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Surveillance Detection Program
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Surveillance Detection Program

A do-it-yourself article about executive VIP security and implementing
a surveillance detection program to prevent assassination and terrorism attacks.

What you need to know

by: Tony Scotti
President of Tony Scotti Associates

Throughout the years there have been kidnappings and assassinations that change the way we view Executive Security. These incidents make great learning tools, and act as standards for those involved in training.

On Nov. 30 1989 Alfred Herrhausen, Chairman of the Duetsche Bank, was driving to work in his chauffeur driven armored vehicle. Herrhausen's normal routine was to drive to work in a three car convoy. He was riding in the back seat of the second vehicle. He was accompanied by four bodyguards, two in a lead car and two in a follow car. Approximately 500 yards from his home Herrhausen's car was destroyed by a remotely-controlled car bomb. The full blast of the bomb hit the rear door of his vehicle. The bomb was detonated when Herrhausen's car broke a light beam generated by a photo-electric cell. Interruption of the beam caused a flow of electricity that detonated the bomb. The bomb consisted of about 44 pounds of TNT and was packaged to look like a school child knapsack. It was affixed to the luggage rack of a child bicycle that was left along side the road.

The Herrhausen assassination had a profound effect on the US executive community. He sat on the board of directors of many US companies, and there is nothing that will get the attention of an executive more than to have the person they sat next to on Monday get blown away on Wednesday.

It is interesting to note that in most cases of attacks against executives very little thought was given to changing the routes. This should not be an arbitrary decision, route planning needs to be an intricate part of the security plan. The higher the risk the more important it becomes.

The key lies in the words "meticulous planning". Something that complicated to set up takes time to organize. Four weeks prior to the assassination a neighbor raking leaves had actually handled the arming cable, yet had no idea what it was and forgot about it. The more sophisticated the terrorist get the more preparation is required.

In a vehicle ambush the terrorist needs to plan and organize the attack; planning and organization will require them to conduct an intensive surveillance on the intended victim. This is the key to their success.

Detecting surveillance is the best method available for preventing this, or any type of an attack. Although the technicality of Herrhausen incident was impressive, in fact the key to success was the meticulous planning and surveillance by the terrorist.

Detecting this terrorist preparation requires the protection team to become familiar with the environment near the home and office. Anything that is the slightest bit unusual must be noticed and acted upon. The protection team must be as meticulous and organized in their effort to detect the ambush as the terrorist are in setting it up.

Looking for a terrorist surveillance should not be left to chance. The protection team must have the ability to accurately describe and record anything they see that is unusual. This can only be done by increasing their powers of observation. As with the case of Herrhausen the terrorists where obvious enough when setting up the ambush that it aroused the suspicion of the neighbors.

In most situations involving the protection of an executive environmental factors around the home dictate security. Close and constant observation of dangerous roads is clearly called for. The protection team should examine the area around the executives home and develop a danger zone log. Careful examination of all the possible routes are essential. Once accomplished you will find there are many options available once you leave the area of the home and the office.

The armored Mercedes after the assassination attempt. On 30 November 1989 the German bank executive committee Chairman Alfred Herrhausen was killed. With a TNT-filled, shaped-charge mine blowing the armored Limosine fly into the air, damaged armoring and a metal part from the door shattered Chairman Herrhausen's thigh. Whereas its driver was only slightly hurt, the Chairman bled to death at the scene, since the first aid measures introduced by the Bodyguard did not help anything. At the scene was found an RAF star with the signature, Wolfgang Beer Command. The RAF which means "Rote Armee Fraktion" ("Red Army Faction", also known as "Baader-Meinhof-Gang") was a german terrorist group that existed from 1970 to 1998. All work of the terrorists had escaped the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the police. Thus during August excavation work had already taken place for the laying of cables.

Understanding choke points

The type of road the executive travels has a lot to do with the type of attack the terrorist will mount, and in fact it may have a lot to do with it, if the executive is picked as the final target. Special emphasis needs to be placed on locations along the route to and from work called choke points.

Security personnel and managers need to know:

* What a choke point is
* What, if anything, can be done to avoid it
* What to do if we're in it

A choke point is a location near home or office, that due to environmental factors you cannot avoid. Places like:

* Narrow roads
* Slow driving areas
* Blind spots in road

At choke points everyone involved in the protection of the executive and/or the executive if they drive themselves, should be looking for changes in the environment around the choke point. They should know:

* What cars should be there?
* What people should be there?

The above should not be a guess. A plan should consist of first knowing the location of all choke points. The driver or the executive should know exactly where he is. If the executive does not understand the idea of choke points, or worse does not care about choke points, then a member of the security team should do the work for the executive. Then the executive needs to be briefed and told what it is he should be looking for, and anything unusual —ANYTHING— must be reported and action taken.

If at all possible, a group of people or a person should go in advance of the executive and look for problems, and with a clear understanding of what it is they should be looking for. Knowing what to look for is not complicated.

Remember the problem of the Herrhausen attack? The protection team was organized and ready for the classic vehicle ambush and they got a roadside bomb. An advance can mean only a minute in advance. Either by motorcycle or by car, someone goes a minute or so in front of the executive and scouts the area. There should be communications from the advance vehicle to the principal car. If at all possible the executives car should not drive through a choke point unless the choke point has been previously checked. The advance person is looking for signs of an ambush. This was done in the Herrhausen incident but they were looking for the wrong thing.

