How important are surveillance skills for close protection officers?
In my opinion quality counter and anti surveillance is the best defence against hostile action and in many cases it’s the ONLY defence.
Any hostile act, from low-level street crime to sophisticated kidnap or assassination plots will be preceded by some form of surveillance activity.
There have been several cases in which high profile principals have been killed or kidnapped, often while under the protection of professional and well-trained teams. When looking at these cases in hindsight it becomes apparent that a lack of counter surveillance was a major factor in the successful execution of the hostile group’s plan.
Let us take for example the infamous case of Alfred Herrhausen, the former chairman of Deutsche Bank in the 1980s.
Herrhausen was assassinated in a sophisticated roadside bomb attack, which was planned and executed by the Red Army Faction (often referred to as the Baader Meinhof Group).
Herrhausen routinely travelled in a three-car convoy, sitting in the number two vehicle, an armoured Mercedes. The lead and rear cars contained a well-trained and armed security team.
The 7kg, shaped charge device had been placed in the saddlebag of a bicycle chained to railings close to Herrhausen’s residence. It was then linked to an infrared trigger across the road and a command wire-arming switch controlled by an observer in a nearby park to ensure that is was the number two vehicle containing the target that initiated the device.
The level of sophistication and the pinpoint accuracy with which the Red Army team carried out the attack indicates a high level of intensive surveillance activity in close proximity to Herrhausen’s residence. In fact there was almost three months of surveillance and activity leading up to the event. Including members of the team posing as road workers in order to dig up the pavement to lay the trigger device.
Many of you will already be aware of the hostile planning cycle, which in my opinion should be covered on any Close Protection or security course. For those of you who haven’t come across it before, it breaks down the stages of planning used by criminal or terrorist groups to plan and execute a hostile act.
The stages are as follow.
1. Broad Target Selection and initial low-level surveillance
This is when the group will use media, open source intelligence and informants (unwitting or otherwise) to select targets that meet the aims of the group, from either a financial or ideological standpoint
2. Target selection and intense high-level surveillance
Once the group has selected a target that meets its aims, there will be a period of high-level surveillance in which they will observe routines, security measures, modes of transport etc.
3. Planning and rehearsal
As professional terrorists or criminals very little will be left to chance and much like military ops there will be a period of planning and rehearsal. We have all seen the chilling CCTV footage of the 7/7 bombers with rucksacks on planning their routes in and around London prior to the attack. Once the operation gets to this point it can be very difficult if not impossible to counter.
4. Pre – attack
Momentum has now built to a point where weapons or devices will be moved into position. The team will be prepared and ready to move.
If the planning has been thorough as in the case of Herrhausen, then by this point the security team will have little chance to counter the attack.
In the case of Herrhausen the Red Army team had to overcome two main obstacles in order to make the hit.
- Herrhausen had a professional and armed team
- He travelled in an armoured vehicle as part of a convoy
By observing his, and his team’s routines they were able to execute what was actually the first recorded incidence of a roadside bomb being used to successfully assassinate a target, leaving his security team unscathed in undamaged vehicles either side of their boss.
However with some basic counter and anti surveillance the security team could have uncovered this plot in the planning phase or made this method of attack far more difficult to carry out. For instance simply moving Herrhausen’s vehicle position in the convoy on a random basis could have lowered the RAF’s chance of success with the roadside bomb to only 33 percent, odds that may well have forced them to re-think their attack strategy.
In order to carry out effective counter surveillance you need to be able to understand surveillance, which is why the Galahad Associates Close Protection Operators course contains a full surveillance package, leading to the award of a Level 3 certificate in covert surveillance operations. This not only makes you a more effective CPO, but also opens up the world of surveillance as a potential alternative source of income whilst offering savings over the cost of taking the courses separately.
A huge amount of thought and experience has gone into the development of our course. The extra modules aren’t marketing gimmicks, but rather essential skills required to be able to keep your principal safe wherever he or she decides to travel.
That is the reason our course runs over 26 days
For more information on our course please visit us at
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