As a Green Beret captain in Vietnam, Brian Jenkins developed an understandable interest in guerrilla warfare. But when he returned to the United States in 1968 as a consultant for RAND Corp., he found himself wondering whether a new tactic would become an accepted form of warfare--terrorism.
Jenkins began recording the occasional political kidnaping or hijacking on 3-by-5 index cards and wrote memos at RAND, the Santa Monica-based "think tank," warning of a possible trend to come. He got no response.
Then, in 1972 terrorists slaughtered 25 people at Lod Airport in Israel and a dozen more at the Munich Olympics. In the United States, a Cabinet-level committee was formed to combat terrorism. Within weeks, the government discovered Jenkins' memos.
Soon, he was working full time at RAND, preparing policy recommendations for Washington and scrapping the index cards for a computer, quickly becoming one of the foremost experts on terrorism.
But after two decades, Jenkins is leaving behind his computer--with 7,000 terrorist incidents logged in its memory bank. He is departing RAND to pursue a new interest: corporate crime.
Shedding the khakis-and-sneakers informality of RAND for a blue suit--or what he used to call "going-to-Washington clothes"--Jenkins began work this week at the downtown Los Angeles offices of Kroll Associates, the nation's leading corporate investigations firm. Once dubbed "Wall Street's private eye," the New York-based Kroll is best known for its high-priced work digging into the background of corporate raiders.
The 47-year-old Jenkins, who has been named a managing partner at Kroll, said he will not be doing that type of snooping but will concentrate on product-tampering cases, terrorism against corporations and "information crime."
"I'm moving on to a different sort of villain," he said. "Some throw bombs, others have Swiss bank accounts."
Although Jenkins will still do some consulting with RAND on government contracts, he said he had gotten "a little too comfortable" as the chief in-house expert on terrorism; he could not see himself writing "another 200 reports" on the topic.
Rising to chairman of RAND's political science department, Jenkins became one of the think tank's highest-profile people, a fixture on network newscasts whenever there was a terrorist act.
His opinions were elicited by journalists on such varied questions as how Iran was likely to respond to U.S. bombing of an offshore oil platform to the impact of terrorist bombings on Paris fashion shows.
"Brian, in a sense, established the idea that you could do policy research on terrorism," said RAND President James A. Thomson. "He quickly became a national spokesman. A high profile is not something we would expect every staff member to have, but there are certain issues where the client is as much the American people as the government."
'Field Manual for Hostages'
One of Jenkins' early projects was to prepare a "field manual for hostages," material to alert diplomats to conditions they would face if seized by terrorists.
He interviewed former hostages around the world and pondered the strange process by which they often came to identify with--"even fall in love with"--the terrorists who held them. He concluded that this was a natural human reaction and should not be condemned. He recommended that released hostages not be thrust immediately before the cameras because they needed time to reflect on their experience.
In recent years, Jenkins acted as a consultant to Catholic Relief Services after Father Lawrence M. Jenko was abducted in Beirut. He helped steer the group away from a series of con men who claimed to have Lebanese connections who could secure Jenko's release for a fee.
Despite his combat background and rugged, square-jawed looks, Jenkins has been a voice of moderation.
For years, he challenged those who claimed that the Soviet Union was the mastermind behind all anti-Western political violence, saying that such an approach to terrorism "underestimates its depths, its extent and its danger." Recently, he has participated in U.S. talks with the Soviet Union aimed at cooperation in combating terrorism.
Jenkins said his war experiences made him intolerant of people who propose military force but describe it with antiseptic terms such as "surgical strike."
"I always ask them, 'Are you talking about killing people?' Because what it comes down to is killing people and destroying things."
When top government officials ask him to comment on drafts of their speeches, Jenkins said, he spends his first 20 minutes crossing out bellicose language denouncing the atrocities and threats that sound like the "swagger of professional wrestlers."
"I tell them, 'Take it as a given that people see this is an atrocity.' "
All the pounding on the table only seems silly, he explained, when the speech almost invariably concludes with the whimper of, "Therefore, we recommend economic sanctions."