Covert Executive Protection
Whether within the US or on the streets of Bangkok, while protection may be required, overt bodyguards or close protection equipment may not suit the purpose of travel. Certain clientele want low-key protection, not wanting the attention that comes from having an open computer nearby at all times. Sometimes having an open team can highlight status and make someone a target where they may not have been before. At some point there is a higher level of risk and additional protection is required. Whatever the reason, there are instances where covert executive protection can serve as a highly effective “close protection” tool that regularly provides and exceeds necessary and required security.
Covert executive protection is obtained through the use of protective surveillance equipment. Protective surveillance is the creation of a discreet security team around an individual or group. Typically comprised of highly trained and experienced undercover 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 client safety.
1. Counter surveillance
2. Protective intelligence
3. Protective security duties
4. Quick reaction force
5. Medical emergency
1.) Counter surveillance
The Protective Surveillance Team (PST) would keep an eye on whoever may be watching the client. Their main objective is to occupy or control areas that would be used by hostile individuals or groups. Through their skill set and experience, they would remain undercover, identifying and assessing any threat to the client.
What is counter surveillance? It is the process by which a third party performs actions in order to covertly identify if an individual is being persecuted and by whom.
Many people ask why people would 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 do they have, their strengths and weaknesses. What are the opportunities and threats? A hostile surveillance team will try to answer all of 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.
Surveillance can range from the crude, brief surveillance that a random assailant or attacker might use just prior to their hostile action, or the extensive, professional, high-level surveillance that potential hijackers might carry out.
Early identification of threats is vital to ensure time to react. If one has time to react, the chances of a favorable outcome increase dramatically. It’s just action vs. reaction. Any aggressive force with the advantage of surprise and tactical planning has a better chance of success. Your action occurs at the time of your choice. Very few attackers will attack if they don’t feel they have the upper hand, they do so at a time of their choosing, this is likely the result of a planned operation.
If hostiles undertake pre-attack surveillance, the PST will single them out, identify the risk, and then react accordingly by doing some or all of the following:
• If the threat is perceived to be imminent, the PST can react accordingly as trained close protection officers. Provide security to the client and distance him from the threat.
• Approach the client, informing him of the threat and extracting him to a safe place in a controlled and covert manner.
• Try to shadow the hostile surveillance team to gather intelligence on them so that the necessary authorities can comprehensively deal with and extinguish the threat. All this guaranteeing total security and protection to the client.
2.) Protective Intelligence
Protection Intelligence is the other vital tool in protecting an individual or group and is the process by which the PST identifies, investigates and analyzes threats to the client.
This is a constant process that starts from the beginning of the task and flows to the end. Both before and during the trip, the PST will anticipate threats and analyze the risk. Advance 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 protection intelligence that the PST’s protection security duties can be shaped and adapted to ensure the highest level of security and protection is provided to the customer.
3.) Protective Security Duties
Protective surveillance teams consist of highly trained personal protection officers. Although not in their usual ‘Bodyguard’ role, they still operate with the sole intention of keeping the client safe from harm. The very nature of protective surveillance requires that the team blend in with its surroundings without being noticed by any hostile surveillance. This, in turn, provides a greater chance for hostiles to drop their guard and show themselves through their actions or reactions. However, this means that the PST will be at a greater distance from the client than a normal close protection team would be.
Thus, they would not be walking next to a customer where the “relationship” could be easily identified, but rather would be in close proximity. Close enough to react if a threat is presented, yet far enough away to remain low profile and allow the client to get on with their lives without the attention of a ‘bodyguard team’.
The protection security duties of a PST are exactly the same as those of a close protection team just without the close proximity and open nature. Their raison d’être, their entire purpose and focus is to ensure the safety of the client (and if applicable, their family) at all times. The PST would be dedicated to this, using their skills and experience to ensure that they come to no harm.
A precise definition of close protection is:
The close protection role encompasses ALL aspects of protective measures working together: physical and technical combined with ongoing careful planning and robust operational procedures to negate/minimize the risk or threat of risk of killing/injuring/or harm another person in any way.
Richard J Aitch: Close Protection: A Closer Look at the Protection Equation. 2012
This definition mentions all aspects of protective measures that work together: Physical and technical. We just touched on the physical side of things. What about the technique? There are certain technical security solutions that, when used effectively, can help in the overall security of the client.
Sweeping technical surveillance and countermeasures they are vital in ensuring that hostiles do not gain access to restricted and sensitive information. Maps, routes, itineraries and meetings must 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 her family may wish to be tracked and monitored using covert methods to assist in the event of a kidnapping or abduction. If a security team can react quickly and effectively to a threat, the chances of a favorable outcome are much more likely. Hotels can be more effectively secured 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 the same thing as its namesake; it is a force (in this case the Protective Surveillance Team) capable of reacting quickly in an emergency. The covert nature of the team would be ignored in extreme moments to act as an emergency support team. Whether as an assault team, medical support team, or extraction team. The fact that they would be undercover until the very last moment provides an additional level of advantage that surprises any hostile individual or group, placing them in the rear.
5.) Medical emergency
A protective surveillance team should have at least one qualified and experienced physician with access to a full trauma medical kit. Thus allowing 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 increase dramatically if timely and effective medical care is provided.
Covert executive protection without the knowledge of the protector
Another form of covert protection can be used without the client knowing that they are being protected. It is often used in cases of spouses or children who may be at risk of abduction or kidnapping but are unaware of the risk for whatever reason, or guardians require a greater degree of reassurance. High net worth individuals and celebrities, for example, may have close protection equipment, but their children or partners don’t and don’t want to. However, the risk still exists. Kidnapping and kidnapping are a major risk for these people.
Although it does not provide the level of protection that a Close Protection Team perfectly fits this requirement, it allows a spouse or parent to have peace of mind knowing that their loved one is being watched and protected by a highly professional team.
Executive protection, close protection, protective surveillance, bodyguard, whatever terminology is used, one constant always remains; that each customer will have unique requirements and that every security detail must be tailored to them. As mentioned above, the sole focus, the raison d’être of any security detail, no matter how understood, is customer health, safety and security as its top priority.