executive protection

Lone Wolf Terrorist Attacks and Executive Protection Concerns

By Michael Mancino CPS, EMT and Jeffrey “Sarge” Gish CPS

“Lone wolf” terrorist attacks have been thrust to the forefront of our attention recently. The Boston Bombing, the beheading in Oklahoma, a hatchet attack against NYPD, the attack against Canadian Parliament, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the most recent foiled attempt to attack the US Capital building indicate that lone wolf terrorism is increasing.

Much of the response has been met by government officials calling for increased security measures in government institutions, heightened alert statuses and calls for better intelligence gathering. What all of these measures have in common is that they all rely on government action and protection of federal assets. Except for attacks against government properties, these acts are not likely to be thwarted solely by government intervention.

Thousands of private businesses and public institutions are vulnerable to an attack regardless of how much money the US government dumps into prevention and detection. Therefore, it is paramount that private industry take steps to minimize the danger of these attacks.

Institutionalized policies for prevention of violence are widespread and, unfortunately most focus on reaction. Corporations, like governments, often exhibit bloated bureaucracies and extensive reams of policies and procedures that would put even the most hyperactive person to sleep.

Private security practitioners involved in the planning of day to day operations protecting property, assets and personnel, therefore, should consider the possibility of lone wolf attacks and plan accordingly. As we all know, if we allow an attacker to pick the time, place, and mode of attack, we will most likely lose. In the executive protection (EP) world our job is prevention, which the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center likes to define into three principal components:

Awareness: The ability to recognize actual or possible threats

Avoidance: Avoid recognized risks

Defense: Practicing a continuum of responsive force would use the first component (awareness) to utilizing intelligence to determine the range of threats that it can prevent at any time. So we can avoid these risks whenever possible.

An example we could use is the recent World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek Colorado, which Sarge had the privilege of being involved in. One of the primary concerns with the law enforcement and security officials associated with the event is vulnerability of soft targets. For any EP team or agent, a main concern will be the hotel your Principal will be staying at. Most hotels will have a security operations center equipped with fire and security controls, video surveillance monitors and recording equipment. Unfortunately, they are not always staffed 24/7.

A skilled and knowledgeable EP agent will provide an advance that recognizes the signs of any type of lone wolf attack. Here are six signs to watch for which should alert us to a possible attack, and may be helpful for future advances:

  1. Surveillance: Look for any suspicious individuals taking photos of any aspects of the security operations of the hotel or protection detail.
  2. Information Gathering: Be concerned if an individual is inquiring about any information about the hotels fire & security controls.
  3. Testing Security: If your client is part of an attack on Principal (AOP), a lone wolf terrorist may follow you around to throw you off and test your reaction time.
  4. Impersonation: Be questionable of any possible impersonators that may disguise themselves as a first-responder, mail couriers and any organizations that report any stolen supplies such as a uniforms.
  5. Rehearsal: Keep your eyes open for any pending rehearsal attack to measure emergency response time.
  6. Deployment: Lone wolf terrorists may be arranging their assets ahead of an attack.

A prime example of #6 are the backpacks left by the Boston Terrorists and used in the attack. I cannot stress the importance of the EP team utilizing the hotel security staff at all times. In larger hotels, there is typically a security director on staff. This individual will prove to be valuable due to their knowledge of the hotel and their unlimited access. They will be familiar with local events and can identify authorized and unauthorized individuals.

In addition to protection from attack at events in public places, agents must also be mindful of the security situation at the principal’s place of business. Most organizations will already have in place an operating procedure for detecting and mitigating events of workplace violence. The “lone wolf” may exhibit many of the same indicators as someone about to commit an act of workplace violence. When considering lone-wolf attacks, we can capitalize on existing practices and standards.

