Assassins Don't Do Movie Plots, Either

From “Assassination in the United States: An Operational Study of Recent Assassins, Attackers, and Near-Lethal Approachers,” (a 1999 article published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences):

Few attackers or near-lethal approachers possessed the cunning or the bravado of assassins in popular movies or novels. The reality of American assassination is much more mundane, more banal than assassinations depicted on the screen. Neither monsters nor martyrs, recent American assassins, attackers, and near-lethal approachers engaged in pre-incident patterns of thinking and behaviour.

The quote is from the last page. The whole thing is interesting reading.

Posted on June 7, 2006 at 1:15 PM14 Comments


AG June 7, 2006 2:10 PM

Table 11 is interesting and could be used as a base for gathering and reviewing Internet habits of suspects

Andrew W June 7, 2006 3:04 PM

“Table 11 is interesting and could be used as a base for gathering and reviewing Internet habits of suspects.”

Maybe true, but you’d need other correlating behavior. I’m sure most people have discussed assassinations before or watched movies about assassinations (JFK, Machurian Candidate, In the Line of Fire, Zoolander). Throw in a fascination with rifles and a history of auditory hallucinations and you might be getting somewhere.

D June 7, 2006 3:09 PM

Don’t read it – it’s a trap.

Now that everyone here has read it, we each fit enough of the profile to get reported. The question is: has the FBI started ignoring the NSA “tips” or will this be the straw…

Chris E June 7, 2006 5:57 PM

Zoolander was about idiot male models, but part of the story was the brainwashing of one of the models to be an assassin for the clothing industry.

Anonymous (sort of) June 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Damn. I almost downloaded that! Whoops . . . good thing I saw the URL before clicking on that automatic self-addition to the Agitators Index.

And I can’t Google it either because the government wants to go ransacking through Google searches . . .

Ah, well . . .

Alex June 8, 2006 2:00 AM

I expected more people whos motive is money, professional hitmans cases. Either such cases are not investigated successfully or they are really rare.

Neil June 8, 2006 4:57 AM

Why would a professional hitman want to take on a job like killing a prominent figure? The risks of being either killed or imprisoned for life are extreme – I doubt any sum of money would be high enough to make it worthwhile.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who might want to hire a hitman to kill a prominent figure (eg you’re a terrorist organisation) wouldn’t it be far cheaper and more effective to simply train a series of impressionable young men as suicide bombers?

I suspect that the real professional hitmen largely confine themselves to bumping off “inconvenient” ex-wives, and they’re probably not a lot cheaper and less professional than you might think.

Alex June 8, 2006 6:05 AM

I agree that risks are higher in this case. And for terrorist or radical organisation it is cheaper to train a bomber.
But i think they are not the only kind of persons who can arrange such a crime. What about organised crime or hostile countries governments.
In general, this article summarize those cases where attempt was made by a lone unstable person or a radical group.
Not the attempts of organised and professional group or person. It seems that such cases are really rare in US.

victim of non lethal weapon June 15, 2006 12:33 AM

I think a near lethal approacher is similar to a non lethal weapon. This weapon breached my privacy and tortures me because of government university and bank fraud. I hope that I am at this terminal tommorow, I wrote to Mr. Schneier for a legal recommendation, but he may have been hired to clean up the security mess that the Bush regime sold. Hence Gross breach of Privacy security and grave breaches of domestic and international law.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.