News Analysis: Al Qaeda Targets U.S. Executives

By Park Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., TAG Founder

Since 9/11, U.S. corporations have taken a heightened interest in preparing for terrorist attacks, and increasing numbers of executives take advantage of the services of executive protection teams.  Those steps have never been more relevant than now, with the publication of the current issue of Inspire magazine, which urges the assassination of U.S. executives, both in the workplace and at more vulnerable locations.

If you are unfamiliar with Inspire magazine and its influence, you should know that it is published by the “Al-Qā`idah Organization in the Arabian Peninsula,” and it urges Muslims to jihad, heaps praise and "honor" on radical Islamic terrorists (e.g., in this issue, the 9/11 terrorists, the Charlie Hebdo terrorists, and the Tsarnaev brothers), and provides its followers the kind of step-by-step instructions on how to make bombs and how to kill that were once the reserve of the slightly tongue-in-cheek Anarchist Cookbook and the many how-to guides published by Paladin Press [1].  Like its predecessors, Inspire has facilitated both failed and successful homicide attempts.  For example, in my evaluation of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Office of the U.S. Attorney, nothing was more clear than the influence that Inspire and other jihadist media had in redirecting the brothers' rage from the Russians, who forced their family to seek asylum, to the Americans, who granted the family asylum (and housing, and food, and money, and educational resources, and more).

The current issue of Inspire features a cover story on “Assassination Operations” that should be of particular interest to corporate executives in the U.S., as it urges the assassination of business and financial leaders.  (Interestingly, another article in the issue, “The Blacks in America,” exploits the Michael Brown and Freddy Grey deaths and the Dylann Roof mass murder to urge African-Americans to assassinate “racist politicians.”)  

The “Assassination Operations” article recommends assassination as cost-effective, quick, and feasible:

  •  "Assassination operations, if studied and executed in a well organized program, will achieve great goals with the least of costs.”
  • “. . . it is necessary for us to concentrate on targeting prominent personalities in order to achieve great goals in a short period.”
  • “You should bear in mind that every target has a security loophole, however much the security precaution he takes.”

The specific “assassination list” recommended in the article includes names, photos, and brief biographies for Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg, Charles and David Koch, Jim Walton (misidentified as his late father, Sam Walton), Sheldon Adelson, Ben Shalom Bernanke (misspelled twice as “Bernanek”), and Robert Shiller.

The author of the “assassination list” attempts to extort not only these target victims, but all other Americans by demanding that to be secure, one must withdraw all one’s money from American banks, invest one’s wealth outside American soil, and publicly distance oneself from “American policies towards Muslim [sic] and America's support for Israel.”

Consistent with TAG’s training regarding the 5-step process through which targeted victims are stalked, “Assassination Operations” urges the assassin to choose a target, collect intelligence, communicate, approach, and attack.

While there is nothing novel about the article’s suggestions for gathering intelligence on the target victim, it simplifies the process for amateurs by assembling the strategies long used by stalkers into an easy-to-use checklist:

  • Data to gather:  “Where does the target reside?  Where does he work?  Where does he visit for recreational activities?  Where does he shop?”
  • Open source data:  “. . . televisions, newspaper, magazines and internet—especially the social media . . .”
  • Sources for personal data:  “Having access to the target's friend, close person or a neighbor.  Or benefiting by collecting information on any person who has direct or indirect contact with the target.”
  • Observation during approaches:  “Collecting information from close includes observing the targeted building or any building related to the target. . . . Another way is to acquire information from a mobile target so as to specifically know the movements of the target.  This should be done carefully and from a distance so as not to alert the target.  He should blend-in with the environment or camouflage himself during the process.  Another method is by visiting:  Personally visiting the location where you collected the information to personally verify the data collected.”

Based on the intelligence collected, the assassin is advised to identify “the weak point of the target that can be exploited” when the target is least protected, and to consider using edged weapons, firearms, explosives, or poisons.  Detailed instructions are provided for building a time-delay hand grenade and for the tactical use of such devices in workplace assaults, and the reader is referred to other issues for guidance on other weapons.

Now Al Qaeda encourages attacks on U.S. executives by lone wolf terrorists and seeks to recruit disaffected African-Americans who’ve been worked up by those driving racial divisions in America.  The Anti-Defamation League reports that as of two weeks ago, “Sixty-one U.S. residents have been linked to Islamic extremist plots and other activity in 2015 thus far.  This is more than double the total of each of the past two years:  26 individuals living in the U.S. were linked to such terrorism in all of 2014 and 22 in 2013" [2].

While it would be tempting to dismiss Inspire as the hateful propaganda of a small group of extremists, there should be no doubt that the magazine has already inspired attacks on U.S. soil and provides the would-be terrorist, whether Muslim or not, with ample guidance for wreaking havoc.  Although the article gives lip service to planning for a safe escape after an assassination, Al Qaeda obviously cares more about the propaganda value of an attack than the lives of its ignorant dupes.

Be aware that the radicalized audience who turn to Inspire and other jihadist media for guidance and direction is not limited to those on the fringes of society but may well include your own employees, contractors, shareholders, customers, job applicants, and visitors.  The Fort Hood workplace mass murder was committed by an insider, Army Major Nidal Hassan (another terrorist whom Inspire glorifies).  Though none has resulted in a successful attack, we’ve worked on cases in which individuals with malicious intent have purchased stock to gain access to shareholder meetings.  Both the 9/11 and shoe bomber attacks were committed by ticket-holding customers of the airlines. 

TAG Recommendations:

  1. Review current access controls in light of the specific tactics of armed assault recommended in this issue of Inspire.
  2. Review executive protection resources and procedures, particularly the compliance of principals with the guidance of their executive protection teams.
  3. Review screening and security procedures for shareholder meetings.
  4. Consider engaging TAG to conduct a Gap Analysis of the above vulnerabilities.
  5. Consider engaging TAG to conduct a comprehensive Vulnerability Assessment of your facilities and physical plant.
  6. Consider engaging TAG to conduct a Behavioral Vulnerability Assessment of your employee and on-site consultant populations to identify insider threats.

If your security department would like a copy of this issue of Inspire, it is available on request at 949-723-2220.


  1. Dietz PE:  Dangerous information:   Product tampering and poisoning advice in revenge and murder manuals.  Journal of Forensic Sciences 33:1206-1217, 1988.
Simon Levshin