• United States



by CSO Contributor

Watching for Clues Before an Attack

Apr 01, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

The Secret Service uses a process it calls the “threat assessment approach” to evaluate potential threats to an individual. This approach is based on government research that identified three fundamental factors in violent acts targeting individuals.

The good news for CSOs is that violence that targets a particular group or individual is seldom random. Demonstrating this point is the Secret Service’s analysis of the 1972 assassination attempt on Alabama Gov. George Wallace, which left the presidential candidate paralyzed and two others wounded.

1. Acts of targeted violence are neither impulsive nor spontaneous. Targeted violence is the result of patterns of thoughts and behavior, which security professionals can use to understand and identify threats. In the case of Arthur Bremer, who shot Gov. Wallace during a presidential campaign rally in Laurel, Md., his diary showed that he had been stalking President Nixon and then Wallace for months before the attack.

2. Violence stems from an interaction between the potential attacker, a current situation and the target. The situation forefront in Bremer’s life was a fervent desire to become famous, and he chose his potential targets with that goal in mind.

3. Those who commit acts of targeted violence often engage in telltale behaviors that precede and are linked to their attacks, including planning and logistical preparations. Bremer was frequently seen hanging around the Wallace campaign prior to the attack and also actively researched Nixon’s schedule.

Source: “Threat Assessment: Defining an approach for evaluating risk of targeted violence,” by Borum, Fein, Vossekuil, Berglund. For more on this research paper visit the National Threat Assessment Center at