Author : Krisztian Zerkowitz Korenstraat 25 C 3321 Hoegaarden Belgium
Titel : 4 Elements in Close Protection, The unforseen threat, and how it boils down to training
Date : 01 October 2009
4 Elements in Close Protection, The unforseen threat and how it boils down to Training
« When training is all you have »
The author, right, and his buddy ready to roll into Somalia with a « package »
Krisztian Zerkowitz 01 October 2009
Brussels – Belgium
Some Words To Start With
It has to be known. While writing this, I’m only 29 years old, going on 30. In my profession, very young. In general, very young. So, when you are reading this thesis, do not think that you are actually going to find any secrets or discover the ‘aha’ factor of close protection. I do not claim to know this. However, I will be able to shed some light on the differences and the finesses of close protection from a civil point of view compared with the official bodies providing close protection. Once somebody told me, that you may call yourself a fully studied and graduated close protection officer once you spend your entire life in the field, without ever losing a client, and at the end of your carrier you retire. But while you are on the field you are constantly learning, discovering and making good what others might have screwed up. So, being as young as I am, I will have to base my knowledge on what I have seen, trained for and witnessed. But not only that. Due to my background, I have travelled a lot and my parents have given me several gifts. One of them are my language skills. With the amount of languages I speak I could actually become a translator and earn my money the easy way. But that is not who I am. Even when I was a youngster, on holiday in Chamonix Mt. Blanc France with my parents, I used to carry 1 meter of rope, a couple of band aids and water to support the entire family. I live for security. I get up in the morning and lay down to sleep with security. It has become more than a job, it is a way of life. In my modest opinion, the only way to do this. There you go. That might be the secret, Close Protection is a way of life. Something you breath, exhale and take with you in your love life. It may not be considered as a job, because sooner or later something will get messed up. Consider it as your life, and you will always be ahead to avoid all mishaps. It is more complicated than this, but it is a very good base to start with. I started with this lifestyle when I carried the meter rope around and today I carry my back up weapon around the same way. My mindset has always been for safety, because I truly believed to save lives with my band aids, and today I carry around my C.A.T (Combat Application Tourniquet), believing the same thing.
Author carrying a TCCC kit while in operation. The kit has all medical equipment to treat massive bleedings and penatrating trauma. Medical training is a minimum requirement for all close protection operatives, or at least it should be !
Element 1. Two-way communication and the professionalism and efficiency of public security.
Strolling through the center of Brussels today my mind wandered off as my wife was shopping. I started an incognito surveillance of the security staff present in the mall, the different stores and the public areas. Of course, it was not all that hard to pick them out of the crowd, as they all wear clothing portraying the company they work for. This of course is done deliberately, if only to show the competition who is working where. More importantly, the clothing shows possible ‘threats’ that security is present and that somebody is keeping an eye out. With the law on security being very strict in Belgium, everybody is aware of the fact that security officers can not do much in case of a crime, but, nevertheless the men and women in the field do a good job. They show the public that somebody cares, that somebody is there to assist and in this they do succeed. The security officers are also trained in basic firefighting skills, first aid and most of them have the ‘spirit’ to actively help the emergency services if this is required. So in fact, security officers in public places are present and ready to act in case something goes wrong. If this ‘something’ is in their job description or not, there are countless stories where officers help in emergencies or in prevention of crime that doesn’t belong in their job description. It belonged to their human duty, and as well trained officers, they were able to react proportionally, adequately and efficiently. What I also noticed, was, that the different ‘companies’ were all wearing two-way communications material. The agents were all in touch via some kind of communication method, be it radio or cell phone. Of course, a means of communication is a basic tool for the security officer. As the joke goes, “what is the difference between a cop and a security officer?” answer: “ The cop gets 1 year training, a radio and a gun… The security officer gets 1 week of training, a flashlight and a notebook… “ Communication is good, it is much needed and it helps coordinate the safety and the security of large public areas such as shopping malls, train stations, airports etc. In case of a fire, big medical emergencies or more recently a terrorist threat, the fact that security officers could communicate and coordinate through radio was a big advantage. But, this advantage, and the advantages that could be provided by this are rendered negligible because of a lack of training, cooperation and use of the right equipment. I will explain why.
