POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Philip V. Prateep

The history of the world is punctuated with assassinations though as Benjamin Dissaeli said, "Assassinations never changed the history of the world." Assassination is a crime that evokes a sense of mystery mixed with indignation, and terror. There is a certain mystique about it that lends some glamour to this general of crime. The attendant publicity guarantees an immortal notorie ty to the perpetrator. It exposes the fact that even the power ful are vulnerable despute protection. The consequences of this ghastly crime are manifold - economic, social, political and Psychological.

The progress of civilisation has not reduced the frequency of assassinations and attempts at assassination. Rather, assas sins today have larger infrastructural and organisational bases cutting across national boundaries. They have commend over resources and employ ingenius methods. Terrorist organisation as well as governments sometimes employ this weapon to eliminate political opponents. All this reinforces the need to evolve a comprehensive theory of security, a mental framework to analyse and counter threats to political personalities. In this context, a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON (VIP) may be defined a person who by virtue of his position or status or function needs the influence of more than one person.

A popular misconception noticed both among laymen and pro fessionals is that security has to be foolproof and failproof. They are only deviding themselves with an ineffect illusion till the disaster occurs when they start looking for scapegoats and call at a security lapse.

Security is never absolute, it only provides for deterrence against risks. Deterrence is achieved by increasing the costs to the agency posing the risk. Security is all about countering the risk. From which quarter, at what point in time and in which place as also for what reason, the risk is arising should not be a matter for conjecture and chance. It has to be forecast, pre dicted on a rational and scientific basis.

The risk to a particular subject may be called Factor X. (X being an unknown factor that may pose a grave danger to the subject) The risk to a particular subject at any given point in time may be quantified as (X + 1)n . A multiple of factor X may pose a threat to the protectee. Even if n is o, the minimum assumption in any security exercise regardless of the stature or nature of threat to the protect is that IX atleast is present.

Security relies on the assumption that the probable assassin would want to avoid apprehension after commission of the crime. But when the determination and motivation of the assassin(s) is total, that is even at the cost of death, the hazards for securi ty shift to a higher scale. The only way to prevent such an event is detection and apprehension before any attempt can be made. Historically, assassinations have been through several ages- the age of poisons, the age of the sword, the age of the bullet and now it is the age of explosives. The bomb, a weapon of mass destruction used in warfare has replaced pellet shooters to a considerable degree as the stock-in-trade of assassins. Powerful Improvised Explosive Devices obviate the need for pinpoint accu racy required with firearms Remote controlled devices reduce the possibility of apprehension or detection prior to commission. The emergence of the "Human Bomb" with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi has multiplied the gravity of the threat many times even as it gives the assassin, an ausa of martyrdom and obviates the need to get away or avoid apprehension. The dice is heavilyloaded against the security personnel for the element of surprise, choice of location and timing are in the hands of the quarry. The odds against the security personnel is summed up in the warning left behind by the Irish terrorists after a failed attempt to assassinate Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, "we have to be lucky only once, you have to be lucky every time". There is a truth hidden in this remark. Every VIP faces a greater degree of risk when he or she is entering the unmapped territory and the anonymity of a crowd. A public meeting is a higher risk exposure then a movement within the more secure walls of an office or residence. But the assassination of Mrs.Gandhi within her own residence while walking to a TV interview reveals that no place is absolutely safe. A minimum assumption of Factor X being present is warranted whether the VIP is ensconced in his place of stay, on the move, at work or at a public meeting. A constant awareness of the presence of Factor X will heighten the security consciousness and sensitive the personnel deployed on duty. A multiple of factor X may be present whenever and wherever the intensity of threat increases. The intensity of threat may be cabbrated on a scale 1 to 10.

In the absence of pinpoint information regarding a threat, a mere reliance of on one's sixth sense to locate the source of threat is irrational and too risky leaving things to chance. One of the most important factors impinging on security is the threat perception regarding a protectee. The threat is not stat ic, but dynamic and keeps changing with the changes in policy postures, and the overall environment.

The threat can be analyzed, calibrated and forecast on a day to day basis. The genesis of the threat is an ANIMUS against the subject. The animus may arise due to the latter's actions or policy postures, changes in polices, decisions, and so on. The animus its intensity and extent should be analyzed and evaluated in terms of factor X. The factors leading to the animus may be more then one. The very fact that a person enjoys a certion status, fame, position power or popularity may itself evoke feelings of resentment causing a lone, crazed mind to plan or flot an assassination -----the killing of John Lennon, the Mckun ley attempt on Ronald Reagan fall in this category. The politics of succession and threat of displacement may lead to animus being formed in the mind of a person or group of persons leading to the hatching of conspiracy to physically eliminate the subject. The assassination of Nino Aquino in the Philippines is a case in point. Changes in policy may lead to a hardening or softening of animus. The assassinations of Anwar sadet and Yitzhak Rabin arose from changes in policy nostures. The emotive fallout of a decision taken in the past may lead to an animus. The decision to storm the golden temple at Amritsar led to assasination of Mrs. Gandhi. The animus once formed leads to a conscious deci sion to physically eliminate the targeted protectee. The demit ting of office does not lead to a reduction in amumus, but makes the treatcned person more vulnerable and exposes him to a higher order of threat.

The thread perception changes from time to time, almost on a day-to-day basis. Magor social, political, economic or religious changes in the region, neighborhood or any other part of the globe have a bearing on the security of various individuals holding high office or those who held it in the past. A complex of factors impinge on the security of the imdividuel. These factors do not remain state but change almost on a day to day basis like the weather and like the weather is capable of being forecast.

The animus leads to the hatching of a conspiracy or plot. From the time of conception to preparation and execution of this plot, the run-up may be a few weeks or a few months or years changes in the domestic or international political environment may hasten or show down the time set for execution Any security agency with only a static pereiption of threat may be caught unawares if it does not keep pace and monitor these changes on a day to day basis. Such an agency changed with the awesome re sponsibility of protecting a VIP must not only be physically geared to react to the dangers of the moment on the scene of action but also be physically and mentally fine tuned to the sources of threat to the VIP.

The assassination of the Isrelli PM Yitzak Rabin by a right wing may Jewish fanatic raised cries of "security lapses" in many quarters. What surpassed the world is the ease with which a student armed with a pistol, managed to walk up to the Isreali PM and Pump three bullets into him. After all, the Isreali security forces have a formidable reputation and are considered amongst, if not the world's best. Why did the men guarding PM Rahn fail to prevent the one eventuality they had been trained to deal with? Their failure was on two counts one is the lack of mental alertness on the part of those providing prosumete security. Second, is the failure to correctly perceive the source of threat to the VIP.

The very fact that so far in the experience of the security personnel, things have been uneventful reinforces the mistaken belief that nothing untoward will happen. Besides, security personnel are trained to look for and prevent an attack by known, previously attempted methods. Over time, these security measures become "routinised" At the same time, the assassin or quarry has ample opportunity for `dry runs to explore the chinks or loop holes in the seemingly invincible security armor. With each so called successful security detail, the security consciousness tends to become diluted. The unconsciously adopted feeling of safety leads to a general complacency and a fall in the standard of security.

Security personnel deployed on VIP security begin to believe that an attack while possible is not likely. This is because assassination attempts are by and large rare in an individual's experience. Factor X implies that security personnel should assume that the assassint(s) is present and about to strike.

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