Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Archangel Group, Ltd. is a private consulting group “providing training and consulting to U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, in addition to schools of all levels in the fields of terrorism, security and combat tactics.” Following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the group took the initiative to investigate the Blacksburg tragedy. No government agency requested or paid for the group’s research. Their findings were published on September 5, 2008, in a report entitled: “AFTER ACTION REVIEW: An Evaluation and Assessment of the Law Enforcement Tactical Response to the Virginia Tech University Shootings of Monday 16 April 2007.”

This is the second of several articles the author plans on doing related to the Archangel Group’s report on Virginia Tech. This article takes a critical look at the credentials of the members of the Archangel Group who took the lead in writing their report of the shootings. To sit by and say nothing when faced with Archangel’s biases, self-serving analysis, and intellectual dishonesty, would be unconscionable.


I was deeply disappointed when I read the Archangel Group’s report on the Virginia Tech shooting. The report is clearly fashioned in the form of a legal argument designed to make a point or win a case—not designed to get at the objective truth. The most positive thing I can say is that the approach taken by the report is intellectually shaky.

The report is entitled, AFTER ACTION REVIEW--An Evaluation and Assessment of the Law Enforcement Tactical Response To the Virginia Tech University Shootings of Monday, 16 April 2007, and is dated 5 September 2008.

I have forty-one years of experience as an intelligence analyst, inspector for the CIA’s Inspector General, and an instructor for intelligence analysis for all levels of the federal government (CIA, FBI, DIA, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center), the state police intelligence units, and for numerous foreign governments including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian intelligence. If the Archangel Group had submitted their report to me in one of my classes, I would have given them a failing grade.

I was so thunder-struck by the poor quality of the report that I went back and took a closer look at the credentials and membership of the Archangel Group.

Do their backgrounds give them the skills necessary to a thorough analysis of a problem? Have they been trained in an academic field that emphasizes objectivity—or does their training emphasize argumentation and winning at all costs, no matter what the truth is? That closer look helped explain a great deal.

In the case of the Archangel Group, the answer to the above left me deeply worried. I have spent twenty years of my professional life trying to wean educated people from their biases and prejudice, both of which interfere with objectivity. Pages five, six and seven of the report lists the individuals who, “From the start of the investigation . . . were integrally involved in the effort (the investigation and writing the report) at different times.”

Almost all have police force experience—or as attorneys have defended or been consultants in law enforcement liability cases. I see a clear conflict of interest here. If the Archangel Group were to find the Virginia Tech Police or the Virginia State Police culpable in the Tech shootings, I doubt if any police force or law enforcement official would ever hire them.

Two of the individuals’ credentials appear to fall in the tactical area—one is the oversight commander for a SWAT team in Pennsylvania and a major in a police department; the other is the director of training for the Archangel Group. He too has experience in training SWAT teams as well as Armed Forces Special Units. Both have outstanding resumes if you are looking for tactical training in dealing with a shooter or shooters on a college or university campus. In terms of qualifications for drafting this particular Archangel Report, I found their credentials wanting.

A third member of the team is simply described as “an experienced law enforcement veteran.” I have no idea what that means or how that “experience” qualifies him to play a role in an analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings.

A fourth member is described as a “former navy corpsman and currently working for the Department of Homeland Security.” Here again, I am left scratching my head. What did the gentleman do in the navy and what does he do for Homeland Security. I teach classes for the Department of Homeland Security and many of my students from that agency would not be qualified to participate in the analysis and writing of this report.
Over the last two years I have had approximately 150 Homeland Security Intelligence Officers in my classes—the vast majority with experience in military intelligence, police work, and the legal profession. I reported to senior Homeland Security management that over 45 percent of their officers were substandard in the use of English—and as a result their analysis was seriously flawed. The readers of the Archangel Report need to know more if they are to make judgments about the report’s accuracy.

The team also consisted of a former Marine sniper; a man billed as having 18 years experience in law enforcement. Again, I have had Marine snipers in my class and I am not sure I would want them to play a role in an “objective” analysis of the Virginia Tech crime scene. Once again, the Archangel Group lets the reader down. Perhaps the former Marine is eminently qualified, but the biographical paragraph does not indicate that.

Finally, there are two licensed attorneys. One has defended police officers in liability litigation and the other is a senior consultant to Archangel Group. Both men clearly are paid for their services. If their livelihood depends on selling those services, I would again ask—is there a conflict of interests? I think any court in the country would say there is. I have taught a large number of licensed attorneys in analytical skills over the last twenty years; I have done so at the FBI and CIA. The one point I would make is that as a group of well-educated individuals, the one characteristic that stands out most, is the desire to win at all costs—even at the expense of objectivity and truth.

In teaching analysis and writing, many of the licensed attorneys I have instructed lacked a basic grasp of professional English. Further more, their training is based on the use of passive voice sentences—passive sentences allow for greater interpretation in a court room setting. Most of the attorney-students I have had in class recoil at the use of an active voice sentence because it is difficult to manipulate those sentences. Furthermore, in doing the class room exercises the attorneys—more than any other group of professional people I have trained—cherry-pick the evidence to make their case. Such an approach to analysis is not objective. I see this cherry-picking in the Archangel Report.

On page five of the report, Archangel Group describes itself as “…a U.S. NGO (non-government organization) providing training and consulting to U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, in addition to schools of all levels, in the field of terrorism, security and combat tactics.” In other words, the Archangel Group is in business to sell its services to schools, the military, and police forces. I repeat myself, if you make money selling your services to the police can you really be objective in analyzing the role of the police in the nation’s worst school shooting?

I have reluctantly concluded that this report is not an objective analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings; it is a 144-page advertisement for the Archangel Group.

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