First of all, none of the security companies work together. This means, that when radio traffic occurs, the only ones hearing it are the agents of the same company, using the same frequency and code, preprogrammed for the specific two-way radios. As I said, a large public area, with ‘different’ customers for different security companies all have their own men roaming the ‘same’ terrain. Basically they all provide security for the same area, but their job description limits them to ‘customer’ borders. In case of a fire, greater medical emergency or terrorist threat, communication between the different ‘customer’ borders is not possible. This limits the efficiency of help that the security officers can provide. Even though the south wing of the mall is under terrorist attack, think of chemical gas, physical attack, siege or whatever terrorists can think of, security officers can not warn their ‘colleagues’ on the north side, because they don’t have the means to communicate. Some companies have chosen for the mobile phone as the means of communication. Effective in some cases, because everybody knows how to use one and line of communication is not limited by range. However, in case of a major disaster, the GSM network is the first to go. The risk of loosing network due to heavy usage is pretty big. Even though that these days, the GSM networks are very well provided for, the risk still exists. Also, agents that use the two-way radio system, might not have a cell phone, or the cell phone number for the agents working for a ‘competing’ company. Cell phones also have the limitation that only man to man communication is possible and so, with one call, you can’t reach everybody. (What about an all stations SMS??) The problem that is caused by a lack of communication has been demonstrated during the 9/11 attacks in the US. Police departments, Fire Departments, Medical Emergency Providers and even departments between themselves found out in an extremely painful way, that due to the lack of decent equipment, training and procedures, nobody could communicate, orders were not followed up as they were not received and lives were lost. In our case, security people and organizations have no common means of communication. If serious terrorist attacks were to hit, valuable personnel, people on the scene, our first responders, would be left without communication. Organization and planning would be out of the window. People might be doing unnecessary tasks, or tasks that cause a danger. Even though that others might already have information that could prevent possible problems. Technically, it is very well possible to provide private security forces with equipment that is ready to provide all round communication. It is the attitude that needs to change. Security should not be seen as a profit center, it should be seen as an effort to improve public safety, with all means possible. Cooperation should be promoted, attitude of lawmakers needs to change. On the other hand, providing tools is not enough, the proper training and exercise for security professionals needs to be enhanced. Security is not a job, it’s a calling and people should be trained accordingly. Certainly when it comes to communication. People already have a problem communicating, certainly under stress scenarios, without visual contact and through equipment that we don’t use every day.
In any case, it is something that needs to be evaluated and thought about. Unfortunately the risk of security threats will only increase. If we can react now, by improving basic needs like communication, we can already be a step ahead. Remember: “There are two types of radios: Type 1: Radios that work, Type 2: radios that don’t work. When going out to the field, make sure you ALWAYS have radio type 1!”
Communication is two directional, sender and receiver…. You can shout all you want, if there is no confirmation, you are not communicating.
Self defense: not just techniques, a way of life
When most people consider self-defense as a sport or a way to pass time, it is usually because they have had an experience after which they decided to 'google' self defense' in order to prevent the same experience from happening again. This experience is usually not a good one, and for this, for most people self defense courses come too late. When discussing self-defense, or 'googling' self-defense, the most reoccurring images are techniques on how to use your body as a means of 'escape' from attacks. Mostly simple techniques, that do not require a lot of muscle, practice or years of Martial Arts experience. When people see this, immediately they are attracted. Why spend years in 'karate' school if a seminar in self defense can teach these techniques effectively? This is where most people are wrong, and also, why real Martial Arts experts and people serious about security train themselves day in day out, year after year. Even military personnel and law enforcement officers make sure that in their spare time, they practice a certain Martial Art, at least those serious about defending the public AND themselves. The 'self-defense' course during basic training just doesn't cut in on the street. Unfortunately, this experience usually comes too late. If 'self-defense' were a simple chain of events that could be practiced, link after link and then hooking everything together, the people of the public would feel much safer and the sales of self-defense material such as pepper sprays etc. would go down considerably. Although some schools advertise their courses as a 1-2-3 seminar on self defense and a lot of people fall for it, the 1-2-3 way simple doesn't work. Of course you can teach people how to 'figure-four' an arm, how to use your arms against attacks to the throat, show where the pressure points are or even how to temporarily take out a 120 KG weighing attacker. And yes, everybody will be capable of demonstrating these techniques in a simulated environment. But this doesn't mean that you know how to defend yourself. Here is why. 'Self-defense' is not only the techniques that we can show you. It is not only muscle and tips-andtricks, it is an attitude. Self-defense starts in the morning when you get up and you take it with you to bed. Self-defense is also tactics, ways of motion and psychology towards your attacker or even possible attacker. Although we like to believe that we are very different from animals, when it comes to our primal fears (in this case being attacked, or having to resort to self-defense) we are mammals just like any other. We smell fear, we 'see' much more when looking into some bodies’ eyes and the 'non'-verbal communication becomes a vital element. These non-verbal signs that we emit, the smell of fear that radiates from us and the way we position our body, are all determined by character, for a part, but for a greater part by the way we have played or trained. By saying played, I refer to the mammals again. When tiger or lion cubs play they always play 'who is boss'. The fight, scratch and show their claws and teeth in practice of what is to come, real life. By saying trained, I refer to us, humans. Nowadays, we don't play like we used to
