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Report: Lessons learned from targeted attacks on judiciary community

Friday, May 17, 2013
By Glenn McGovern

The recent spike in attacks upon members of the justice community in the United States has caused many to be concerned. Perhaps most disconcerting is the diversity of the attackers. A white supremacist parolee kills the head of Colorado's prison system, Tom Clements. A discredited former judge kills Prosecutor Mark Hasse and District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife. A rogue, discredited LAPD officer kills the daughter of the captain he felt failed him. In the wake of these attacks, personnel and offices are increasingly reevaluating security measures.

In my study, Murdered Justice: An Exploratory Study of Targeted Attacks upon the Justice Community, I found a total of 133 incidents of targeted violence against judges, prosecutors and cops between January 1950 and December 2012. This work rose out of the need to understand this type of violence, to understand the potential adversary. All too often I have heard command staff make a statement regarding security based upon assumption without any statistical or practical knowledge to support it. Many times, as my research revealed, they were incorrect.
Of these events, 63 were categorized as being completed; 41 were successful in killing the victim. Another 70 events were classified as attempts, wherein no violence against a targeted individual occurred, mostly due to law enforcement intervention.

While 63 attacks over six decades is a decidedly low frequency of occurrence, especially considering the number of murders that occur every year in this country, it is nevertheless still of note for a number of reasons. First, these attacks place judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers amongst the top four government members to be targeted for violence (the fourth profession being world leaders). Secondly, these murders are not the more commonly encountered random violence, nor do they stem from domestic issues. Rather, these are the most heinous of crimes, calculated and premeditated attacks for no other reason than the individual doing their job.     

My research revealed three primary motives for this violence. Revenge was by far the most common motive, accounting for 67 percent of all attempts/completed attacks against 108 victims.  Offenders' efforts to "derail and/or delay" an active investigation/prosecution was the second most common motive, accounting for 30 percent of the all incidents; there were 45 individuals targeted behind this motive. The final motive was one of "professional rivalry."  While only accounting for 3 percent of all attempts/attacks studied (none of which were perpetrated against prosecutors), these were of note for two reasons: All of the primary offenders (those instigating the attack) were current members of the justice community; and all were successful in killing the victim.

In examining the victimology of targeted violence, some variation was noted between the attempted and completed attacks. Members of the judiciary were the primary targeted victim, accounting for 35 percent of the attempts and 43 percent of the completed attacks.  Prosecutors were the target in 34 percent of the attempts, while law enforcement officers were targeted 31 percent of the time. However, in the completed attacks, a switch of positions was found, with law enforcement the victim of 30 percent of the completed attacks and prosecutors 27 percent.
The offenders behind these attempts and attacks were found to be predominately white male adults, followed closely by black male adults. In 83 percent of the instances of attempts to attack, the offenders were facing pending charges, in the instances of completed attacks, that percentage dropped to 48 percent. These charges included the expected violent and narcotic-related offenses, but also included a large number of fraud, property and, surprisingly, DUI-related crimes. There were also a large number of attempts and attacks stemming from civil- and divorce-related matters, which were almost exclusively targeting members of the judiciary.

One of the more unnerving findings of my study was in the locations selected by these offenders in which to stage their attacks. While a common assumption for such potential violence is that it would occur at or near the office and/or courthouse locations, my research revealed this not to be the case. The homes of members of the justice community were the site of 51 percent of all known attacks. While surprising, it makes sense from the perspective of anyone wanting to conduct a successful attack and escape. Office and/or courthouse locations throughout the United States continue to strengthen their security signature with armed officers, metal detectors, alarm systems and closed circuit television cameras. This serves the goal of presenting a formidable obstacle to potential offenders, thus causing them to look elsewhere for suitable sites of attack.

Conversely, the residences of most people provide an offender with many advantages. There is generally less overall lighting, pedestrian and vehicle traffic is often low, thus reducing potential witnesses, but perhaps most importantly, there is the tendency to reduce one's guard at home. No one, not even highly trained and experience law enforcement officers, are prepared to deal with an attack at their threshold. None of this has been lost on potential offenders. In the just the past three years, the number of attacks occurring at the residence has increased to 62 percent.
While my study focused on the criminal justice community, for those in corporate America, there were a number of similarities. Corporate executives ranked fifth in total instances of targeted attacks around the world. Like those targeting the justice community, the majority of these attacks occurred at or near the residence, followed closely by attacks during transit between locations. Worldwide, the attacks most often came in the form of shootings, however, in the United States, 58 percent were kidnappings. Equally of concern, most of these attacks occurred while the executives were by themselves, without any of the security normally afforded to them while at the office.