Where we diverge, however, is considering ideological differences that may drive an attack associated with some form of  extremism as opposed to attacks by disgruntled employees or customers. For example, a hypothetical business that is known to support animal testing of pharmaceutical products  may be especially vulnerable to a lone actor who sympathizes with groups such as PETA but is willing to use violence to express such beliefs. When considering this type of threat the security practitioners must add to their awareness specific factors that elevate the likelihood of direct targeting.

Religious institutions and organizations that support various religious groups are also prime targets. Church security, for example, is an ever increasing concern of religious leaders due to the potentially volatile emotional reactions antagonists may have and direct toward their community. It is crucial, then, that when developing operational plans, whether protecting a single principal in a bustling crowd riddled with soft targets, or protecting larger institutions from retaliation or ideological attack, specific triggers be taken into account during the threat assessment phase.

Depending on the size of your organization, the use of an intelligence analyst is very beneficial in the Executive Protection world, especially during the advance stages. By gathering various types of data from a variety of sources, from local to national news, a network of people on the ground, and open source intelligence subscriptions such as those provided by Stratfor, the intelligence analyst can then transform that data into actionable information that the EP team can use as part of their decision-making processes.

When the EP team is preparing a detail in a specific region or locale, they rely on intelligence analysts for informative briefs that help them create optimal plans for client safety. Small or medium sized companies may not have the resources or funds to employ an intelligence analyst. Therefore, these are skills that all EP agents will need to learn during their initial executive protection courses and training.

The most significant domestic terrorism threat for the foreseeable future will be the lone actor, or “lone wolf” terrorist. They may draw ideological inspiration from a variety of sources from formal terrorist organizations, right’s groups or religious extremism, but operate on the fringes of those movements. So the question of who, what, where, when, why or how will have to be diligently researched and considered by all within an executive protection operation.

Know that it is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. By using extensive threat assessment, advance work and intelligence analysis we will be better prepared to mitigate, prevent and avoid such threats.

Ferguson – A Security Operator’s Perspective

A good friend and colleague of mine participated in a security detail during the Ferguson and St Louis riots recently. I asked him to write about his experiences in the hope that his boots-on-the-ground insights would be useful to all of us in future incidents. 

I was not disappointed. 

I believe his experience there will be useful to security operators in the future and I am happy to share his report.

By Sarge Gish, CPS

“The name Columbine is now synonymous with all school shootings just as the name Ferguson will now be associated with all civil disorder and protests”

I was asked to write an after- action report about my time in Ferguson for one of my friends who has a security blog. I felt time was on my side, since I had another detail to work shortly afterwards and the holidays were just around the corner. Little did I realize that Ferguson would be the beginning of a national period of social unrest in the country. Given the lack of moral responsibility among civilians to confront crime, resulting in destruction and mayhem, in many areas of the country the veneer of civilized behavior has been rubbed off. Unfortunately, from my point of view, I predict there will be plenty more non-peaceful protests. Currently, there are a lot individuals in this country who feel they can control or change how the rule of law is administered. I am not a Sociologist and do not intend to explain why people feel the way they do. Instead, I’ll stick with the elements of working a media protection detail.

Risk & Threat Assessment:

Being called upon to work an armed site security detail for a national security firm in St Louis the week heading into the Darren Wilson Grand Jury indictment, I had no idea what to expect. As everyone knows there were two waves of protests in the town of Ferguson and the city of St Louis.

I will refer both incidents as round 1 (Aug. & Sept. 2014) and round 2 (Nov. & Dec. 2014).

Not being on the ground for round 1, most of our risk and threat assessments were based off of intelligence from those incidents.

Our job was to evaluate one individual or group in order to make a determination whether or not the protesters had the potential to become violent against the news crews we were protecting. Also, the prevention of unintentional injury and embarrassment to the crews was a priority.

Knowing that there were viable threats in the weeks before the grand jury convened, we were better prepared to mentally plan and coordinate our moves, and equipment to bring.