when we were still living in caves and hunting for our women with clubs. Our primal instincts have been diminuated and have made place using our brain to control the play station. For this reason, training and Martial Arts have taken over our practice. Practicing and going to the club twice a week to 'play' with each other, to simulate items that we might or might not encounter and rehearse everything we have seen a couple of weeks ago, condition our brains. These sessions change the way we think, add to our self confidence and make us aware of our skills and weaknesses. Not to mention the conditioning of the 'unexpected'. When training real life based scenarios, the brain will automatically react when faced with it in reality. It has seen the scenario somewhere, it has learned what to do and it reacts adequately. It doesn't react prime orderly, it reacts as it was trained, defending itself but this time effectively instead of instinctively. Don't get me wrong, in a previous article you can read how some techniques can become instincts, and this is good and needed to use the acquired skills in combat, however, the instincts of an untrained person, are not adequate to defend him or her from an attack. So this is reason one why training and continuous training is so important and the 1-2-3 method doesn't work. The second reason is easier. An aspect that is usually forgotten by 'self-defense' instructors is the tactical part of 'self-defense'. Things like body placement, averting aggressively by using the right amount of body language, playing with the attackers 'personal-space' etc. are very important aspects. Things that can lead to averting a possible hostile situation without using aggressive or defensive skills. Now, these tactical items can be easily explained during a day course. Most people will even remember most parts of it when the need for 'self-defense' arises. However, having seen the practical part is different from using it. If not practiced enough, if not put to the test using live based scenarios, these tactical skills will not work. Another reason why, continuous training in 'self-defense' is so important. Although the 'techniques' are so easy to learn, so easy to demonstrate, putting them to practice with somebody who means it is something else. That requires confidence in what we do, confidence in ourselves and confidence in our ability to outsmart our attacker. Everybody will agree to the fact, that just like Rome, confidence isn't built in a day. It demands training and time, and failure and victory to build. So if you want to learn to defend yourself, or your family, friends or country, make sure you choose the right school. There is no such thing as an easy fix; you will have to work for every inch of progress but this way, at least not only your 'self-defense' skills will grow, but also your confidence, strength, stamina and social skills.
A very smart person and an expert in different Martial Arts, who happens to be my instructor once said: 'You can't win a fight, if you are not ready to fight. Now drop it and give me 50. ' Reading this article will not make you a fighter, I just hope it has given you some motivation to start training today, for the fight of tomorrow.
Self Defense training in a gym in Belgium. Training is essential to become efficient in everything you do.
The Need for Training and a Sixth Sense Called « habit » in Executive Protection
During my career in the security industry, I have gone through a fair amount of training. Mainly executive protection and counter terrorism operations. In my endeavor to become a true specialist I also let myself be guided by the expertise of the close combat instructors at Commando Close Combat Europe to enhance my self defense skills. Although all trainings were unique in their approach to the subject there was one thing I found to be common in all of them. Everybody is subject to a very powerful sixth sense: habit, and although this sixth sense will become the mighty sword for the executive protection agent, in the beginning it is also what will make him subject to a lot of misery. Simply because habit is the sixth sense that overpowers the 5 others. Executive protection training courses attract a certain crowd. Mostly former military or law enforcement personnel seeking a carrier outside the uniformed services, attracted by better money, independence and excitement. Another group is the young security ‘professional’ that wishes to establish a carrier in executive protection or high risk environments. One thing that all these people have in common is previous training and experience in hostile situations. An advantage during the executive protection training, or maybe not? When I started my training with Commando Close Combat reality hit me hard, in the shape of a boxing glove because my guard was down. Soon I realized that although I had had training in self defense techniques this was something new, something I was not prepared for, or was prepared for in the wrong way. Something had to change, my habits. Another example for the same thing was a group of US Marines that I had the pleasure with to participate in an EP course. These men were tough, highly trained and experts in most fields of combat, armed or unarmed. Just by the look in their eyes I would have put my life in their hands because it was clear these men were ready to protect. For example one of the guys came to the course because he thought that with his curriculum this was the logical career choice. (The curriculum for this guy was short but to the point: “I shoot like the best, take apart a gun and put it back together in 10 seconds flat and run like the wind”) My thoughts were turned around in no time, after the entire protective detail, me as a VIP, were killed during the first protection detail exercise. Why did the exercise end so badly? Because habits were broken and the men had to rely on the 5 other instincts making all previous training almost irrelevant. It was made clear to me, that Executive Protection is an art, for which you need to train and which needs to become a lifestyle something embedded so deep that it becomes a habit. And at this point comes the breaking point, because a real professional isn’t just an agent with the right set of habits,
