Your average VIP, I suppose, has enough to worry about without worrying about getting bugged or kidnapped. Luckily, the modern industrialist financier or, for that matter, everyday worrier who feels threatened [provided he can meet the price] can buy enough electronic counter-surveillance equipment to fend off foes that might defeat even James Bond.
I began thinking about how the well-equipped VIP might start his day while being shown around the new Wisconsin Avenue office of Communication Control Systems, a major manufacturer of electronic security devices.
After showering, he would put on his bulletproof dress shirt, then slip into his pocket the all-important antikidnapping device that would give off a secret signal identifying his precise location if captured.
To start his car, he would stand behind a lead shield and turn on the ignition with a remote-control, radio tone system that would detonate any device placed in the car.
Picking up his "bionic briefcase" that would give off a loud squelching tone if stolen [the briefcase also has a bulletproof pad that he could hold up in front of him], he would step into his bulletproof, $245,000 "super security" automobile and perhaps try to think of a new, more scenic route to the office. The bulletproof, explosion-proof auto contains machine-gun mounts, tear-gas vents, radar and an oil-slick emission.
Stopping for a breakfast conference, he would check his "bug alert EJ 5" attached to his digital wristwatch which will show a tiny red alarm light if his tablemate has a hidden body mike.
Entering his reception room, he would snap on the letter-bomb detector, the timb-bomb detector for packages, the chemical-bomb detector, and bomb-suppression blanket. Then he'd go into his office.
He'd snap on his "EJ 8 bug alert" attached to his desktop pen-and-pencil set and test his telephone analyzer -- the "TA 1000," which performs all 19 major and 15 supportive debugging tests.
Walking slowly around his office, he'd carry his portable metal bomb detector, always testing the vase of fresh flowers.
Next he'd turn on a gadget that could record any conversation made on his phone during his absence.
Removing a layer of cigars from the innocent-looking desk humidor, he'd activate a system that would monitor all telephone calls throughout the day and also detect concealed body transmitters.
While shuffling through papers, he'd listen to his "Communication Memory Bank," which will give records of important phone calls and transactions.
Opening his desk drawer, he'd pull out a large black flashlight-shaped object, hold it for a minute, then, satisfied, replace it.
"That's called the 'Security Blanket'," said Pat Sullivan of Communications Control, snapping me to attention as he waved the object. "When you snap it on, it gives a low hum to attract the person so he will face you." He then raised it to hip level, aimed it as a louder hum went off and said, "Zip, the light goes on equal to 300 flashbulbs going off in your face at once, disorienting the victim for 30 seconds."
If all that fails, if a pursuer gets through the oil slick and is not blinded by the power of 300 flashbulbs, one could always take the "Security Blanket" flashlight and use it as a club.
I repaired to a pub and met an old friend, who could be counted on to tell a story.
"Except for a few barroom brawls, the fighting ability of the U.S. Marine has never been put to a test in the Nation's Capital," said Bill O'Brien, ex-Marine, ex-New Yorker, part-time bartender, full-time artist and sometime gentleman farmer. "But one night right here in D.C. we almost went to war."
O'Brien settled his heavy frame onto a small, round bar stool, his meaty fist surrounding a bottle of beer, leaving only the neck showing.
It was March 1, 1954, the day the Puerto Rican nationalists shot up Congress, and the commander of the Naval Intelligence Center on Nebraska Avenue ordered all Marine non-coms to meet under heavy security in the mess hall.
"I want 20 volunteers to step forward," said the commander.
No one moved. Then he said, "All volunteers will get a 72-hour pass." O'Brien was the first to move out.
They were all taken into another room where, stretched out on a long table, there was every type of automatic weapon available for close-range fighting, even grenades.
They were told of the seriousness of the situation, about the shooting in Congress earlier in the day and the threat by the dissident group to take the lives of all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Admiral Radford was living in a building on the base at the time," O'Brien said. "He may not have been home, but we were ready to die for him."
The "volunteers" were told to choose any weapon they felt comfortable with and that they would stand two-hour watches with weapons at the ready.
Those off duty were ordered to only remove their shoes while sleeping and be ready to slip them on in a second to go to battle.
The sentries were told to walk their posts with a whistle in their mouths in case someone came from behind to garrote them they could still get off one warning toot.
The final order -- and the one that shook O'Brien -- was given by the watch officer who said, "Don't ask questions. Shoot to kill. I don't want the admiral killed on my watch.
"We were taken over to the posts we would man, and we were told to watch out for panel trucks or station wagons."
O'Brien slept lightly and woke to a touch on the shoulder to get up and stand his 4 to 6 a.m. shift.
With whistle in mouth, he walked his post, his weapon held in front of him, cocked. He shifted the barrel to cover everything that moved.
It was at the first light of day when the panel truck moved slowly along Nebraska Avenue, paused at the gate, turned in and stopped.
"Jeez, I almost fainted," O'Brien recalled. "I had the .45 aimed right at the driver's head when he quickly lurched to the side and tossed something out on the driveway.
"I screamed, 'Don't move, or I'll kill you.'"
Marines poured out from everywhere. The driver had everything aimed at him as he slowly came out of
"He yelled, 'You trigger-happy Marines, all I'm doing is delivering The Washington Post.'
"I heard later that the guy who relieved me almost plugged the milkman," said O'Brien, ordering another beer.