Covert Executive Protection
Whether it is within the U.S.A or in the streets of Bangkok, whilst protection may be required, overt bodyguards or close protection teams may not suit the purpose of travel. Certain clientele desire low profile protection, not wanting the attention gained from having an overt team in close vicinity at all times. Sometimes having an overt team can highlight status making someone a target where they may not have been previously. Sometime there is an increased level of risk and supplementary protection is required. Whatever the reason there are instances where covert executive protection can serve as a highly effective ‘close-protection’ tool providing and regularly exceeding the necessary safety and security required.
Covert executive protection is obtained through the use of a protective surveillance team. Protective surveillance is the creation of an unobtrusive security team around an individual or group. Normally composed of highly trained and experienced covert operators, this team forms a protective bubble around the client in a covert manner.
The protective surveillance team (PST) will focus on the following to ensure the safety and security of the client.
2. Protective Intelligence
3. Protective Security Duties
4. Quick Reaction Force
5. Emergency Medical
The Protective Surveillance Team (PST) would watch those that may be watching the client. Their main aim is to occupy or control areas that would be used by hostile individuals or groups. Through their skill set and expertise they would remain covert, identifying and evaluating any threats to the client.
What is counter-surveillance? It is the process by which a third party carries out actions in order to identify in a covert manner whether an individual is being followed and by whom.
Many people ask why would people put me under surveillance?
Hostile individuals or groups need to gather intelligence on their target. To increase the chances of a successful attack it is vital to know the comings and goings of a target, their habits and routines. What security they have, its strengths and weaknesses. What are the opportunities and threats? A hostile surveillance team will be trying to answer all these things and more. It is with this information that they can formulate a plan to attack their target more effectively and with a greater chance of success.
The surveillance may vary from the crude and brief that a mugger or random attacker may use just prior to his hostile action, or to the high level, professional and extended surveillance that may be undertaken by potential kidnappers.
Identifying threats early is vital to ensure time to react. If one has time to react then the chances of a favorable outcome are increased dramatically. It is simply action vs. reaction. Any aggressive force with the advantage of surprise and tactical planning is more likely to succeed. Their action occurs at a time of their choosing. Very few aggressors will attack if they don’t feel they have the upper hand, they do so at a time of their choosing, this is probably the result of a planned operation.
If hostiles undertake pre-attack surveillance the PST will highlight them, identify the risk and then react accordingly, doing some or all of the following:
• If the threat is perceived as being imminent the PST can react accordingly as trained close protection officers. Providing security to the client and removing them from the threat.
• Close-in to the client, informing them of the threat and extract them to a safe place in a controlled and covert manner.
• Aim to follow the hostile surveillance team to gather intelligence on them so that the necessary authorities can deal with and extinguish the threat comprehensively. All while ensuring the full safety and security to the client.
2.) Protective intelligence
Protective intelligence is the other vital tool in protection of an individual or group and is the process by which the PST identify, investigate and analyze threats to the client.
This is a constant process starting at the very beginning of the tasking and flowing right through to the end. Both prior to and during traveling, the PST will be pre-empting threats and analyzing risk. Prior preparation and planning are vital to minimize and manage risk, it is through foresight and knowledge that the PST can prepare and react effectively.
It is through protective intelligence that the protective security duties of the PST can be molded and tailored to ensure the very highest level of security and safety is afforded to the client.
3.) Protective Security Duties
Protective surveillance teams consist of highly trained close protection officers. Though not in their usual role of ‘Bodyguards’ they still operate with the sole intention of keeping the client safe from harm. The very nature of protective surveillance requires the team to blend into their surroundings without being noticed by any hostile surveillance. This in turn provides a greater chance that the hostiles will drop their guard and show themselves out through their actions or re-actions. This however means that the PST will be at a greater distance from the client than a normal close protection team would be.
They would therefore not be walking side by side with a client where the ‘relationship’ could be easily identified, but would instead be in close proximity. Close enough to react if a threat posed itself, yet far enough away to remain low profile and allow the client to carry on with their lives without the attention of a ‘bodyguard team’.
The protective security duties of a PST are exactly the same as a close protection team just without the close proximity and overt nature. Their raison d’etre, their entire purpose of being and focus is to ensure the safety and security of the client (and if applicable their family) at all times. The PST would be dedicated to this, utilizing their skill-sets and expertise to ensure no harm comes to them.
An accurate definition of close protection is:
The role of close protection encompasses ALL aspects of protective measures that work in concert: physical and technical combined with constant thorough planning and sound operational procedures to negate/minimize risk or the threat of risk to kill/injure/or harm another in any way.
Richard J Aitch: Close Protection: A closer observation of the protection equation. 2012
This definition mentions all aspects of protective measures that work in concert: Physical and technical. We have just touched on the physical side of things. What about technical? Certain technical security solutions exist that when used effectively can help assist in the overall safety and security of the client.
Technical surveillance sweeping and countermeasures are vital to ensure that any hostiles do not have access to restricted and sensitive information. Plans, routes, itineraries and meetings all need to be kept confidential. Mobile phones, hotel rooms, vehicles, meeting rooms and computers must be kept safe from listening devices, covert cameras and technical attacks. The client and their family may want to be tracked and monitored using covert methods to assist in case of kidnap or abduction. If a security team can react quickly and effectively to a threat then the chances of a favorable outcome are far more likely. Hotels can be secured more effectively with covert cameras, motion detectors and panic alarms. There are a multitude of technical security solutions available and these can be tailored to specific requirements and situations to work symbiotically with physical security.
4.) Quick Reaction Force (QRF)
A QRF does exactly as its namesake; it is a force (in this case the Protective Surveillance Team) able to react quickly in case of emergency. The covert nature of the team would be disregarded at times of extremis to act as an emergency support team. Whether this is as an assault team, a medical support team, or an extraction team. The fact that they would be covert right to the last moment provides an extra level of advantage surprising any hostile individuals or groups, putting them on the back foot.
5.) Emergency Medical
A protective surveillance team should have as minimum one qualified and experienced medic with access to a full trauma medical kit. Therefore enabling an effective and timely response to any emergency medical situation. In certain countries and areas definitive pre-hospital care may not be readily available. In medical emergencies the chances of a favorable outcome are dramatically increased if effective and timely medical care is provided.
Covert Executive Protection without the protecter’s knowledge
Another form of covert protection can be used without the client knowing they are being protected. This is often used in cases of spouses or children that may be at risk from abduction or kidnap but do not know the risk for whatever the reason, or the guardians require a greater degree of peace of mind. High net worth individuals and celebrities for example may have close protection teams but their children or partners do not and do not want to. Yet the risk still exists. Kidnaps and abduction are a significant risk for these individuals.
Although not providing the level of protection that a Close Protection Team does PST’s mold to this requirement perfectly, allowing a spouse or parent to have complete peace of mind that their loved one is being observed and protected by a highly professional team.
Executive protection, close protection, protective surveillance, bodyguards whichever terminology used there always remains one constant; that each client will have unique requirements and that each security detail must be tailored to match these. As mentioned earlier the sole focus, the raison d’etre of any security detail however it is comprised, is the health, safety and security of the client as its top priority.