What this study reveals is, regardless of one's profession, all are susceptible to a targeted attack. As office locations continue to be hardened, potential adversaries will be forced to stage their attacks farther away from such locations. The sheer cost of a full-time protective detail is prohibitive for most organizations, government or corporate. This unfortunately results in the reality that for most people, security and awareness of potential hostile activity rests upon their shoulders. Security personnel can and should be proactive and provide these potential targets with an understanding of how and what to look for. It is only by understanding their individual vulnerability points, in relation to the indicators of a build up to attack, that early detection is possible. While this initial work can be considerable in terms of manhours, it is nothing when compared to the costs of a protective team.  More importantly, it is the one step that can be taken now, which with periodic updates, will last well into the future for that individual.
Glenn McGovern is a senior investigator in the Santa Clara, Calif., District Attorney's Office. He has been in law enforcement for 20 years, including being assigned to SWAT and Special Operations teams and working for three years on international terrorism investigations with the FBI.

Y-12 protester nun held until September sentencing

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Sister Megan Rice, the elderly nun who, along with two other senior-citizen protesters, was convicted last week of breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex, here, will remain in jail until a Sept. 23 sentencing, as will her fellow protesters.

Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were convicted last week of sabotaging the plant and damaging federal property last July, according to news reports. They cut through perimeter fencing and defaced a building housing high-grade uranium. The sabotage charge carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years. The damaged property charge has a penalty of up to 10 years.

A defense attorney asked the judge to allow the defendants' release until their sentencing, arguing that they had refrained from further incursions between when they were arrested in July and went to trial last week, and that they would continue to refrain. The prosecutor, however, noted that the trio felt no remorse for their actions, according to a report in The Tennesean newspaper.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said releasing the protesters would be too lenient, the newspaper said.

The security breach at Y-12 had a number of repercussions, including the end of contract for G4S guards at the plant, calls from the Department of Energy to improve oversight of federal contractors and more.

Public-private partnership protects hotels after Marathon bombings

Monday, May 13, 2013

Within minutes of last month’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, city hotels went on high alert, thanks to the Boston chapter of the International Lodging Safety and Security Association.

Notification of the dire situation via email and text messages to the hotels came from the Intelligence Network operated by Boston’s Hotel Security Association, a public-private law enforcement partnership founded in 1972, according to Michael Soper, chairman.

I’ve been hearing so much about the success of public-private partnerships lately—from ORC to higher ed security.  Lessons worth hearing.

Twelve minutes after the bombings, hotels received this directive from Boston police:

“Institute your security protocols and immediately shelter in place.”

“The order was clear and direct,” Soper said. “ This was not a drill, this was not a precaution, the threat was real and eminent. They didn’t know where the bombers were, or if they had more devices. They were concerned with large groups of people gathering. Hotels by their very nature are soft targets.”

Three nearby hotels, the Charlesmark, Lenox and Mandarin Oriental were within feet of the bombings; all three were evacuated. The Lenox was subsequently taken over by police and the FBI as a command post. The Westin Copley Place became the HQ for media briefings.

Throughout the investigation, “timely and accurate information” was provided to the hotels, said Soper, who was responsible for dispatching that information.

"From the moment the bombings occurred, I knew that our hotels would be expecting accurate information about what was happening and guidance as we moved forward," said Soper.  "We were lucky to have one of our Boston police partners on the scene almost immediately. I was literally getting direction from the scene amidst all of the chaos and getting that information out to our members as quickly as possible."

For the next four days, Soper followed the regional manhunt for the bombing suspects from a temporary command center outside the city, he said, monitoring police radio transmissions, Twitter feeds from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and updates from local and national media outlets.

"We judge our successes and failures largely upon the opinions and the experiences of our guests while in our hotels. I can say with certainty, we were successful in our mission of keeping our hotels well informed with accurate and timely information.  In turn, our guests were kept safe, well informed and more importantly, well cared for during the crisis," he said.

