The Most Dangerous Meeting

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The Most Dangerous Meeting

At times we are tasked by our charges, or by circumstances, to arrange a most dangerous meeting.

These are meetings held with the wanted, the notorious, the sociopath and the damned. Men and women who have no fear for the law or repercussions as they answer to no law…  other than force, and self interest.

People such as rebel leaders, leaders of cults, kidnappers, drug runners, war criminals, pirates, and tribal war lords are those whom I speak of.  Men such as: Joseph Kony, Ashara,  Florence Cassez, Zhenli Ye Gon, Miroslav Bralo, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, and Baitullah Mehsud to but sample the lists.

Why would be dealing with the people? Usually the worst is when either individually or as a professional the graymen, our charge has been outmaneuvered or when our charge is intent on speaking to or dealing with them

For example, it might be cheaper to pay a toll to allow you cargo and people to traverse an area free of threat.  Our charge may wish to speak to them to enter into negotiations to deal with grievances and other particulars. Or, as has occurred, they may be reporters or war correspondent that want to get “the big story”.

When negotiating for a hostage or trying to insure your charge does not end up as a hostage (or, worse) – there are some crucial steps to be taken.  Truly circumstances and individual places, people and facts patterns will rule the day, so use these not as an answer to the problem that you may face, but as questions that must be asked and answered in the affirmative, as best you can:

1. Never Appear Weak: A power hungry street / jungle smart operator will smell that in a second and use it to maneuver you to wear he can take maximum advantage.  Your conversations and intonations must be firm.  Further, you must be your word, never mind Hollywood – never lie – or more importantly never get caught in the lie.

2. Take all Legitimate Opportunities to Agree: It is part of building a rapport with the aggrieved kidnapper or other opponent.  Whatever their motivation, take time to have them educate you so you can understand and agree.  Also look for things in common – it could be a sport, some book, a movie – common ground makes you less of an alien to them.

3. Show and Act on Concerns for the Opponents well being (either real or feigned): Do little things, water, food comfort, such as a need for blankets, medicine etc…  The little things do mean a great deal.

4. Always get a Marker: If you are sending in a person get collateral for a person or possession being held or if you have a reporter going to meet one of these people, have that person send you markets for you to hold until your charge is sent back.  It is not a matter of trust; it is a matter of leverage.  Once you have developed that trust, and the bad guy raises the issue of trust – agree with him that the world is filled with people you cannot trust and while he, the bad guy, certainly is a man of his word, you know nothing about those around him…

5. Use Technology (if you can): Use every trick in the book you can think of to follow your charge.  Surveillance should include people on buildings, electronics, regular cell phone communication, etc.  And, consider development and use of a coded language so that hints may be passed along in both directions.

6. Role-play Until You Get it Right: Do not enter into circumstances such as these cold. Success requires that you need to practice, practice, practice until you get it OK.  Then discard what does not work well, and repeat.  Turn the Role Playing into an art, a fun game with rewards – pay etc…  In one instance, we ran a game for three days and we learned a great deal about ourselves – and how difficult it is to be the good guy following rules when your opponent not only has no rules, but also has a considerably larger budget.

7. No Drugs or Alcohol as Stress-relievers: Stress is part of life, especially in this arena. Drugs and alcohol do not erase the causes of stress; they actually allow them to build up.  Find something else to relieve the stress.  I read that US General Omar Bradley did differential equations to relive the stress of war, Winston Churchill painted and wrote, and I wire or work with wood.  What ever you do, do it — but don’t use alcohol, drugs or other mind/mood altering activities.  Even the slightest impairment can cause tragic, but all too predictable outcomes.

8. Upon Completion, Debrief and Recap on all successes, failures etc.: Go over what you did right and what you did wrong and share it with the team in an authentic fashion.  Not as a make wrong session for those who made errors, but as a learning exercise for all involved.

9. Keep your mouth shut: If you tell people how you operate, and they are impressed and tell others – well, the next thing you know its in the newspapers.  Ok, perhaps over-dramatic? I agree.  It will never reach the newspapers, but the bad guys do have their own intelligence gatherers operating within the profession.  All the bad guys need to know is your  fatal flaw….

Example: One client company would not act unless HQ approved it, now approval was usually fast and perfunctory, but approval was required.  So what to do.

A Kidnap & Ransom gang in Mexico targeted the company’s clients and for the day the company’s telephone system was out of service – because an undercover bad guy just ripped out the phone lines from the wall.

We certainly plan to avoid “the most dangerous meeting”, but we also must be fully prepared for the day when such a meeting actually comes to us.


This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Barron James Shortt, theExecutive Director of the IBA.

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