Protective surveillance refers to the formation of a discreet close protection team around an individual/group. This team is usually made up of experienced and highly-trained covert operators. They create a protective bubble around clients in a discreet manner.
The PST will monitor those who may be monitoring the client and carry out counter-surveillance. They are there to control and occupy spaces or areas that could be used by hostile surveillance teams. The team’s expertise and experience will allow them to identify them. You can also be a protective intelligence and quick response force (QRF).
This article will discuss protective surveillance and its role as executive protection and high-risk protection. Two real-life case studies are used to show how protective surveillance can be an effective tool for executive protection.
Why would hostiles use surveillance before an attack?
It is essential to gather intelligence about the target in order to make them more hostile. It is essential to understand the habits, routines, and comings and goings a target in order to increase your chances of an attack succeeding. How secure they are, their strengths and weaknesses. What are the threats and opportunities? All these questions and more will be answered by a hostile surveillance team. They can then formulate a plan to attack their target with greater effectiveness and better chances of success.
It is important to identify threats early in order to be able to respond quickly. The chances of a positive outcome are greatly increased if one can react quickly. It’s simply action vs. response. An aggressive force that has the advantage of tactical planning and surprise is more likely succeeds. They can choose when they want to act. If they feel that they have the upper hand and are not being attacked, very few aggressors will do so. This is likely to be a planned operation by the hostile team.
Normal close protection teams (CPTs) will have many tasks and duties that require their full attention. They must remain focused on the present and be able to respond immediately to any threat. They offer the protection needed. However, this is a weakness. Even highly skilled operators may still require time to respond to an action. They are therefore immediately on the defensive and may not be able to regain control of the fight. There are many variables that can be considered, including the skills of the security team, attackers’ skill, and luck.
While a CPT can’t be considered protective surveillance, they can perform counter-surveillance or take other actions to find out if they are being monitored. However, the author believes that effective counter-surveillance must be carried out as a separate entity. To be completely separate from the CPT and not in any way connected over time or via proxy in order to reduce the risk of being compromised. Counter surveillance is difficult and requires a concentrated effort. It is impossible to do effective counter-surveillance while also focusing on bodyguard or close protection. It is more likely that a CPT will be performing anti-surveillance and not counter the majority of time.
What’s the difference between counter and anti surveillance?
Anti surveillance When a person suspects that they are being followed, he takes certain actions to determine if a surveillance team is following him. If so, he draws the team into a position that allows them to be identified.
Counter surveillance occurs when a third-party performs actions to determine in a covert way whether an individual or group is being followed. This can happen with or without the knowledge and consent of the person being monitored.
In a nutshell anti-surveillance refers to what we would do to identify surveillance. Counter-surveillance, on the other hand, is what we would ask someone else to help us.
Hostile Surveillance and Detection
Like all things, the ability to accurately and efficiently identify surveillance is dependent on many variables. These factors are mainly determined by the skills of the surveillance team as well as the anti/counter surveillance operator. Although it is easy to see, it can be difficult to see. Close protection officers only have a few weeks of surveillance training. This is not sufficient to be able to identify organized surveillance groups. An experienced hostile surveillance team should have the ability to spot and stop anti-surveillance. This problem is made worse if those conducting the anti-surveillance are not familiar with what they are looking at, especially if they are doing it in a foreign setting.
Contra-surveillance is difficult to detect and even harder to avoid. If done properly, the hostile surveillance team won’t even know they were spotted. After identifying that hostile surveillance is interested in the client, the PST should be kept secret.
* Notify the close protection team to ensure that the client is quickly removed from a safe environment. However, it should not be highlighted that there has been a threat.
* Follow the surveillance team to collect intelligence about them in order to assist authorities in addressing and extinguishing the threat.
* The PST can respond as trained close protection officers if the threat is perceived to be imminent.