The building I was securing (a major health insurance provider) was located downtown and under no immediate threat. Our intelligence indicated there was no apparent danger for the personnel there.

I had agreed to work for another security firm that was working directly in Ferguson which was associated with a local company named Triangle Sentry. This company was given the assignment of protecting Al Jazeera America and the Fox News crews.

The company is owned by and employs individuals who are ESI graduates. Being from ESI myself, I instantly recognized how much of a professional organization it is and felt comfortable with them having my back.

Advance:

I had taken the Monday afternoon of November 24th off to try and conduct reconnaissance and build intelligence data. Also, this was the day the announcement of the verdict was to be read. Little did I know that this was the night we would be able to determine a threat assessment for the rest of the week.

There was no one out on the street  in front of the Ferguson Police Department except two protesters. The coffee shop down the street was” business as usual” with the local citizens sitting around talking about the anticipation of a peaceful night and week.

Later in the evening when St Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch was to announce the decision by the grand jury, I decided to leave the downtown area, which was still relatively calm, and go eat out on the main drag of West Florissant.

As the night progressed, you could feel the tension in the air. Within hours after the decision not to indict was made public, I stood on the corner of Chambers and West Florissant and watched a Mobile convenience store get looted. Shortly thereafter, gunfire was erupting up and down the street and stores were starting to burn. I left the area immediately knowing the Walgreen’s store in front of me was going to be the next target.

My advance was done. I had seen the violence that was predicted. It was time to help out the team (Triangle Sentry), which was already protecting the news crews that were already out there.

Mission and role of the Protection Assignment:

The news crews we were attached to had about 4 teams, each consisting of a correspondent, producer, and cameraman. They were constantly on the go, navigated by a higher up who was monitoring scanners, twitter feeds, and cell phones looking for any evidence of contention.

If you’re lucky, you can ride along with them. Otherwise, you need to follow as closely in your own POV and be ready to go.

Once you arrive at the site, you must make sure all your equipment is accessible along with the rest of the crew’s. As with any job associated with security, you must walk a fine line as to what you are allowed to do. Of course, we cannot physically restrain someone or display, threaten, or use our weapons unless it becomes a last resort.

Our job is to protect.

Though you are protecting the whole crew, the cameraman will be your main priority. It is their job to make sure they get the shot for the whole world to see. They are going to go into the middle of crowds of angry protesters to get it.

It is important to be within arm’s reach at all times and have a hand on their back to control their direction and balance.

You must be able to pull them out of situations when harm is prevalent.

Between the two waves of protests a rule called the “Keep Moving “ rule was implemented by the St. Louis County police, which prevented people, including the media, from standing still under threat of arrest. An injunction was issued by a Federal District Judge against the practice. But it was widely used during the 2nd round. It was our job to make sure our crews did not fall into that rule.

Unfortunately, one of the security contractors can testify to this. As I mentioned the importance of close contact with the cameraman, he was just far enough away to get caught up in what I call a police line rush into the crowd. Once taken down, they discovered his armored vest and firearm.

Though he was eventually released, he was initially arrested and spent the night in jail.

Planning and Preparation:

Equipment for this kind of violent civil unrest was crucial and must be in quality shape. It was important that all of us were dressed in civilian clothes to blend in with the protestors. So all concealment was vital.

There was no restriction on the type of firearm we could carry, but I would recommend a lighter caliber (9mm or 40) due to the constant movement in and out of vehicles and locations.

Concealable body armor is also essential with a minimum level III certification.

There was a lot of gunfire the first couple of days. But I also witnessed several knives on belts in the crowds as well.

I had a can of Sabre 3 & 1 pepper spray on my belt, which I planned on using for first use of force if needed. Unfortunately, I did not have the one piece of equipment that would have been helpful: a protective mask.

I noticed right away all the news crews had them. I was under the impression that I would not

need one until I got tear gassed, not once, but twice.

You do not need a military style mask, however. A common household cleaning respirator is sufficient.

