terrorists select as the target for a kidnapping, and why. Terrorists have a wide number of options available to them. They can select people from the military, they can select diplomatic personnel, and they can select businessmen or any of a myriad of influential and vulnerable decision makers.

Terrorists kidnap businessmen for money and to gain publicity for their cause. The question you must answer is simple, of all the target businessmen available, why select you? You will attract terrorists'’ attention if you fit into what is called, the terrorist profile. Understanding this profile is critical. You may be selected as a target if terrorists feel you fit the following criteria:

Apparent wealth: Most terrorist groups need money. If you appear wealthy, you will become a target. This wealth does not have to be your wealth. If you work for a big American company with "deep pockets", the apparent ability to pay a ransom, you have a good chance of being selected as a potential target.

Represent Something Important: Terrorists need publicity. Terrorists need to advertise just like businesses. It is vital for them to keep their cause in the eye of the public. Kidnapping someone unimportant does not get them the publicity they need. As an American manager working in a foreign land, you represent something important. Your kidnapping will be noteworthy in itself. If you represent a prominent American firm with a worldwide image such as a major multinational, your vulnerability is increased.

Particularly Valuable to Someone: You may feel that you are personally not worth the effort of a kidnapping, but you do have a value to the company you work for. the more valuable you are to your company, the more likely you will be selected as a target.

Accessibility: Terrorists are like everyone else. Terrorists seek the path of the least resistance. The easier you are to kidnap, and the more accessible you are, the more likely you will become a target. When assessing your vulnerability to terrorism, take a close look at yourself.

1) Do you appear wealthy? Like beauty, wealth is in the eye of the beholder. therefore, appearances count. Look at yourself through your kidnapper’s eyes, colored by the social mores and economic standards of the country you are in. do you live in a large residence? Do you have more than one house? Do you employ servants? Do you seem to be enjoying an exciting and expensive lifestyle? This appearance of wealth is very important. realistically, any
American enjoying what would be considered a modest standard of living in the Third World is living in comparative luxury, measured against local standards.

2) Are you of value to somebody who can and will do a great deal to secure your release? You may not be rich yourself, but you may be worth a great deal to someone else. As a manager of an American firm, you have intrinsic value. History has proven that American corporations will pay large ransoms to get you back.

3) If you are kidnapped, will it provide publicity favorable to the kidnapper’s cause? As an American working overseas, your kidnapping will be news.

Again, the important issue is how terrorists see you. Step outside of the role of an American manager, and look at yourself objectively. The average manager working overseas probably enjoys a lifestyle that could not be reproduced in the U.S., at least not nearly as cheaply. In many South American and Middle Eastern countries, it is not uncommon to find corporate managers living in expensive homes located in the most affluent sections of the city, catered to by servants, and chauffeured to and from work. These trappings would be a sign of wealth in any country. It’s certainly not the lifestyle of the average Third World citizen. By local standards, you are certain to be considered wealthy.

Will your kidnapping get media attention? There is no question that your kidnapping would be a media event in the country where you were kidnapped. You are an influential person. the people who work for your company, along with the people who depend on your products or services, look at you as an influe ntial person. As far as the workers are concerned, you make decisions which can change their lives, and in some cases, change the economy of the country. the American manager of a multinational company doing business in a foreign land is inherently important, influential, and newsworthy.

The bottom line is simple. It makes no difference whether a businessman really fits into one of the above categories. All that counts, is that criminals or terrorists think he does!

Businesses are vulnerable because of their basic structure. All businesses are interested in profitable growth. Any security measure a multinational takes, must be measured against profit and loss. the effectiveness of a personal security program is hard to measure in terms of dollars and cents. If a company spends one million on security, and nothing gets damaged or stolen, and no one is kidnapped, some short-sighted executives will consider the money wasted. If an antikidnapping program is working, management may get the impression that because no one has been kidnapped, the program is not needed.

This is ridiculous. Examine the alternatives. It’s a little late to decide you need a personal security program after you have been kidnapped. the problem with security is that if it’s working, it looks as though it’s not needed.

There’s no question that there are situations where the cost of security can outweigh the loss. But that generally is true only if the loss is measured in dollars. There are costs associated with terrorism and violence that are difficult or impossible to measure is the only criteria is profit and loss. William Niehous, who was kidnapped in Venezuela, spent
forty months in the hands of terrorists. What price would you put on forty months in captivity? What’s the dollar value in terms of your own personal trauma, and the anguish your family would endure?

Assessing the Threat
For many companies, the issues of terrorism and security are unpleasant topics they’d rather not discuss. Talking about terrorism is like talking about death or taxes, not a very pleasant subject. the worst thing you can do is refuse to recognize the danger. Adopt this attitude, and you increase the possibility of being selected as a target. there is no need for any American working o overseas to exaggerate the danger, but a realistic risk appraisal can give you peace of mind while allowing you time to put the proper defense mechanisms into place. There is no need to become excessively paranoid, but in a potentially dangerous situation, a little paranoia can keep you alive. as the old saying goes, "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really after you."

You must evaluate the problem. Make a realistic risk Assessment of your situation. Don’t sweep the issue under the carpet. Executives sometimes justify this course of action on the grounds that "it won’t happen to me, or if they are after me, there’s nothing that will stop them, or I cannot operative efficiently if my hands are tied with security precautions."

