Printer Friendly

Hostage survival strategies.

KIDNAPPINGS HAVE OCCURRED since the beginning of recorded history. In the Bible's Book of Genesis, when Abram's nephew, Lot, was taken captive by the armies of four kings, Abram assembled a 318-man force and successfully rescued his nephew. Today, kidnap and hostage situations are more likely to involve delicate negotiations. This deadly game of who blinks first calls for prior crisis negotiation experience and unemotional decision-making ability. A professional law enforcement agency or an experienced crisis management consultant is an absolute necessity in this arena where life-and-death decision making is on the line.

Kidnappers fall into four different categories: the opportunist or novice criminal; the religiously or politically motivated individual; the mentally deranged individual; and the professional criminal.

The opportunist may be constrained by his or her poor planning and lack of true criminal expertise. The religiously or politically motivated individual may be willing to die or to kill his or her victim to publicize a cause. The mentally deranged individual may kidnap or kill for the thrill, from confusion, or due to a psychosis. The professional criminal's motivation for kidnapping usually centers on financial gain, with extensive planning to ensure his or her escape and the ability to spend illegally obtained funds.

Kidnappers' actions are influenced by their ability to operate safely and confidently. Do the kidnappers know the national, political, religious, and geographic environment where they kidnapped the victim, as well as where they are holding the victim against his or her will? Do they have the ability to speak and understand the local language? Do they have both a logistical and a financial base that can support them during extended negotiations for the release of the victim?

Having resolved the above issues, the kidnappers have still other considerations and decisions. What if they kidnap an individual and the company or family refuses to pay or is unable to pay a ransom? The kidnappers can release the victim, they can kill the victim with or without publicity, or they can exert additional psychological pressure on the victim's company or family in the hopes of coercing the demanded ransom payment or concession.

This can be accomplished by discontinuing all communication with the victim's family or company for an extended period of time. Increased pressure can also be achieved by dramatically threatening the victim, including graphic evidence of the kidnappers' ability to cause the victim grievous physical harm, and by association, causing his or her company and family similar psychological distress.

INDIVIDUALS AND CORPORATIONS MUSt CONsider many factors when faced with the kidnapping of an employee or family member. Whether the kidnapping occurs in or out of the victim's native country, expert assistance is necessary. Knowledge of similar events and crisis management experience will make the ultimate difference in resolving such incidents in a safe way.

The FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), located at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, is responsible for the Bureau's criminal investigative analysis (psychological profiling) and crisis negotiation programs. The NCAVC teaches FBI agents and police officers the principles of crisis negotiation. The negotiation program prepares these officers to deal with hostage, barricaded subject, suicide, and kidnapping situations.

The FBI identifies the victim of a kidnapping as a person seized by unlawful force or fraud and held at an unknown location--often for ransom. In a hostage situation, the victim is held against his or her will at a location known to the authorities. Another significant difference between a hostage situation and a kidnapping is the type of demands. Hostage takers usually demand money, political or economic concessions, and transportation combined with a promise of escape. The kidnapper's demands center mainly around financial gain.

When talking to a hostage taker, the police negotiator is well aware of the implied threat of the law enforcement officers surrounding the subject's location. The kidnap negotiator must demonstrate a greater degree of psychological finesse, as he or she does not have the benefit of this unspoken threat. Skilled verbal diplomacy is needed to bring about the safe release of the kidnap victim, usually in exchange for something much more than the promised safety of the kidnapper.

Today, businesspeople must consider the risks associated with their position, status, and corporate profile when representing their family or company. Corporate kidnap victims usually have money, power, or high public visibility. Although international terrorists and other kidnapping groups may say that they committed a kidnapping to protest some undefined economic exploitation by the victim or his or her company, their ultimate goal is usually monetary gain to finance their organization's operations.

In Terrorism and Personal Protection,(1) Brian Jenkins referred to a study of 781 kidnappings between 1970 and 1982. This study indicated 48 percent of these victims were wealthy businesspeople whose companies paid an estimated total of $200 million in ransom to secure their releases.

While the available data does not differentiate between corporate and non-corporate kidnappings, during the period October 1990 to April 1992, 759 domestic kidnappings (kidnappings that originated in the United States) were reported to the FBI. Of the victims identified in these kidnappings, 669 were recovered safely, 246 were injured or sexually assaulted, eighty-six were killed or died in captivity, and ninety are still missing.

