The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Clint van Zandt

Former FBI Chief Hostage Negotiator

Former FBI profiler at the Behavioral Science Unit in Virginia

Retired from the FBI after 25 years of service

Personally negotiated with cult leader David Koresh in Waco, Texas

Accurately profiled Oklahoma City Federal Building Bomber Timothy McVeigh on the day of bombing

Led the analytical team that identified the "Unabomber"

Founder and President of Van Zandt Associates Inc.

Appeared on more than 2,500 national/international TV shows (NBC, MSNBC, Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel, and NPR, etc.)

Masters and Doctorate degrees from State University of New York

BS, Southern Illinois University

Married to Dianne has three adult children Jeff, Jenna and Jon

Featured Book
Facing Down Evil (G.P. Putnum’s Sons, 2006)

Clint van Zandt: Inside the Mind of an FBI Profiler

By The 700 Club

Clint says he was born to be an FBI agent. In fact, throughout his growing up, Clint says, “an FBI agent was all I ever wanted to be. I wanted to chase the bad guys, preserve order, and protect my fellow man.”

After high school, Clint attended Eastern Illinois University but dropped out due to lousy grades and a tuition bill he couldn’t afford. A short time later, Clint tried attending Southern Illinois University again, but this attempt was another bust. So, Clint applied with the FBI. He received a letter that J. Edgar Hoover sent him offering him a job as a GS-2 file clerk in the St. Louis Field Office. He stayed for about a year and then made the decision to once again go to college.

He enrolled again at Southern Illinois University in late 1965. This time he was committed to his academic goals and completed his undergraduate degree a few years later. Meanwhile with the draft hanging over his head, his FBI agent friends advised him to enlist and do a stint for military intelligence.

Clint became a special agent with the U.S. Army Intelligence and served during the Vietnam War. With three years of military experience behind him as a special agent, one year as an FBI file clerk and one semester away from his undergraduate degree, Clint reapplied to the FBI in December 1970. He joined the Bureau in July 1971, a couple of weeks after graduation.

His first assignment was to a small resident agency in Rome, Georgia. He made 100 arrests his first full year. From Rome it was on to upstate New York for the first significant, open-ended stop of his FBI career, which took Clint headfirst into a frontline hostage barricade assignment. It was there that Clint learned negotiating strategies and tactics.

After a short stint to Philadelphia, Clint and his family moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he took a job at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He served eight years in the Special Operation and Research Unit (SOARU) as Chief Hostage Negotiator and overall Program Manager for Hostage Negotiations.

Clint retired from the FBI in 1995 after 25 years of service, ending his career as the FBI's Chief Hostage Negotiator and a Supervisor in the Bureau's Behavioral Science. After retiring from the Bureau in 1995, he started his own company, Van Zandt Associates, Inc., which provides behaviorally oriented crisis management, threat assessment and forensic consulting services to the corporate security world.

Clint rose through the ranks of the FBI to become a peerless force against crime. He was one of the seminal figures in the formation of the FBI’s Hostage Negotiation Program, where he encountered madme.

David Koresh (Branch Davidian Compound). Van Zandt was sent to the scene reluctantly. Someone had decided that Van Zandt’s Christian faith might leave him susceptible to Koresh’s evangelical teachings. Van
Zandt spent hours with Koresh, working diligently to pierce his veil of spirituality, trying to make sense of his wild ramblings while at the same time trying to talk some sense into him. Koresh addressed Van Zandt as “Brother Clint” because he knew Clint was a practicing Christian. Van Zandt says this drawn out ordeal took an emotional toll on him at a time in his career when he was “one fuse short of burning out.”

Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bombing). On the second anniversary of Waco on April 1995 towards the end of his FBI career, Van Zandt watched the building burning just like the rest of the world of television. While watching the destruction he received a call from the Criminal Investigative Division at FBIHQ. As he spoke with the supervisor Van Zandt was asked his take on this event. Without hesitation Clint fired back: “Well, I can tell you one thing: it was a Waco man.” Following the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the general uncertainty in the world at that time was that this Oklahoma City bombing was probably orchestrated by some Middle Eastern terrorist. Van Zandt disagreed. He believed it was someone who identified with Waco in some way, especially considering it was two years to the day after Waco. He said, “you’re probably dealing with a white male; acting alone or with one other person; single in his mid-20s; probably prior U.S. military; a member at one time or another of some splinter survivalist or paramilitary group.” When Timothy McVeigh was identified as the Oklahoma City bomber, Van Zandt could see that many of his best guesses turned out to be accurate.

Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber). Three months into his retirement from the FBI, Van Zandt was presented with an opportunity to work on one of the biggest criminal investigations in the country – the “Unabomber” case. The case had stumped law enforcement agencies across the country for almost eighteen years. He received a call from a female attorney/private investigator with a curious proposition. On behalf of her client, she wanted to know if Van Zandt had the ability to compare documents linguistically to determine common authorship. Two typed copies of handwritten letters were sent over for Van Zandt to review, one of them being “The Unabomber’s manifesto.” Van Zandt’s team developed two psychological profiles for each letter. After further review it appeared that both authors were in fact the same. An individual who was most likely white, most likely educated, most likely in his early fifties, and was a hermit with limited contact to family, neighbors, etc. The attorney convinced her client, David Kaczynski, brother of Ted Kaczynski, to come forward. On April 3, 1996, Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in Montana. Just as Van Zandt’s profile had predicted, Ted was a Harvard graduate with a doctoral degree in mathematics who, due to a series of unfortunate events, led an isolated life of hermitlike seclusion.

Clint says there are some basic strategies and concepts that he has helped to develop over the years with other colleagues at the FBI and other agencies that offer a better understanding of the mindset of hostage takers and kidnappers and, in turn, the mindsets of hostages and kidnap victims. Clint says what he has learned is the victim who is mentally prepared for such an ordeal is better equipped to survive an ordeal. In fact, more than 90 percent of kidnap victims survive their ordeals. But how do you prepare for something like this? In the event an individual should find himself/herself in such an unfortunate situation Clint says victims should focus on what it is they can do, as opposed to what it is they can’t do:

Surviving any hostage or kidnapping ordeal sometimes means escape, and you’ll need to count the cost before attempting any type of move. In the event a rescue attempt is made, remember to stay as low as your can on the floor at the side of a room if possible with your hands on your head. And, remember you will probably be treated like a criminal until authorities can sort the good guys from the bad guys.

Clint was raised a Southern Baptist. Jesus became personal to him when he was a young agent in Rochester, NY, working a manhunt for a cop killer. Taking a break, Clint went to church on Sunday where a friend, a police officer, asked if he had prayed specifically about catching the murderer. When Clint demurred, the policeman insisted on praying right there and asked the Lord that Clint be the arresting officer. Clint and his partner were able to apprehend the man behind a motel. They found a loaded and cocked pistol in his belt. The murderer said it wasn’t fair because he knew FBI agents didn’t drive Pacers! Clint realized the prayer had been answered and that Jesus was not a distant omniscient being but a friend who interacts daily with His people.

Looking back, “I can’t recall a single instance in my FBI career when I was truly afraid,” says Van Zandt. “I don’t think my belief in God made me bulletproof. I simply have Someone to go to other than myself. Many others burn out, but I’m able to pray for the outcome and intervention of a situation. Whatever takes place is God’s will. The resolution of a situation is in the Lord’s hands."

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