but one that has got the right set of habits without being a slave to those habits. The right training can provide this. When analyzing habit, the Columbia Encyclopedia refers to it as: The instinctive actions of animals, in our case humans. Webster dictionary says: A behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. In other words, a habit is something that makes us perform actions and have reactions out of instinct making decision making faster, easier and more effective. Again my Close Combat training pointed this out, painfully but very clearly. When a person is attacked their instinct will provide protection to the most vulnerable areas, the head. Or, as my instructor would call it, the computer. Raised hands and arms protecting the head. Or cramping up, turning oneself into as small of an object as possible. This might seem to be an effective way of protection and our nature, or habit for protection might be right. In an executive protection position however this would be very wrong. Also, against an opponent skilled in martial arts this type of defense would just not be efficient. This is the exact reason why training, the right kind of training is so important. Not only is the subject of training very important the way of training just as well. As shown above, the US Marines were trained. They had received extensive training and professional training in their field but this failed to help them in the executive protection environment. When going over the curriculum of EP schools the main topics are the same. Most schools offer weapons training, some form of self defense (mostly Krav Maga, the Israeli Art of Self Defense, Hebrew for contact combat), evasive and offensive driving and some protection detail protocols. Most schools offer the training and certification during a two week / 14 day course. All topics are covered, a lot of shooting is done and some basic skills of the EP agent are demonstrated. Students get the opportunity to practice some of these skills and are certified after completing an exam. Skills that are mostly handled very well by the students are the skills that are completely new to the students. The reason for this is easy. None of the students have the habit of shooting, using the point shooting techniques, taking cover etc. And the student for whom these skills are not new, just practice a skill they already had. For example during my EP course, the Marines had no problem handling the 9 mm handgun or the MP5 submachine gun. They knew this and the techniques were not all that different from their training. The students for whom these actions were totally new were conditioned easily and habits were created. There was no need to overwrite existing habits, just setting up new ones. The real difficulty comes when existing habits need to be changed. You might argue that non-EP people don’t have ANY habits needed for the job. This is where you and most schools are wrong however. The simplest things like walking, kneeling, opening doors, entering buildings, going to dinner and choosing seating arrangements, looking around and even ‘seeing’ are skills that the EP agent deals with daily. These are skills that everybody has a habit of doing. When becoming an EP agent however, all these habits need to change because to be able to do the job right it all needs to
be done differently. Nobody can change habits that have been instinctively embedded into the human mind since birth, in two weeks. Extensive training, the right way of training and CONSTANT training is needed to in the end turn ‘human’ habits into EP agent habits. Again I would like to refer to my Close Combat training. By the way, close combat is a very important part of the EP agents training. It makes you stronger physically but also mentally. It sharpens your senses and in time also your sixth sense, habit. It gives self confidence and a well trained close combat artist radiates a vibe creating a protective circle around the agent and everybody under his protection. A circle that will avoid unnecessary possible threats just by appearance. Back to my reference. When I started the Close Combat training, I would back up when attacked. A normal reaction, avoidance. This only resulted in a 2 second delay of my defeat as my opponent would catch up and in the end force me into defeat anyway During the course, this habit had to be changed. I learned and was demonstrated over and over again that closing in on my attacker is a better technique. By practice (twice a week, 2 hours per course for month and month) my habits slowly started to change. Until one day I noticed that when during a friendly struggle with my girlfriend, I moved towards here when she tried to slap me and her arm got gridlocked into mine. Now, this kind of play is out of the question, my habits have changed and my automatic, instinctive reaction is a counter attack instead of avoidance. For an EP agent, not only the self defense habits have to change. The way of walking, backing up, kneeling and all other things mentioned above have to change. To do this, constant training is needed and more importantly the right kind of training. Concentrating on carving an EP agent out of a day to day person rather than on demonstrating skills that ‘should’ be possessed by the agent. Executive Protection is not a job or an acquired skill during training; it is a lifestyle, a way of living, a habit. Once it has become a habit, the EP agent spends the rest of his life sharpening the other 5 instincts not to become a slave of the sixth instinct.
I'm armed, what could go wrong?