Protective surveillance is an essential part of a security team for high-risk clients. Security teams must be proactive and not reactive. History has proven too many times that systems are not put in place at the right time. Too often, the saying “Should the gate be closed after the horse bolts” is repeated.
Protective surveillance should only be used with close protection teams when dealing with high-risk clients. Although they are separate, the two teams work together to achieve mutual goals. Both teams work together towards the common goal of protecting the client. While a PST alone would be able identify potential threats early and take appropriate action, it would not be able to provide protection for the client in an emergency or as a last resort. The two teams are perfectly interrelated, with each team having a unique task but all working together.
Let’s look at two scenarios that actually happened. These are examples of situations where close protection and protective surveillance could have been a great combination to create a completely different outcome.
A vehicle convoy attacked Fernando Londono, the Colombian ex-interior minister. The two cars of Fernando Londono, the former interior minister of Colombia, were stopped at a set number lights. One lane was available to its left and two lane access to its right. A bus joined the left lane. Cars to the right and left followed. A man carrying a large object crosses the street about 20m behind the cars. He then circles around Fernando Londono’s bus, attaching a limpet to his left front side. Within 30 seconds, the mine explodes, leaving behind 48 people injured and two dead. Fernando Londono survived, and his level 5 armored car played an important role in this. His security detail was not as lucky.
This makes it highly probable that Londono would have been under surveillance by the attackers to determine his travel routes, which car he uses, what security measures he has, and what is his life pattern. The attacker ran down an alleyway to a waiting motorcycle, and then he decided where to attack. To carry out an attack like this, a lot of questions must have been answered. Protective surveillance would most likely have identified hostile observations and alerted the public to the impending attack. A PST can also follow the client from a distance to observe the surrounding. The team could have seen a car following the client, or a person carrying a suspicious object walking towards the client’s car. It is important to recognize threats early in order to have time to respond.
Londono was able to survive and was taken from his vehicle via the trunk. He was left dazed and injured for 30 seconds. Londono was saved by his close protection private bodyguard in London officers who did an excellent job pulling him out of the crowd. But what if there was a second attack? Imagine that the attackers mounted a small arms attack post-explosion.
Due to the trauma experienced by the officers and their focus on the principal, there is a high chance that the survivors would have been overwhelmed. The PST can also act as a Quick Reaction Force, (QRF), and could have moved in to help win the fight against any secondary or third-party attack. This provided the required cover and support for the CPOs to withdraw to their vehicles of protective surveillance and extricate the client.
A QRF is exactly what its name suggests; it’s a force (in this instance a PST), that can quickly respond to an emergency. In times of extreme need, the team’s covert nature would be ignored to serve as a support team. This could be used as an assault team or a medical support group, or even an extraction team. They would be hidden right up to the last minute, which adds an extra layer of surprise and advantage to the protection detail.
As you can see, the PST’s primary focus is to prevent danger and give time for people to react. It ensures that nothing surprises. Its secondary function is to act as a support team that can react in an emergency.
Edelmiro Manuel Merelles is the second case study. After a group of assailants had blocked his vehicle and killed his bodyguard, he was taken hostage and fled with him. All accounts indicate that this was a well-planned and planned attack. They killed his bodyguard without hesitation and attacked witnesses.
The bodyguard reacted quickly. There is a good chance that the attack wouldn’t have occurred if protective surveillance was in place. To find out the victim’s routine, routes and vehicle, the assailants would have conducted surveillance. They would have likely had to follow him in order to block the vehicle in. These actions would have been known prior to the attack, allowing the PST and bodyguard time to respond to avoid any potential danger. Even worse, if the attack had already taken place, the PST could still react as a QRF to provide support for the bodyguard. It is better to remain covert. The PST would have the upperhand, an action over a response.
It is clear that there are compelling reasons to implement a PST or at least effective counter surveillance. Security teams must be able to prevent danger and allow time for clients at high risk. Protective surveillance teams can significantly increase the chance of a positive outcome if the client is attracted to hostiles who are intent on causing injury to the principal or their families.