Of the total number of victims, eighty-five, or approximately 11 percent, were kidnapped for ransom. These same statistics revealed that 55 percent of both the male and female victims were eighteen years old or older at the time of their abduction.

There were 2,090 international kidnappings known to Control Risks Limited (CRL), a London-based, international crisis management consulting firm in England, during the period January 1987 through June 1992. Of those, according to CRL Managing Director Eric W. Westropp, 56 percent of the victims were released after the payment of a ransom, which was usually lower than the original amount demanded.

Of the remaining victims, only 5 percent escaped. Most victims think of escape, but after considering the associated risks, few attempt it. Ten percent were killed or died in captivity; 23 percent were rescued, and 6 percent were released without the payment of any ransom.

Negotiation considerations. The first consideration in any kidnapping is the safe return of the victim. The victim's well-being, including the amount of time he or she is in the hands of the kidnappers, is of obvious concern to those responsible for the negotiations conducted to obtain the victim's release.

As previously indicated, the choice of a negotiator is crucial. In addition to seeking the safe release of the victim, the negotiator may also attempt to obtain a reduction in the amount of the ransom and assist law enforcement personnel in locating and rescuing the victim and apprehending the kidnappers. Negotiators must also consider ways in which to discourage future kidnappings.

Many law enforcement agencies around the world use police officers, trained as crisis negotiators, to conduct kidnap negotiations. This is done to use the psychological knowledge of the negotiator and the verbal skills he or she has developed through training and experience while negotiating other crisis situations. The negotiator's training and experience should be a determining factor in the selection of a negotiator for a specific kidnapping situation.

In kidnappings outside of the United States, the local police, a non-law enforcement intermediary who is coached by the authorities, a corporate security officer, or a private crisis management consultant usually conducts the negotiations with the kidnappers.

Family members have also successfully negotiated for their kidnapped relative. A law enforcement negotiator or crisis management consultant can coach a family member or other intermediary who chooses to conduct the negotiations on behalf of the victim's family or business. However, the level of emotional involvement and personal knowledge of the victim can easily be used to exert intense pressure on the family or corporate negotiator.

A family member might be expected to have first-hand knowledge of the victim's financial affairs and could therefore experience additional pressure from the kidnappers. For these reasons, a nonfamily member is usually chosen as the negotiator.

When to pay. Paying ransom to gain the safe release of a kidnap victim could be viewed as a positive action in the eyes of most corporate employees. Such a position may portray the company as a caring, supportive employer. However, corporations have been sued by kidnap victims who were in their employment for not effecting their timely release after their initial kidnapping.

The test of fairness, both for the victim and the corporation, was a determining factor in a case involving a manager of a subsidiary of what was then Beatrice Foods Corporation (the company has since gone through several mergers).

Following eight months in the captivity of Colombian terrorists, the manager was released after the payment of a negotiated ransom. The payment was lower than that originally demanded by the captors. The victim's lawsuit against Beatrice was dismissed when the judge, though noting the frightening experience the manager had undergone, further noted that the company had been fair in both its negotiations with the terrorists and its attempts to secure the manager's release.

Refusing to pay a ransom may actually be a deterrent to future kidnappings for ransom. When an organization makes it known that it will not be the willing victim of a kidnapping or similar extortion for money, it is putting the ball in the kidnappers' court. The potential kidnappers must then decide whether this true test of wills is in their own best interest.

The Mormon Church, which has a large number of representatives outside of the United States, has the unofficial policy that the church will not pay a ransom to secure the release of a kidnapped missionary. Many other business and religious organizations have similar policies.

Accommodating the kidnappers' demands for ransom and other concessions may only provide them with the financial means and incentive to continue their attacks. Although the same company may not be the next victim of the kidnappers, their actions will help to determine the future of similar hostile activities, especially in attacks directed against expatriates in a foreign environment.

Responsibility to shareholders. An additional consideration when corporations decide whether or not to pay a ransom may be the corporation's responsibility to its stockholders. Although there may be a perceived moral obligation to take action, a ransom payment may be a violation of the corporation's legal responsibility to its shareholders as set forth in its corporate charter.

This issue of a self-imposed or statutory restraint against paying a ransom should be researched by the company's legal counsel before it becomes a critical issue in the heat and emotion of an actual kidnapping.