In fact, it is so obvious. Search 'google' for bodyguard courses and focus on promotional videos posted by the different companies providing the service. Mostly, the first thing you see is a firing range, students in position and drawing, loading and firing in some tactical manner. As the video continues, people demonstrate firing techniques from moving vehicles, in crowds, while wounded etc. If you search for PSDO courses it gets even heavier, as all students are armed with M4 or MP5 rifles, side strapped with what appears to be a 9mm mostly Glock. Why is it that most schools portray the bodyguard armed with a firing-weapon, it seems as if all students become excellent marksmen and also, you might get the illusion that after finishing the course, your concealed carry license is provided with the certificate. What is wrong with this and if anything, why do schools still portray this picture of a bodyguard? Imagine the time when we all were young and we played in cowboy and Indian in the backyard of the neighbors' kids. When you could choose, being a cowboy was so much more appealing then being the Indian. As a cowboy, you would have a pistol as your arm against the 'redskins'. Instead of having the bow and arrow, or if that wasn't available, excellent hatchet skills. As strange as it might seem, this is the reason why bodyguard schools arm their students and teach them to use the firearm. It makes people feel tough, it makes you feel invincible and it gives you the feeling of power. In a way, those feelings are right. It does give you some sort of power, it does allow you a point of advantage in certain situation, but in reality, the firearm weakens you. Here is why. Carrying a firearm in most European countries is something that has been limited to Police, Military and Secret Service agencies. Some private security companies have permits to carry firearms, like value transport companies, companies guarding high risk government complexes and some offering Close Protection. However not many companies opt to do this as it is a legal paperwork nightmare and not enough agents have been trained according to local legislation to carry an arm. Because of this, many people comment on centre European Close Protection as being minimum to non existent for private companies as almost nobody is allowed to carry guns so what is the point.
In my training, being military or the civil body guarding course, I have been taught different. Yes, I know how to handle a weapon, ranging from 9mm to MP5. I can draw pretty fast and I know what the Israeli Point Shooting is all about. I have been taught how to shoot while backing up, how to shoot through a window of a car and how to reload without loosing sight of my opponent. But, the big difference is, right after we were taught all these techniques, my instructor had us disarm, and continued with the sentence that keeps ringing in my mind: "If you have to draw your weapon, everything else you have done and were taught has gone horribly wrong, you are in a world you don't want to be in, now lets hope that at least you remember where to aim.....". Afterwards the course continues and I realized what the reasoning was behind this. For me, coming from a military course first, where weapons were something that never left your hand, it was most obvious why firearms weaken you as a bodyguard or Close Protection Specialist. To make you understand why, I will tell you some specific scenarios that happened and explain you a little about operations during a Close Protection Detail. Close Protection means, the guarding of a person, whose life and/or honor is threatened by elements not controlled by the person himself. You as a Close Protection Officer are there too make sure these uncontrolled elements don't get near your principal and are not capable of harming his life or honor by any means. But the 'close' in close protection also means that most events will be at close range, in close quarters, in an arms reach. In every course you are taught never to have your principal more than a stretched arms length away. (depending on the level of threat of course, but for now, lets presume the worst) An attack for this reason will affect you no more than an arms reach away. During drills in which several scenarios were played where the principal needed protection and would most certainly be attacked, I screwed up several times. When an attack occurred, my first reaction was to draw my weapon and search for the threat. This for me was logical as I was conditioned in a military way. However, drawing my weapon only resulted in me standing in the middle of attention, being considered by the enemy as a threat and getting needlessly killed. Instead of drawing my weapon, I should have evacuated the principal immediately, or even better, our pre-operation planning should have been better, as we shouldn't have been there because the place was 'hot'. So a whole chain of events went wrong before it came to me pulling my gun and loosing my life. During other scenarios where I was sent in without a weapon, I felt vulnerable and naked. I didn't understand how it was possible for me to defend a principal without the appropriate fire power. As a USMC commander once said: 'sometimes it is very well justified to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer....' I was of the same principal. The bigger my gun, the better I feel. Now I was sent in without a gun, and a head still spinning from all the operational planning and rehearsal. However, when the shit hit the fan, my planning came into mind, I reacted correctly and the principal was evacuated without any further incident. Why is it that the gun made me so 'dead' the first time? Weapons give us a false sense of security; however, a gun is nothing but a piece of metal that becomes an extension of your hand. It doesn't think for you, it doesn't know what you want from it
and it certainly doesn't contain any tactical data. Even worse, when it comes to a 'fight' or an aggression, your drawing techniques might not even be sufficiently fast to have the gun ready by the time your opponent is practicing his martial arts skills on your face. Or, imagine drawing your weapon in a mall because you fear that the principal is in danger. The chaos and panic you create by doing that will only cause more harm than good. I'm not saying weapons are useless for a bodyguard, but they are not necessary to conduct an operation. Planning, knowledge and everything you can do before you get on the road are far more important. Your martial arts skills that give you confidence in yourself are far better confidence boosters than the weapon, which in the end only becomes an extension of your own fear. Now, although I wish I would be armed, just because I have come accustomed to preferring over packing then missing something, I have also become a far more confident agent. I know I have to be resourceful at all times. I know that although my adversaries will have more choices in the battle we fight, I will overcome because I'm forced daily to overcome incofidence and fear. We plan, plan and plan until it becomes a routine. Afterwards we redo the whole thing because routine is not good either. Anyway, the enemy will have to do it's best to 'over plan' us to be able to surprise us. But he probably won't because he has a gun, and he is confident. Although his confidence is false, as ours now, has become true.