Mental preparation is essential in being able to accomplish the task of protecting the media. You are dealing with unimaginable hatred by individuals who have no conscience as to what they are saying or destroying.

A prime example of this would be the security contractor I was working with. I’ll describe him as late twenties, reservist police officer from rural Ohio who never had to deal with this type of situation. His training was focused to serve and protect the citizens of his jurisdiction with any means possible, including use of force.

Unfortunately the morning after all the devastation from the first night, a group of black individuals confronted the Aljazeera news crew he was protecting demanding they go home. Thankfully, a St Louis County patrol came by to break up the demonstrators. He felt vulnerable and unprepared to deal with situation.

He went home that night.

The ability to maintain confidentiality with the news media is as important as having a firearm on your side. I noticed the Fox cameramen would take their logos off the cameras before we would go out. I wasn’t aware of such hatred towards them until hearing the verbal abuses directed about them in the crowds.

Also, I found it was important to let some in the crowd know you are with the media, just not what your specific role was.

A good example of this is when a large group of white and black individuals thought I was law enforcement. I was working with the Fox crew one night and the cameraman had struck up a relationship with one of the higher ranking (Capt.) Missouri State Police Officers during round 1. The Captain ( who I will not give out the name) pulled into the parking lot we were in with his patrol vehicle to give us a update as to what the night looked like. Unfortunately, the parking lot was in front of the Ferguson police station where all the protesters where.

They had seen us talking to him. They automatically assumed I was a cop assigned to the crew.

We left.

Lessons Learned:

The ability to protect principals in an unpredictable crowd is a skill that must be practiced before execution. The majority of private security contractors are current or prior military or law enforcement and have had experience with unruly crowds. Not only is it a constantly changing dynamic of violence, but also a show of embarrassing actions, directed at organizations and businesses that protesters are affecting. So it is important that we, in the security industry, constantly prepare ourselves and study the ever- growing changes in the world of social and civil disobedience and protests.

We must assure ourselves at all times that we are appropriate while working media protection. And, most often, appropriateness is determined by a threat assessment and preparation.

As Rick Colliver states in his book Principal Protection: Lessons Learned, it is important to remember diplomacy, alertness, and professionalism.

An inappropriate response to a situation is the fastest way to unemployment.

In the future we hope there will be ongoing discussions of media protection for management and increased planning. My recommendation for anyone who works these details is to be involved with the discussions and participate

Screenshot 2015-01-09 at 14.26.08

– Fox News crew with Producer, Cameraman, Correspondent, and Myself

Chatham House Rules

As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”. Unfortunately for those that were not able to attend this year’s International Executive Protection and Secure Transportation Conference, specific details about the event will remain under Chatham House Rules.

What I will say about it is that it was an extraordinary networking and educational experience. The speakers presented well thought out, pertinent and, in some cases, eye opening information. From international  threats to trends in the expanding role of corporate executive protection, the conference provided exceptional insight into a changing domestic and international environment.

Unlike educational lectures, the purpose of the conference was collaboration. As such the attendees talked at length about their personal experiences and tactics and offered up suggestions on how to improve operations.

There was an impressive array of professionals in attendance from heads of security for major corporations to representatives of the healthcare and commercial drone industries. The international community was well represented as well with professionals in attendance who span the globe. From North America to Europe, Australia to Israel, nearly every operational region was represented and the networking opportunities endless.

Next year, the conference will be in Florida and I encourage any professional within the security, loss prevention and protection industries to attend, if for no other reason than the presentations by selected speakers were well prepared, informative and relevant.

Welcome to my Blog.

Thank you for reading my blog. I plan on updating this site regularly with information and opinion regarding the security industry, international affairs and political pieces. Also, I will have a separate page which will serve as a database for pieces I have written in pursuit of my degree. I will periodically update this with personal information and happenings.Thanks again and I will post shortly!

via A Brief Overview.