ASSASSIN - Counter-measures - Modern Strategies

Modern Strategies

With the advent of gunpowder, ranged assassination (via bombs or firearms) became possible. One of the first reactions was to simply increase the guard, creating what at times might seem a small army trailing every leader; another was to begin clearing large areas whenever a leader was present, to the point where entire sections of a city might be shut down.

As the 20th century dawned, the prevalence and capability of assassins grew quickly, as did measures to protect against them. For the first time, armored cars or limousines were put into service for safer transport, with modern versions virtually invulnerable to small arms fire, smaller bombs and mines. Bulletproof vests also began to be used, which were of limited utility, restricting movement and leaving the head unprotected – so they only tended to be worn during high-profile public events, if at all.

Access to famous persons, too, became more and more restricted; potential visitors would be forced through numerous different checks before being granted access to the official in question, and as communication became better and information technology more prevalent, it has become all but impossible for a would-be killer to get close enough to the personage at work or in private life to effect an attempt on his or her life, especially given the common use of metal and bomb detectors.

Most modern assassinations have been committed either during a public performance or during transport, both because of weaker security and security lapses, such as with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, or as part of coups d'état where security is either overwhelmed or completely removed, such as with Patrice Lumumba and likely Salvador Allende.

The methods used for protection by famous people have sometimes evoked negative reactions by the public, with some resenting the separation from their officials or major figures. One example might be traveling in a car protected by a bubble of clear bulletproof glass, such as the Popemobile of Pope John Paul II – built following an attempt at his life. Politicians often resent this need for separation – sometimes sending their bodyguards away from them for personal or publicity reasons; U.S. President William McKinley did this at the public reception where he was assassinated.

Other potential targets go into seclusion, and are rarely heard from or seen in public, such as writer Salman Rushdie. A related form of protection is the use of body doubles a person built similar to the person he is expected to impersonate. These persons are then made up, and in some cases altered to look like the target, with the body double then taking the place of the person in high risk situations. According to Joe R. Reeder, Under Secretary of the Army from 1993 to 1997, Fidel Castro has used body doubles.

United States Secret Service protective agents receive training in the psychology of assassins.

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