"We have a system and it works," said H. Skip Brandt, ILSSA executive director. "We are proud to be part of one of the best Public-Private Law Enforcement Partnerships in the country.”

Y-12 protesters' trial update

Friday, May 3, 2013

The trial of three protesters, including an elderly nun, who allegedly broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons site in Tennessee last summer, has been reassigned to a federal judge in Kentucky, according to

U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips was supposed to preside at the trial, scheduled for May 7. Phillips, however, was planning to retire. A filing last week indicated the case had been reassigned to a judge with the Eastern District of Kentucky. It has not been disclosed whether the current trial date still stands.

Plowshares protesters Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli each face three felony charges related to the break-in and defacing of government facilities at the Oak Ridge site.

Meanwhile, G4S Government Solutions, which was on duty at Y-12 when the breach occurred, said it is ready to move past the "punishment stage and work to restore its image," according to Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground.

G4S lost its security contract following the breach and more recently lost its other major Department of Energy contract in Oak Ridge (for protective force services at ORNL, East Tennessee Technology Park and the Federal Building), Munger's report said.

"A lesson for everyone in all aspects of both physical and protective force security is what we now internally refer to as the 20/20 rule," President and CEO Paul Donahue said in a statement. "Within 20 minutes, 20 million hours of exceptional protective force support at Y-12 was wiped away."

Last week, G4S security officers received a British Security Industry Association's Award for Best Regional Team (South West) for their work at the Hinkley Point C nuclear building site in Somerset. The regional award makes G4S eligible for a national award. G4S has won six BSIA regional awards this year, according to a prepared statement.

Hospital dogged on security

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The safety and security department at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, has a guard with four legs.

That would be Zeus, a black German shepherd, who, along with handler, patrols the hospital's halls, lobbies and grounds.

"Zeus' main job is to protect our patients, staff and visitors," Kevin Greenhalgh, safety and security manager, said in a report from "His presence acts as a deterrent to crime and can also help calm combative patients."

Zeus was trained at the Canine Training Academy in Canyon City, Colo., and is certified in search and rescue, the report said. When successfully tracking down a suspect, he is trained to corner that person and bark.

"The Dixie State University Police Department has partnered with the hospital to sponsor Zeus, allowing him to be certified to the Utah State Police Academy Standards. In turn, Zeus is on-call should the university need his assistance," the website said.

Greenhalgh said the hospital hopes to add additional dogs to the K-9 program in the future.

Church's peaceful moment shattered by man with knife

Monday, April 29, 2013

After communion this past Sunday, April 28, at St. Jude Thaddeus, a Catholic church in Albuquerque, a man armed with a knife shattered the reflective period by jumping over pews and stabbing the choir soloist.

Another man, a flutist accompanying the soloist, rushed to subdue the attacker, and was stabbed once near the neck and four times in the back, according to a report in Church and Synagogue Security News. Three others who also tried to help were wounded, one critically.

The suspect, 24-year-old Lawrence Capener, was taken into police custody shortly after the incident and faces aggravated battery charges, according to KOAT 7 in Albuquerque. Capener has no criminal record, and police told the TV station they did not know his motive. His mother is reportedly active in the church.

What? You go to church, participate in the Mass, take communion and sit quietly in its wake, listening to peaceful, parting music and encounter extreme violence? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

I wrote about church security a few months ago. Tim Winters, executive pastor of the 10,000-member Shepherd of the Hills Church in Los Angeles, told me, "I don't know why they do it, but some people who come here and sit through our services don't like us. We don't exactly know who's out there. It's the unknown we are afraid of."

Winters encourages churches who cannot afford professional security personnel to look within their own members, because many of them would want to help.

Thankfully, that's what happened at St. Jude Thaddeus before the situation got any worse. I hope this terrible event will be the impetus other churches need to protect their own.


TGIF, so here's some nice news

Friday, April 26, 2013

It’s Friday, and I’m thinking we could all use some uplifting news in light of the events over the past few weeks.

This item, out of Kentucky, caught my eye.

Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Steve Butcher says the recent donation of panic buttons to his 27 schools, including preschools, will be used in many types of emergencies.

The panic buttons, provided at no cost by Modern Systems, which installs home theaters and security systems, will allow the schools to respond to any type of disaster, such as a tornado, Butcher said in a report from WKYT 27.

