In July, former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a speech in Nara, Japan. Earlier this month, author Salman Rushdie was stabbed while speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. Fortunately, Rushdie survived. While these two events are unrelated, they share one thing in common: insufficient security.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easy to look at these attacks and pinpoint everything that went wrong. However, mistakes are only valuable when you learn from them.
At this point, VIPs and other high-profile people should be seriously considering how to improve their security details. If you are not proactive about improvements, you’ll be playing catch-up in times of crisis.
How VIPs Can Be More Proactive About Their Physical Security
With extensive experience providing security services, Interfor’s experts offer three key tips:
1. Don’t scoff at personal security. John Lennon was shot and killed in the doorway of his New York home by a deranged fan in 1980. Monica Seles, a star tennis player, was stabbed in a non-fatal attack by a fan of her rival in 1993. MP Sir David Amess was stabbed and killed at his constituency in Essex in 2021. These are only several instances of public figures who were killed in the open.
The bottom line: a politician, celebrity, sports star, artist, controversial figure, or anyone in the limelight should have a private security detail.
This is even truer for celebrities who have received open threats. Salmon Rushdie was famously issued a fatwa (religious edict) by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 and spent years in hiding. According to reports, Rushdie recently eased up his security as he did not want to be under the constant surveillance of security guards.
While security guards cannot guarantee personal safety, they certainly help.
2. Secure every venue. Gun violence in Japan is very rare due to strict gun laws. Moreover, guns are not part of Japanese culture, yet they are extremely popular in the United States. Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, said gun violence in Japan is “culturally unfathomable.” Although gun violence is rare in Japan, it still occurs, as with Shinzo Abe.
The Chautauqua Institution, where Rushdie was stabbed, is an upscale haven for presentations by writers and artists, not the kind of place an attack would be expected. Yet on August 12, Salmon Rushdie was stabbed there.
Both cases highlight how important it is not to let your guard down, even in a place as innocuous as Disneyland. As far as security guards should be concerned, every location requires the utmost attention and readiness to act.
3. Monitor threats constantly. Threat monitoring should be carried out by security guards at a physical location. In fact, the Abe assassination might have been prevented if security guards had assessed the situation better.
While threat monitoring in live locations is important, social media and digital monitoring are equally important. Many attackers broadcast their intentions on social media, whether they target famous people or average Joes. Just as the world has gone virtually digital, so should security.
As witnessed in recent mass shootings, attackers may post warning signs on social media hinting at their plans before carrying out an attack. Other times, it may be an unpredictable, spontaneous attack. Regardless, being proactive in your physical security means being ready for all scenarios. While hiring professionals cannot guarantee your safety, they can provide coverage, strategies, and training to give you the best chance to deter threats against your physical security.
Interfor International has served individuals, companies, and governments all around the world. We encourage our clients to take advantage of our Threat Monitoring Program, a comprehensive offering in which our experts monitor and classify threats and provide actionable safety recommendations.
It is not easy for public figures to stay safe these days, but taking a proactive stance on security can make a difference.