The protective agent abroad
In many third world environments a combination of poverty, corruption, organized (and unorganized) crime makes operating conditions for western multi-national organizations fraught with difficulties and sometimes dangerous. However, it isn’t necessary for the environment to be threatening for companies and their senior people to require advice and protection.
A distinction needs to be made between body-guarding in general and the work of executive protection in particular. Competence in a comprehensive range of combative skills is essential and maintenance of those skills a necessity, but in terms of importance in corporate security, they come well down the list: Going about equipped with a range of weaponry, handcuffs, and specially designed suits to conceal a range of covert kit is just not the real world of protection.
The protective services world is about management, logistics, detailed planning, detailed advance work, and the ability to operate amongst the most senior people of international business, without intruding on them, and without your actions drawing attention to them.
There are certain places in the world where, given the potential level of threat, a protective detail may need to be armed. But the people who are armed will be the indigenous security personnel escort team members. Often they will be off-duty police officers licensed to carry weapons. It is the height of folly to carry a weapon in a foreign country, irrespective of who has authorized it: The person who jails you for carrying one may have more authority than the one who approved it.
Most EP details follow a similar formula. The CEO of a multi-national operation, probably American in origin, is making a trip to one or more countries, to visit his company’s operations there. The individual whilst in the States faces no threat, but the combination of the third world environment, anti-U.S. sentiment, and the profile of the visit justify security planning for the visit.
The company’s head of security, or the protective detail team leader, will be charged with organizing the operation, usually at arm’s length, by contracting with an agency he has used before and who themselves have a network of international links through which local manpower and material can be supplied, or by utilizing his own contacts in the country to be visited.
The reality is that often all that is required is one or two operators who will carry out all the planning, detailed advance planning, liaison work and ultimately act as the personal bodyguard to the principal. In any foreign country you need local drivers and people who are familiar with the environment.
The initial brief will be just that – brief – and is likely to contain little more than the dates (which will invariably change) and the resources felt to be appropriate (which will also change).
In the textbook world of protective work, the tasks would be the security advances, which includes the detailed planning and pre-visits that go into any travel arrangements. As with any operation, advances are budget driven, but if the threat demands and budget is no deterrent, then the stages are as follows:
• Pre-advances (planning stage)
• Trip advances (arrangement finalization)
• Visit advances (immediately before the party arrives)
The aim of the above is:
• To avoid all surprises
• Plan contingencies
• Avoidance of hazards and vulnerable situations
The object of the advance is:
• To arrange all accommodation
• Transport arrangements
• Special events arrangements
• Security and law enforcement liaison
• Assessment of emergency / evacuation services
It has to be remembered that in the preparation stage you have a tradeoff of having to disclose the identity of the principle. Often you will not get the best of what is available, particularly with hotels, unless they believe that the visitor is truly a VIP. If the company you are working for has an operation on the ground you will be working in close liaison with them, which in the majority of cases will be a positive experience. However, their imperatives in organizing affairs may be in direct conflict with your requirements, both in terms of security and in what is possible to achieve in a trip of only a few days.
You might have to be firm though, even to the point of taking matters out of local corporate hands if they are too much at odds with your requirements.
• The advance should evolve as follows:
• Pre-departure preparations
• Initial duties on arrival
• Transportation arrangements
• Site surveys and route reconnaissance
• Emergency services
With the pre-departure plans we have three broad areas of work to do:
Collect information – Itineraries, dates, times, type of visit, numbers in party, special VIP and medical requirements (if any), proposed transportation, and accommodations, preliminary threat assessment and threat category, visa requirements, immunization needs, language and country data, account billing.
Contacts by telephone – Corporate, either multinational or local security company. Accommodations – hotel or residence. Transportation – ground, air, or other, and vehicle rental or supply. Police or government agencies if personally known or utilized.
Try to make as many appointments as possible by phone (with fax confirmation) before you leave, with all of the above. It is surprising to find that in many third world countries it can prove more difficult to speak to someone on a local land line, when they may be only one mile from your hotel, than it is to speak internationally when you are many thousands of miles away. So if you know that the local communications infrastructure is not good, then make the appointments before you leave. At a minimum, get the names of the people you will need to see when you arrive.
Plan itinerary for the advance: Prioritize tasks, prepare survey itinerary, prepare checklist of all questions, queries, intelligence required. etc.
From bitter experience I will tell you never to believe anything anyone tells you about how something will happen, without interrogating people in detail about the procedure. Doing a route reconnaissance in Paris or in Mexico City on a Sunday gives no impression as to what the traffic is going to be like on Monday at 0830. In some countries people will tell you what they think you want to hear in response to any question, knowing full well that when it doesn’t work, they won’t be around or on duty anyway.
Of course there are assignments, mainly in Europe, which go off without a hitch, but it is because we leave no stone unturned in brainstorming what could go wrong, however remote, and then putting in place a contingency arrangement. It is the contingency planning that is so critical.
Time constraints, budget restrictions, lack of resources, and client imperatives have far more impact on how we are able to do the job than the threat ever does.