A poorly administered crisis management response, including a premature or ill-timed ransom payment, may bring about the release of the victim, but the relationship between the company and its shareholders, not to mention the responsible law enforcement agency and local government officials, may suffer irreparable damage in the long run.

Legality of payment. The payment of ransom money may be illegal in the country or jurisdiction in which it is demanded by the kidnappers. Many governments have made negotiating with kidnappers and paying ransom illegal due to the possibility that such activities may promote similar incidents.

Few businesses have experienced an actual kidnapping; therefore, their first reaction may well be to negotiate and pay what is demanded. Company or family negotiators may attempt to circumvent local authorities or use their influence to prevent law enforcement and security services from actively pursuing the kidnappers.

In 1976, an Owens-Illinois, Toledo, Ohio, executive was kidnapped while in Venezuela. Defying local government policy, the company complied with the kidnappers' demands and arranged for the publication of the kidnappers' criticisms of the Venezuelan government in the foreign press.

The Venezuelan government indicated that Venezuelan national policy dictated that the government, not the victim's company, should handle all aspects of the kidnapping. In response to what it called the Owens-Illinois-initiated political assault via the media, the government began proceedings to nationalize the company's local holdings, although this was never carried out.

WHEN FACED WITH A KIDNAPPING, CORporations should bring together a crisis management team (CMT), consisting of the following corporate representatives: a corporate executive, the security officer, an attorney, a public relations representative, and an experienced crisis management consultant. The CMT should have regular liaison meetings with the authorities to ensure that both law enforcement and the corporation are aware of each other's activities. Working at cross-purposes can serve only to compromise the victim's delicate position.

The CMT should also stay in touch with the company's on-scene representative to reassure corporate management and the victim's family that everything possible, short of the immediate payment of a ransom, is being done. The CMT may lack the legal authority to authorize a ransom payment that the team believes would be appropriate to pay. The group should request that the corporation's written crisis management policy be amended to include that authority.

Kidnap prevention. On the morning of January 17, 1992, Michael Barnes, vice president of Philippine Geothermal, Inc., a subsidiary of Unocal Oil Company in Los Angeles, California, was kidnapped at gunpoint outside of his Manila corporate office. The kidnappers were aware of his daily schedule as they had conducted a surveillance near his office the week before the kidnapping. As in the case of similar kidnap victims, Barnes had varied his daily route to his office, but not the time of his arrival.

Brian Jenkins' research indicated that almost 95 percent of the 781 incidents mentioned earlier involved a single victim kidnapped while at work, at home, or riding in a vehicle. In the majority of these incidents, the victims failed to exercise basic security measures. Had they exerted even a minimum level of caution, this number would probably have been reduced by half or more.

These individuals were victims of their own predictability, their own daily punctuality. Even an unsophisticated surveillance would have revealed a daily routine of leaving their residence, arriving at their office, or leaving from their office, with little or no variance from this daily schedule.

Executives and other potential targets for kidnappers should constantly be aware of their surroundings. Unusual cars or people near the individual's home or office should raise a yellow warning flag in the eyes of the potentially targeted person or his or her neighbors. Any similar attempt to surveil or follow the likely victim should immediately be reported to corporate security officials and the local authorities. Caution and a sense of awareness can save a life.

Kidnap survival. Immediately upon being kidnapped, Barnes, for whom a $20 million ransom was demanded, was blindfolded and told never to remove his blindfold in the presence of his kidnappers. He was then taken to a safe house, where he was chained to a bed and held for sixty-one days. He was told always to wear a blindfold when anyone was in the room with him. Following a gun battle with his terrorist kidnappers, he was rescued by a Philippine National Police hostage rescue team. At the time of his rescue he was wearing a blindfold.

All kidnappers must eventually deal with the greatest threat to their success--the kidnap victim. As long as the victim is alive, a potential witness exists to identify the kidnappers. In this regard, the victim should follow his or her kidnappers' demands not to look at them. If they believe the victim cannot identify his or her captors, the chances of a safe release are enhanced.

Negotiations on behalf of Barnes were conducted by a corporate intermediary, coached by a private crisis management consultant and FBI agents, in cooperation with the Unocal CMT and U.S. Embassy officials. This combination allowed both the corporation and the investigators to share information and coordinate their separate activities on behalf of Barnes.