The advance person must know what to look for. Looking not only for people but also for things. In the Herrhausen incident it was a bicycle. What are the signs of an ambush? They can be anything that will make the car slow down. If the threat is assassination it will be something that you drive by. Is it complicated and time consuming? Yes. But what are the alternatives? The only chance Herrhausen had was counter surveillance— the detection of the signs of an ambush in a choke point.

Assassination of Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadir of AfghanistanThe recent assassination of Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadir of Afghanistan has highlighted security concerns and fears of possible rivalries between powerful figures in the government.

As you approach or leave the home and office area the options are less. Defensive measures should concentrate on the following:

* In a high risk environment you must change your routes, and developing alternate routes that begin as close as possible to the individual's home.
* If there is limited access in and out of the area of work and home meticulous advance reconnaissance is necessary of all roads that, for whatever reason, the individual must unavoidably pass.
* All terrorist attacks are preceded by surveillance. These surveillances are not that sophisticated that the average person with some reasonable training could not spot them.


The key to an effective surveillance awareness program is alertness. The philosophy should be adopted that once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action. Sir Geoffrey Jackson, who was kidnapped by terrorists, describes his awareness of their surveillance in this manner:
"When, after a relatively quiet life, nocturnal calls begin to proliferate, when one's hitherto pleasantly solidarity walks along beaches and sand dunes and in pine forests begin to bristle with horizon-marching silhouettes and sudden encounters with the young in unlikely trio formation, when one's golf game -- not only one's own -- regularly begins to be interrupted by casual young spectators on remote fairways, where for the third time one's path is crossed by professional violence literally at one's door step -- by this time the least perceptive of mortals begins to grasp that, however much the world around him may be changing, his own private world is changing still more."

The above is an eloquent description of surveillance and awareness of a changing environment.

The level of awareness must be raised to a point where:

* Strange vehicles parked near the residence or place of employment are noticed and reported to authorities.
* People standing, walking, or sitting in cars near the residence or place of employment must be noticed.
* An individual can recognize that he is being followed. If they do feel they are being followed, they can simply drive around the block and notice if the suspected vehicle is still there.

Many people associate surveillance detection with watching for someone following you on foot. Although it is a good idea to do that, it is as important to watch for cars, and more important to watch for signs of an ambush as the car reaches the home or office.

Georgian President Eduard Shervardnadze survives a missile attack - but not his armored Mercedes In 1998 Georgian President Eduard Shervardnadze survived a missile attack when more than 10 gunmen opened fire upon his armored Mercedes using automatic rifles and grenades.

The question is—do you have the executives responsible for their own surveillance detection? Do you have the driver responsible? A bodyguard? Or do you have an individual whose responsibility it is to watch for surveillances and ambushes? If the plan is to have someone whose job it is to look for surveillances, and since most attacks happen near the office and the home, it makes sense that a person is stationed near the executives home and place of business. There is one particular type of assassination that requires a surveillance detection program, and that is roadside bombs. Roadside bombs require someone looking at choke points along the route traveled. Those choke points need to be watched as closely as the area around the home and office. There is no other alternative. In the Herrhausen incident no driving maneuver or armored car would have prevented the incident.


If the situation warrants a complete surveillance detection program, the first thing that needs to be done is the collection of information. This information must be analyzed, and then distributed. The steps are as follows:

1. Someone determines what is normal in the area around the home and office and choke points.
2. There is constant examination of these areas.
3. Compare what is found by examining the environment (step 2) to what is normal (step 1). This can be done by computer.
4. Analyzing the information in (Step 3).
5. If there is a change in the normal environment, examine in detail what it is, why it is there.
6. Tell the people who are in that area. This is done simultaneously with step 5.
7. Take some action.


Someone who knows what to look for determines what is normal. There should be some plan that assures that all the areas around the home and office have been mapped to determine the "norm". Also if more than one person needs protection and there is more than one person collecting data, the people collecting the data need to learn how to describe what they are looking at. It is common for two people to look at the same thing and describe it in a different way. Companies working in a high risk area have developed counter surveillance reporting forms, and assure that the people are recording everything the same way.


Once the norm is decided, constant observation of these areas is required. The information recorded (Step 1 and Step 2) includes not only the area around the home, but also choke points.


Analysis of the data. Once the data is collected the information needs to be looked at and examined. This is easily done with a computer. There are programs available that can look for a surveillance. The need for a computer depends on the amount of information you recorded. If you have ten executives that are working in a high risk area then it is close to impossible to do all that without the use of a computer.


If a change in the environment occurs, examine it immediately. Find out what it is. If the threat is assassination it should be done as quickly as possible.


Distributing the information. Once the information has been collected and analyzed it needs to go back out to those in the field. All this may sound complicated, but it is not. If there is a surveillance detection person who is assigned to an area, he usually can do all the steps listed above in his mind. He will immediately recognize a problem and solve it. What's important is he knows what to look for and what to do if he finds it.

President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze uses armored car "Mercedes 600"
President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze uses armored car "Mercedes 600".
Germany and Daimler-Benz gave Georgian President the new armored Mercedes
limousine to replace one damaged during an assassination attempt on 9th of
February 1998 in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Mr.Shevardnadze's old limousine
was also a gift from Germany and the carmaker.

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