Just as the Red Brigade terrorist group did in the case study, hostiles will be trying to gather as much intelligence on the target’s pattern of life as possible, asking themselves the following questions and many more.
- Is there security, are they aware, are they armed, are they any good?
- How do they travel and by what means? Do they drive, what do they drive, is it armored?
- Do they have good travel security in place?
- What routes do they take to work, events, school? Do they vary routes? Are they forced to take the same routes?
- Do they have a family, is there family an easier target?
- Are they creatures of habit? Is there a pattern forming? If so what is the pattern? What are the weaknesses?
- Do they have employees, can we use them, can they provide us with information, can we corrupt them?
The hostiles, however, must have the capability to gather this information, it cannot just be plucked from the air. Where intelligence gathering and Protective Surveillance operations come into play, there are always limitations. Capability and Limitations The quality and type of hostile surveillance can vary greatly, it may be quick and basic observations by untrained and opportunistic gangs looking for the best time to strike, or it could be professional, criminal organizations carrying out effective and focused intelligence gathering prior to a kidnap or assault.
There are of course a number of potential limitations to a hostile surveillance team, these will affect the quality and capability of the surveillance. Examples of limitations are:
- Resources – Human and Technical
All the above factors will determine how capable a group is of carrying out effective and covert surveillance without detection, whilst still obtaining all the necessary information.
Many terrorist and criminal organizations may not have the technical and practical expertise to carry out a high level of surveillance that is required to defeat good anti and counter surveillance procedure. They may only have one or two people with limited skills and resources to observe their target compared to the ten or twenty that a government team has available.
Numbers do not necessarily mean results though, a team of three well-trained surveillance operatives with time and resources would be able to glean a surprising amount of intelligence, perhaps even within a few days. Specifically, when dealing with high-risk clients it must always be taken into account that a hostile group may in-fact have a good capability and a small professional team with time, patience and resources.
The large range of limiting factors will, however, normally provide the security team a much greater chance of identifying hostile surveillance, but two major factors must be taken into consideration. The first is that terrorist and criminal organizations normally have time and dedication on their side. They can pop in and pop out, they can choose their times and methods, they can also utilize human sources and agents. All the time slowly building up their intelligence picture. The second and most important to acknowledge and understand though is that accurately and covertly identifying surveillance is far from easy. Skills and Drills There are two factors that must be taken into account when dealing with hostile surveillance detection:
1. The skills, experience, knowledge, and resources of the person or group carrying out the hostile surveillance.
2. The skills, experience, knowledge, and resources of the person or group carrying out the anti and counter surveillance.
Whilst attempting to identify hostile surveillance it is important that tactics are undertaken to a high standard, but also covertly. This is just one of the reasons why intensive training and specialist counter surveillance teams should always be considered, especially for high-risk clientele. Whatever the level of hostile surveillance being conducted, whether it be rudimentary or highly professional it is important that hostile surveillance does not realize that anti and counter-surveillance measures are in place and being utilized. There are two main reasons:
- If hostile surveillance is unaware of the counter-measures in place they are far more likely to make a mistake, use sloppy tradecraft or become complacent and therefore be identified easier and quicker.
- If hostile surveillance becomes aware that they have been spotted it can lead to a number of possible actions including, impulsive behavior and an increased risk of action or attack. But, and this is more likely, they may just take a step back to then take two steps forward in the future, with better skills and resources. As we mentioned dedicated and professional teams will spot poor anti and counter surveillance early, they will drop out and only come back when they feel it is safe to do so.