THE THREAT OF KIDNAPPING AND CORPOrate extortion will continue to increase in this decade, particularly in third world and European countries where criminal, political, and other state-sponsored terrorist groups have lost the financial support of their former benefactors. For these groups to continue to exist, they will increasingly turn to crimes, such as kidnapping and extortion, to finance their activities.

Extortions may take on an exotic aspect, to include chemical, biological, and radioactive product contamination, and other similar activities directed against individuals and facilities. According to The RAND Chronology of International Terrorism, 456 acts of terrorism were committed by international terrorist organizations in 1988. A significant number of these groups were classified as nationalist or separatist groups, and nearly one-third of the acts were directed against U.S. citizens or interests. The concept of nationalism will continue to fuel dozens of low-intensity conflicts throughout the world.

Roughly 200,000 children under the age of fifteen are engaged in fighting in low-intensity conflicts throughout the world.(2) If these young warriors survive to adulthood, terrorism will move into the twenty-first century with young, experienced leaders who will strive to advance their organization's ability to dramatically affect society through activities, such as kidnapping and extortion.

The threat of kidnapping will remain a high-profile, relatively low-cost method of extracting financial tribute from businesses and other entities. This may prove especially true in countries located behind the former iron curtain. The crime rate has recently soared in these countries. Individuals, companies, and governments should anticipate that their increased exposure in Eastern Europe will be accompanied by an equally increased exposure to crimes such as kidnappings.

Environmental and animal rights organizations and other single-issue groups or individuals purporting to represent such groups may also turn to kidnappings. They hope to gain public attention and financial support for themselves or their cause.

Kidnap situations are high-stake, stressful events that require experienced professionals to help manage them. A family or business should consider both the short- and long-term consequences of paying a ransom or otherwise acceding to a kidnapper's demands.

High-risk individuals and corporations should first exert reasonable caution to prevent themselves, family members, or employees from becoming the victims of such occurrences. In the event of a kidnapping, the victim's family or company should be prepared to contribute to the management of the negotiations.

A CMT should be viewed as a corporate necessity, and liaison with appropriate government and law enforcement agencies should be a vital part of the decision-making process. The decision to pay or not to pay a ransom may be an individual, family, corporate, or national decision influenced by the local government and its policies in the area.

The FBI has agents trained in all aspects of domestic and international kidnap investigations and negotiations. Many other local, state, and international police agencies, as well as the private sector, have negotiators and consultants with similar levels of training and experience.

Although emotions run high in kidnapping matters, consideration must be given to both the victim's safe return to society and the corporation's ability to conduct business during and after such incidents. A family or a corporation should give serious consideration to both the humanitarian and legal aspects of such incidents. This should be done before attempting to handle the negotiations and other crisis management demands of these situations without experienced, professional support and assistance.

1 Brian M. Jenkins, Terrorism and Personal Protection (Stoneham, MA: Butterworth Publishers, 1985).

2 Alessandra Stanley, "Child Warriors," Time, June 18, 1990.

Clinton R. Van Zandt is a supervisory special agent with the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He is a member of ASIS.

Sources for Additional Information

Clutterbuck, Richard. Kidnap, Hijack and Extortion. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

Fuselier, G. Dwayne, Van Zandt, Clinton R., and Lanceley, Fred J. "Hostage/Barricade Incidents, High Risk Factors and the Action Criteria." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 1991.

Gardela, Karen and Hoffman, Bruce. The RAND Chronology of International Terrorism for 1988. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1992.

Montana, Patrick J. and Roukis, George S. Managing Terrorism, Strategies for the Corporate Executive. London: Quorum Books, 1983.

Soskis, David A. and Van Zandt, Clinton R. "Hostage Negotiation: Law Enforcement's Most Effective Nonlethal Weapon." Behavioral Science and the Law, vol. 4, no. 4, 1986.

Van Zandt, Clinton R. "Hostage Situations: Separating Negotiation and Command Duties." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 1991.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes bibliography
Author:Van Zandt, Clinton R.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Understanding the path of terrorism.
Next Article:What sets off an arsonist.

Related Articles
Even in "non-negotiable" situations, negotiation plays an important role.
Developing an action plan to resolve hostage situations.
Crisis/hostage negotiation team profile.
The FBI's critical incident negotiation team.
Negotiation concepts for commanders.
Placing the Stockholm Syndrome in perspective.
Achieving successful negotiations in a correctional setting.
On the consequences of listening: hostage incidents in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters