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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1998202/307-0703


Federal Study Compiled to Assist Law Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. - - While there is no specific profile of a would-be assassin, a new Justice Department report indicates many of those who have committed or attempted to carry out such crimes share certain behaviors. The National Institute of Justice-funded study, conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, was compiled to aid law enforcement agencies in identifying and assessing those who could pose a threat to public figures before that individual comes within lethal range of a target.

The report, "Protective Intelligence and Threat Assessment Investigations," is based on a study of all persons who have attacked or posed real threats to public officials or figures in the United States in the last 50 years. The report found that assassinations and attacks on public figures are not necessarily prompted by mental illness, but are the products of understandable and often discernible processes of thinking. It also found that most people who attack others perceive the attack as the means to an end or a way to solve a problem, and an individual's motives and selection of a target are directly connected.

"Recent events in our nation's Capitol underscore the importance of this report," said Jeremy Travis, Director of the National Institute of Justice. "This can be a most useful tool at possibly preventing such future criminal acts."

The report, which was designed to learn about pre-attack behaviors of persons who target prominent public officials and figures, found that few assassinations in the United States -- even those targeting major political figures -- have had purely political motives. The study's examination of more than 80 individuals, who either attacked or got within near-lethal range of a public figure target, identified eight major motives. They are:

The report outlines how law enforcement agencies can establish programs and systems to identify and prevent persons with the means and interest to attack a protected person. The guide may also assist law enforcement and security agencies responsible for investigating and preventing other kinds of targeted violence, such as stalking, domestic violence or workplace violence. The report takes law enforcement agencies through the entire threat assessment process, from designing a protective intelligence program to investigating suspicious persons to closing a case.

Protective intelligence programs are based on the idea that the risk of violence is minimized if persons with the interest, capacity and willingness to mount an attack can be identified and rendered harmless before they approach a protected person.

To obtain a copy of "Protective Intelligence and Treat Assessment Investigations" (NCJ 170612, 59 pp.), contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 1-800/851-3420. To download a copy or to obtain additional information about Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and its programs, visit OJP's web site at

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CONTACT: National Institute of Justice, 202/307-0703; or Charles Miller, 202/514-9800