The Unforseen Threat
Terrorism – The Threat of Possible Attacks
Today terrorism has become a word that is used in so many security related issues, that the true meaning of it has gone lost. If we look up terrorism in the dictionary the following is displayed: Cambridge Dictionary of American English: “Violent action for political purpose” The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is one of the largest institutions fighting terrorism and describes terrorism as follows: “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” In the course of history the definition of terrorism has changed and things were added to it. As terrorism has been around since humans could walk it is not a new phenomenon. However it has become more public, more violent and focused on one certain perpetrator and one certain target. Law enforcement agencies have always been vigilant for terrorism however not as vigilant as after 9/11 occurred in the United States. Everybody was taken by surprise because an act of terrorism was committed within a stable and relatively safe super power by people coming from the outside. The possibility of attack increased and the law enforcement community got a violent wake up. All of a sudden everybody in the world became a target and security measures were heightened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and other attempts discovered by an evermore vigilant intelligence community. Even Europe wasn’t safe anymore. Even though terrorism wasn’t new for Europe (Irish Republican Army, Basque Separation Army ETA, 17 November Group) all of a sudden everybody was afraid and considered themselves a target. With good reason as was shown during the Madrid 2004 train station attacks, 2005 July London attacks and the planned attacks on airliners en-route to the US and Canada discovered by British police in August 2005.
After 9/11 it was a logical step for terrorist organizations to spread terror in Europe. Their preferred target, the US, was too safe and under control and the Europeans were still thinking that they would be safe from any terrorist attempts. First of all, Europeans thought that they were not involved in any world conflict that would trigger an attack on possible European targets. Europe also presumed that the security and safety measures implemented were sufficient since no attacks had occurred from real terrorist organizations. Of course Spain was on a higher alert level due to their problems in the north with the Basque community and Europe had its own little war going on in the former Yugoslavia but none of these were considered as serious terrorist issues. But after the August 2005 spectacular discovery of the planned attacks on airliners flying towards the US and Canada the general public started noticing changes in the way Europe handles its security. Airline hand luggage regulations changed toward liquids and gels. The Dutch government started an anti terrorism campaign in February of 2006 after polls showed that the Dutch people wanted to know how to deal with possible attacks. That possible attacks were being taken seriously is shown by for instance the measures taken by the Dutch government which cost 4.8 million euro for the first year. These costs covered radio and television commercials, leaflets to every household in the Netherlands and 200,000 people working and guarding against possible terrorist attacks on Dutch interests. (Source: ANP). So even though Europeans have the feeling that they live in relative safety and protected from possible terrorist attacks, professionals in the business of security think otherwise and this has a good reason. As I mentioned before, the term terrorism is being used for too many security related issues but in some cases terrorism is not recognized as terrorism. Look at the problems during the October 2006 ‘riots’ in Paris where 112 cars were set on fire every day. 15 attacks on police and emergency services were carried out and nearly 3000 police officers were injured in one year. These attacks were considered as riots that started in a Paris suburb. The reason being that people didn’t agree with the governments’ way of dealing with issues in these suburbs.
Now go back to the FBI’s definition of terrorism: “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” If we take the Paris events and compare them with the definition, it becomes clear that those ‘riots’ were actually terrorist attacks. People used unlawful force (burning cars and attacking police and emergency services) against persons or property (the burning vehicles and police and emergency services of which nearly 3000 got injured) to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population or any segment thereof (the suburban community wanted to coerce the Government to deal with an issue) in furtherance of political or social objectives (the objectives were political and social). So why do we call these attacks riots instead of acts of terrorism? Why do we sentence perpetrators as rioters instead of treating them as terrorists? Why are they not being given the same harsh sentences as the terrorists discovered in the UK in 2005? The answer is both simple and complicated. Europe is still not ready to deal with terrorism. Maybe we think we are ready in terms of safety and security and maybe we believe that our intelligence agencies can deal with the amount of threats Europe receives. However we are not yet ready to face the fact that terrorists might be living amongst us. People we share our daily lives with and maybe even people that we trust our lives to from time to time…. The possible threat for an attack increases thanks to the failure to acknowledge this possibility. Because terrorism is based on the willingness of 100% success rate on the part of the perpetrator, attacks will occur on easy targets. Today in the wake of 9/11 the US has become a harder target while Europe is becoming an easier target because we all try to be as open as possible. Not only in our border policies but also in our tolerance policies towards our neighbors. That is the strength of terrorism, they use our weakness against us and when we fortify our weak points after a terrorist attack or incident, terrorism moves on to the next. The threat of possible attacks is always there or at least should always be considered to be there. If you think you are safe and drop your guard a notch, that’s when you will be attacked.