Each school received three panic buttons, which when activated send a signal directly to 911, said Modern Systems’ David Morris.

Morris was motivated to provide the panic buttons to the school district at no cost after the Sandy Hook shootings last year in Newtown, Conn. “It changed the way I felt about security as it relates to school systems,” he told WKYT. “When I looked at Sandy Hook, I wondered what would make difference.”

He hopes other security dealers will pay it forward. “It was to encourage other security dealers across the nation that would be inspired by this and do something in their communities," he said. 

I’m heartened by Morris’ generosity, as I was earlier this afternoon when I spoke with Keith Marrett, Avigilon’s executive vice president of marketing, communications and product strategy. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company that features high-definition and megapixel video surveillance solutions, has launched a corporate responsibility program to help charities with their security needs. I’ll be posting a story about the first recipient of Avigilon’s “Giving Back Initiative" on Monday. So stay tuned. And have a safe weekend.


Love Microsoft's Mike Howard's tweets!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If you’re not following Mike Howard on Twitter, you should be. Howard is the chief security officer for Microsoft, with a background at the CIA. His focus is on best practices, both in security and in life in general.

I had the pleasure of speaking with him at ISC West 2013 in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. We discussed the challenges that still face security professionals in reaching out the c-suite and talked about Microsoft’s Global Security Operations Center, which I hope to visit one day.

What brings him to mind today for me are his thoughtful tweets from the Columbia Tower Club’s Distinguished Speakers Series, “China Playbook: How and Why U.S. Global Firms Are Being Attacked.”  

From conferences such as that to posting about leadership qualities, women in the workforce and more, Howard is a font of knowledge.

Follow him @MikeHowardMSGS on Twitter.


Too much happening

Monday, April 22, 2013

What a week we just went through. I was out of town for work but tried to keep up on the Boston and Texas news as much as I could. I was in Chicago, and visited the Office of Emergency Management and Communications one day before torrential downpours flooded much of the area, wreaking havoc on transportation, including flights at O'Hare. It would have been fascinating to see the office in actual emergency mode, but I'm sure they were glad we weren't there on that day.

What more could happen?

I woke up this morning to news that a gun battle in Seattle claimed five lives, and then learned later that Canadian officials have made multiple arrests after preventing a "major terrorist attack," according to the CBC. As I post this, no further details have been released.

We can all be thankful that the planned terrorism in Canada has been thwarted, thanks to Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and FBI, just as we are thankful for the work of Boston area law enforcement to bring in the remaining suspect in the Marathon bombings.

Here's an insightful interview with the Revere, Mass., police chief, who was on the scene in Watertown when the second bombing suspect was arrested. Thermal imaging and helicopter video are shown.

Let's hope for a less eventful week this week.

Day 2 of ASIS Media Tour

Friday, April 19, 2013

CHICAGO—Keith Kambic, director of security and life safety for the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, gave us a great overview of the 4.3 million-square-feet building, Some 12,000 people work in the building and anywhere from 300 to 11,000 tourists visit the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere each day. From access control, surveillance, bag screening, loading dock security, mass notification, building evacuation drills and more, there's a lot going on at the building, which at the same time has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. More about the Willis Tower later.

Next we were off to the Museum of Science and Industry. Said Edward J. McDonald, director of facilities and operations, "We're here to be a 'touchy' museum.' We encourage people to touch things," he said. "We haven't lost anything in 30 years." Guards and 370 cameras keep things well in hand. McDonald also gave us a tour of a couple of the exhibit halls—there are 71 major ones. Put this museum on your bucket list, for sure. Fascinating.

Both Kambic and McDonald, along with the other security directors we spoke with on the tour, stressed the importance of effective communication and positive relationships, both within their organizations and with local and federal law enforcement agencies.

A big thanks to ASIS' Leigh McGuire for inviting me and for a problem-free, exceptionally instructional tour. Fllooding in Chicago, because of the torrential rain Weds/Thurs, caused the cancellation of one of our site visits, but we more than made up with it at other tours. As I said, exceptional. Lots of good article ideas.

I had to leave my hotel at 5 a.m. today to fly back to Maine, unfortunately missing out on the security tour of O'Hare, but I will certainly write more about my Chicago experiences in the coming days.

It was a great trip.