Security practicioners around the world agree that the greatest single factor in reducing your risk to terrorism is for you to take active security precautions. (To have terrorists see you taking active, effective precautions is probably the most important single thing you can do. neither political terrorists nor criminals can afford a fiasco. they generally strike when the situation offers guaranteed success, so they always seek the easiest target available. Businessmen who don’t take precautions are soft, easy targets. The more visible your personal security precautions, the more likely the terrorists are to abandon the attack. From the terrorist point of view; "there’s always another manager." Terrorists are probably not interested in your personally. They are far more interested in what you represent, and in most foreign countries, there are many easy targets available. the more daunting you appear, the less likely you are to become a target.

There is documented proof for this type of terrorist deterrence. Two brothers named Hosein were once convicted of a major kidnapping in the United Kingdom. Ironically, the brothers didn’t kidnap the person they really wanted. Security made them settle for second-best. For their original target, they had selected the wife of a wealthy and famous publisher, Rupert Murdoch. Because of Mrs. Murdoch’s squad of personal security guards, and their high state of readiness, the brothers concluded she would be too hard to kidnap. They moved on to another easier, but less wealthy target. They were willing to accept less money for more changes of success. Since they were eventually convicted, it would seem they got neither. However, one point is clear. Mrs. Murdoch was not touched.

Another Very Well Known Example:
Aldo Moro, a former president of Italy, was not the Red Brigade’s original target.

The Brigade’s original intention was the kidnapping of two other men, but the Red Brigade decided that both men were too heavily guarded, so went went after Mr. Moro, the easier target. Terrorists take risks, but like any good soldier, they take calculated risks.

You must calculate your own risks in dealing with them. Accept the fact that you have a problem, and confront it, as you would any other. Start out with knowing who you’re dealing with.

Who Are The Terrorists?
One of the biggest errors a company can make is to underestimate terrorist capabilities. terrorists are not a disorganized rabble. They are organized to a degree that would be admired by most of the companies and managers they plan to attack. they must be well organized. Terrorist cells are usually a small group of people who realize that their opponents, either multinationals or governments, are bigger, more powerful, and have far greater resources than they do. They must beast that company by being better prepared.

Likewise, a company organized against terrorism is a formidable deterrent for the terrorist. Some executives might scoff at this, but a company which uses its resources intelligently and efficiently to combat terrorism can make life very difficult for the terrorists, forcing them underground to seek another target. the informationgathering abilities of large corporations is a powerful weapon in the fight against terrorism. A forward-looking company can organize an intelligence-gathering network against terrorism in much the same way as it would organize against, or analyze any other challenge it faces.

Understanding the Enemy
A fundamental part of any threat analysis program is a grassroots understanding of the enemy. It takes a terrorist to get a terrorist. One of the best ways to start by reading The Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla. Used by terrorists worldwide as the bible for their battles, the Mini-Manual is the accepted textbook for urban guerrilla warfare, and can be found in terrorist training camps and safe houses the world over. One of the more frightening features of this manual, is that it clearly targets American industry as an enemy, together with the people who represent that industry.

Carlos Marighella, author of the Mini-Manual, is a Brazilian terrorist who was killed in the late 1960s. While the name is hardly a household word, Marighella is the father of modern terrorism. If he were alive today, Marighella would be very proud of the work his students have been carrying on around the world. the fact that terror attacks at opposite ends of the world are often virtually identical in terms of weapons and tactics, is a tribute to Marighella's work, and the level of acceptance his work has received. Imitation after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.

In the Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla, Marighella describes step by step how to organize a campaign of terror against North American business executives and the North American business community. to quote from his manual: "Terrorism is an action, usually involving the placement of a bomb or fire explosion of great destructive power, which is capable of effecting irreparable loss against the enemy. Although terrorism generally involves and explosion, there are cases in which it may also be carried out by the execution and systematic burning of installations and properties of North American companies."

Marighella describes kidnappings as:
"The capturing and holding in a secret spot, a police agent, a North American spy, a political personality, or notorious enemies of the revolution. Kidnapping is used to exchange or liberate revolutionary comrades, or to force suspension of torture in the jail cells of the military dictatorship. The kidnapping of North American residents or visitors constitutes a form of protection against the penetration of United States imperialism. Execution is the killing of a North American spy, or an agent of the dictatorship of a police torture."

Clearly, Marighella’s book spotlights terrorists’ targets, zeroing in on the North American businessman as the enemy.


For the past 30 years Tony Scotti has catered to the training needs of industry and public service agencies. He has trained governments, corporations, law enforcement agencies and military organizations to avoid the terrorist threat. Before retiring in 1999 his clientele included over 80% of the Fortune 100, police departments in twenty-two states and a number of Federal agencies. He has trained more than 700 corporations, in 28 countries on five continents. Tony Scotti is currently a consultant for Mercedes Benz armored car division., and has recently started a new online service to benefit the interests of both the Executive Protection and security management communities. His new web site securitydriver.com is home to an online security magazine, book club, security products store, and an extensive online information center.


This article is reprinted with permission from Informed Source Newsletter at www.profiles-threat.com.

Profiles Threat CounterMeasures Group serves clients both nationally and internationally with protective services, training and educational seminars, products, threat assessment evaluations and educational information - from small start up companies to Fortune 500 and 100 companies, to Professional Consulting and Investigative firms, Executive, Dignitary and Tactical Protection Teams, Law Enforcement, Local, State and Federal Governments both domestic and foreign.

Not to be reprinted or published without the express consent of www.profiles-threat.com. Contact newsletter@profiles-threat.com for subscription information.






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