How it boils down to Training
Teach for the future
In every conflict, be it in business, world clashes, local disputes or the upbringing of our children, we have always said: “learn from the past.” For this reason even military academies study ancient wars and tactics used therein to teach their future military leaders. In my domain, security, we do the same. We base our training on the past, scenarios that we have seen, that our instructors have lived are replayed and countered in order to make us ‘ready’ for what awaits us. This sounds logical; we can only learn from our mistakes and praise ourselves over our victories. And to a certain level this is true. We do need to learn from our mistakes and use the past to shape the present. However, it is exactly in this last sentence that we make the biggest mistake. As we live in the present and head towards the future, the enemy of the present lives in the future, a step ahead, always. Look at 9/11, aviation security has changed since these events, some might argue for the better, some might say for the worse, but is has changed. We have adapted our security measures to something that has happened in the past. We have made it virtually impossible for terrorist organizations to do such an act again. But the terrorists know this, and they will counter us using our biggest weakness, the fact that we live and train for the present. After the 2006 August arrest of terrorists planning to blow up airliners departing from London Heathrow airport, extreme security measures were implemented based on the information available to the authorities. Liquid explosives were found on the intercepted terrorists. Even thoughr not all suspected terrorists were intercepted that day, authorities decided that liquid explosives were the new threat to aviation. For this, all liquids over 10 Oz. were banned causing massive problems to passengers and the airlines and security agencies dealing with this new measure. It was stated that the events in August were a dry run for the terrorists to see if they would get through security with these products. We applauded the security services for their work in intercepting the terrorists before they could carry out their plans. However, were the liquid explosive carriers the real dry run agents, or was there something else? There was another group of terrorists that belonged to the ‘liquid-gang’ that the security services didn’t intercept. Supposing that these terrorists were decoy, nobody gave it much more thought. But what were these terrorists carrying in their dry run attempt? If an explosive device, this would be the explosive device we should all be worried about. Terrorists now know for a fact that liquids won’t work, so they surely will not try to use this agent as a solution for their explosive smuggling. In other words, when we learn and train from the past, our adversaries do so as well and in the meantime they plan for the future.
As the 2002 movie, Minority Report shows very well, it would be so easy to protect the world if we could see into the future. Even if it were just minutes in advance, security would be such an easier art form. But movies will stay movies and looking into the future is not possible. So, in security we keep basing our tactics, defence systems and procedures on past experience. In the war on terror, when military were deployed to hostile countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the soldiers went fighting with the Geneva Convention still freshly written in their minds. Here are three articles of the convention that they were sure to have read again and again:
Attacks may be made solely against military objectives. People who do not or can no longer
take part in the hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and for their physical and mental integrity. Such people must in all circumstances be protected and treated with humanity, without any unfavourable distinction whatever.
It is forbidden to kill or wound an adversary who surrenders or who can no longer take part
in the fighting.
