- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2020

Iran’s threats to retaliate against the U.S. didn’t deter Lisa Walton of Northern Virginia from celebrating her birthday Monday, having lunch with a friend at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

“I’m not worried about it,” Mrs. Walton said.

Her friend, Jackie Valente, admitted she did think twice about their destination, given Iran’s vow to attack the U.S.

“I did ask her if she thought we should go,” she said.

But a birthday is a birthday, so the two Trump supporters traveled to the iconic hotel with the name “Trump” emblazoned in large, gold letters along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Security at the hotel, four blocks from the White House, appeared normal Monday. But security specialists said the Trump Organization is certain to review its precautions in light of the rising tensions between Tehran and Washington over the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.

In addition to Trump hotels in major U.S. cities, the Trump Organization has properties in United Arab Emirates, India, Scotland, Ireland, South Korea, the Philippines and elsewhere.

In New York City, home to Trump Tower, a New York City police department spokesman said the department “has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of an abundance of caution,” although there have been no specific threats.

“The NYPD continues to closely monitor the events in Iraq and across the region for any further developments,” the spokesman said.

In Washington, authorities reiterated a statement from District Mayor Muriel Bowser that they have received no specific threats but remain vigilant and “in close contact with regional and federal partners to monitor evolving events — both at home and abroad.”

“As always, we remind members of the public if they see something, say something by contacting law enforcement of any suspicious activity,” the mayor said.

Iran has threatened to attack U.S. military sites, and there are hundreds of such facilities around the world. But Mr. Trump extended his brand name across the globe before he was elected, and the private properties bearing his name are an added security concern.

Lew Schiliro, a retired assistant director who led the FBI’s New York field office, said some Trump properties appear to be well secured, while others are relatively open. He said the Secret Service, FBI and other authorities are taking a look at the situation, and that cooperation with local authorities will be key at Trump sites across the globe.

He said the more organized the response is from the Iranian government, the more likely it is that intelligence will be able to intercept it.

“The greater danger is the lone jihadist, someone who feels empowered based on recent events to take action,” he said. “That becomes the more difficult threat to guard against.”

Mr. Schiliro said that fear is particularly salient in light of Mr. Trump’s talk about targeting culturally significant sites in Iran.

“That, to me, becomes an issue of really fostering this notion of revenge or hate, and that is not the path that we want to go down,” he said.

The Trump Organization did not respond Monday to inquiries about its security precautions.

At the White House Monday, security also appeared to be normal, with tourists kept behind barriers across Pennsylvania Avenue while construction continues on a long-term project to bolster and heighten the fencing around the complex. The Secret Service does not discuss details of presidential protection.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

Security specialists contacted by The Washington Times expressed some concern about Trump properties overseas, rather than those within the U.S.
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said a Trump property abroad would be a “number-one” target for Iranians mulling a reprisal.

“The low-hanging fruit is what they’re going to go for,” he said.

A strike against a Trump property within the U.S. would probably be a step too far for Iranian authorities, who would fear a backlash uniting Americans.

“The last thing they would want to do is have a cohesive America, like after 9/11,” said Mr. Giacalone, who noted Iranian operatives are scanning comments online and taking the temperature of public sentiment.

He said hotels are generally considered the easiest targets to hit, because people are going in and out and not being checked at the door.

Companies can “harden” their hotel properties by restricting access points — for example, using fewer entrances or even asking local authorities to close a nearby street to limit access.

Hotels also could post signs that say larger suitcases are subject to random searches, a lesson learned from the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, in which the gunman hauled an arsenal of weapons into hotel suites overlooking the concert site he targeted.

“Hotel staff should need to be on their toes since it will affect them also,” Mr. Giacalone said. “‘If you see something, say something’ will be the mantra going forward. Now is not a time for complacency.”

Colin Clarke, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, a nonprofit group dedicated to global security issues, said whether or not the Iranians or their proxies seek to strike Trump properties, “the threat alone is enough to require additional security measures, both at home and overseas.”

Peter Harper, senior security consultant at Option3 Risk Solutions, said such precautions should by now be a way of life for private companies.

“We’re living in a time where organizations, regardless of their size, will need to see this as a normal way of doing business and continually evaluate and bolster their security posture,” Mr. Harper said. “While not a guarantee against an incident, organizations need to strive for a sustainable approach by prioritizing and managing their own risk and networking with local law enforcement and other related organizations and thereby ‘hardening’ their assets against being viewed as likely targets.”

He said it’s “the best way for organizations to start wrestling back the control over the risk posed from whatever today’s threat may be, and tomorrow’s.”

Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.

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