How the assassination of President Kennedy changed executive protection

A look at how far the industry has come when it comes to protecting high-value targets


“I worry more about the lone gunman, and I really do believe this, that the more people can surveil, the more they can spend hours figuring out your comings and goings from your residence to your office to the travel that you take, the real question is are you up to the game?” said Oatman. “I don’t think anyone can do this without the right training and we emphasize that you really have to understand the dynamics of executive protection from all aspects. We put so much emphasis on our advances, doing our homework ahead of time which is as important as getting the right driver with the right security training that understands the kinds of issues that could end up being disastrous.”

Although the lone gunman remains a substantial threat, Warren said he worries more about those would-be assassins who are willing to kill people indiscriminately in an attempt to hit their target.

“The geo-political environment that we’re in now has changed the game plans a lot. The sophistication of the weaponry has changed how we do and what we do a lot,” said Warren. “We’ve had to make a lot of changes and we’ve still got a long way to go. We haven’t reached nirvana yet.

Both Warren and Oatman agree that the biggest thing that executive protection professionals have to avoid is becoming complacent in their duties.

“The protection professional has to be vigilant 24/7 – whether they are working with the protectee or not working with the protectee – they’ve got to be aware of the situation and environment around them,” said Warren. “A lot of times when you get too complacent in your job is when you make a mistake. Unfortunately, the person that’s out there that may be planning something is watching you as well as watching the protectee. The best countermeasure of all is unpredictability. Always break your routine up like the good old saying, ‘throw the jackal off by doing something different each time.’”  

“You can’t fall into complacency. You have to be on-game every single time,” emphasized Oatman. “It’s all about the details and I believe that failures are normally the result of skipping over things. You have to go out and practice and if you don’t have it right, then you need to go back to the drawing board and get it right. Too many people think this is a no-brainer kind of profession and they couldn’t be more wrong.”