Neither the parties to the conflict nor members of their armed forces have an unlimited right
to choose methods and means of warfare. It is forbidden to use weapons or methods of warfare that are likely to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering. But, after arriving in the war zone, it became clear for the soldiers that the adversary has not read the same convention. Soon, military personnel came under scrutiny due to firing at innocent civilians or non-military targets. Our laws, tactics and procedures were not ready for the fight waiting for our own soldiers. Like waiving at children to seem less aggressive and capture the hearts of the locals. But how far do you take waiving at children when these same children carry AK-47’s and know how to use them? To get back on track, we still can’t look into the future and so we have to deal with this problem differently. When I speak with trainers or graduate students from different security related courses they always respond in the same way at the question: “So, are you ready?” the answer is: “Yes, the training covered all aspects of the job, we have seen dozens of scenarios and we are ready!” When I asked a group of students from a local Belgian Close Protection course if they were ready, I got the same answer. So I continued, and asked: “So what would you do, if your convoy got attacked with a shoulder launched missile on the Avenue Louise (the Champs Elysee of Brussels)?” The answer was exactly what I was expecting: “euh, well, in Belgium this kind of violence is not expected…. !” and this is true, it hasn’t really happened yet and our governmental security services do a pretty good job in intercepting such weapons. But then again, why were we all so shocked when in December 2007 a young female police officer was violently killed by machinegun fire in a quiet town in Belgium. Surely here death was untimely and a tragedy. Everybody was shocked by the violence used against the police. But why? Because it was unprecedented for our community. For the future, it isn’t and next time machineguns are used we will not be as shocked. My question to you is, why wait for a precedent, before reacting and adjusting. It is a known fact that terrorists have an incredible amount of fantasy in creating devastating, or even better, terrorizing
events. Terrorism has as goal to destabilize daily life by using whatever means necessary to do so. Unfortunately, this destabilizing happens when death and destruction occurs. Look at the IRA in Ireland. They used explosives to gain attention for their cause. But, after a while people got accustomed to these acts as they were so common. It barely broke frontline news. They were forced to use other techniques to gain attention. The anthrax attacks and the use of poison gas occurred in the subway system of Japan. It used to be very popular, until protocols were developed to counter this threat. Terrorists stopped using this form of violence and they resorted to other forms, among them explosives. In Iraq for example, IED’s or Improvised Explosive Devices are very popular with the resistance force. As long as the military doesn’t find a system or protocol to counter this threat effectively we will stay vulnerable to it and the terrorists won’t feel the need to resort to different techniques. Examples of precedent and change can be given without an end. However, it is much more important to find a solution for this problem. I believe that the answer lies in two things, one being training and the other using intelligence to outwit the enemy. In my business, we always say that you have to be ready for everything, any type of attack, incident or accident. However, as the human nature dictates, we can only be ready for events that have had a precedent in our minds. Otherwise, our reactions are brought back to basics, which might not be the reactions that are best suited to resolve the situation. For this, the way we train and what we train needs to change. Our way of thinking needs to change. Being ahead of the enemy is what we want. The trainings as we see them today should remain unchanged, however, the material should all be considered as basic. The precedents are indeed very important because they allow for a solid training basis and give the students the necessary know how on protocols and procedures. However, the brain needs to be set into a different mindset. It is one thing to know that you work in a certain area where the threats are limited to, for example, hand gun attacks, but why be the “first close protection officer that gets killed in the line of action while hitting an IED on a Belgian motorway?”. Our adversaries will eventually know where our weaknesses are and they will exploit these weaknesses, it is a matter of time, something that professional criminals have in masses. When training, it is important to have the students realize that anything can happen. Everything you have seen can happen, but everything that you fear, dream of or have nightmares about can and will happen eventually. You can not train too much. Most European countries don’t allow private security personnel to carry or use weapons. For this reason, very few security personnel are familiar with any type of weapon. This weapon can be a fire arm, but a knife, baton, gas, explosives are also weapons. As private security is not allowed to use any of these, they are not expected to know their functioning or even their effects. This is wrong. Because once faced with a threat involving such a weapon, your mental preparedness will be so much higher when a mental image, a CORRECT mental image has been formed. For example, why are people all so afraid of knives? Everybody has been cut; everybody knows what a knife does, how it does it and where it does it. For this reason, people handle knives with caution. However, a pistol for this example is less known. A mental image has been created because we have all seen Arnold in action, but this image might not be correct. People experience massive trauma after being faced with a firearm, because fire arms represent instant death to most people. But for
example at the FBI Academy in Hungary, Budapest, officers are trained for a mental image that says not every shot is lethal, enhancing the survivability of an officer in the line of fire, because the correct mental image lets him make better choices during such an encounter. For this reason, if we train for the most highly unlikely as well as for the common attacks, our mental images will be much more complete and our reaction to events more efficient. But, this will only help us in the field, when things have gone wrong or tend to go wrong while we are still in control. The second thing we can do is better use of our intelligence. As we are all human beings, we all think alike and are capable of thinking up the same things. As a security community, we have to stop thinking from our point of view. We have to stop blocking out our weirdest and most nasty thoughts. If a terrorist can think up crashing two planes into the WTC in the centre of New York, so can we. When news broadcasts report that the: “Unthinkable has happened” we are wrong. It is thinkable, but we are too kind. Who thought it was possible that in the UK minors would start stabbing each other for sports, killing now over 20 teenagers? Well, it happened and it can happen again. We need people that think up these kind of things, and in the present figure out how to react to them in the future. The message is simple, Train for today, but teach for the future!
The author at work, scanning the environment for the unforseen