News

Blank Walls and Dry Bars

Loss of liberty due to state actor intervention

Much is written and said about the threat from kidnapping and hostage taking overseas and a lucrative industry has developed around kidnap and ransom insurance policies and negotiating expertise. The reality, however, is that you or your staff are far more likely to be detained by state actors such as the police or immigration services than by criminals or terrorists, yet the subject gets far less coverage. So, what are the key issues to consider?

We discuss loss of liberty, as we call it on our Complex Environment Awareness Training (CEAT) courses from a kidnap perspective but also possible arrest or detention by state actors. At the outset we always ask our students “have any of you been detained?” It’s very rare to find anyone who has been a kidnap victim, bar our own loss of liberty instructor who was held by the Khmer Rouge while working as a UN Observer!

On the other hand, we do on occasion come across one or two in a group who have been arrested. In fact, around 6,000 British nationals are detained while overseas every year with over 100, around 2%, complaining to the UK authorities of ill treatment or torture.read more

Beyond the Barricades

2019 a look at the year ahead

With the Christmas and New Year break over inevitably the news will soon be full of Brexit yet again, the prospect of a no deal and barricades at Dover manned by the Border Force. Last year the word Brexit was apparently used on Radio 4’s Today Programme five and a half million times. The danger for those of us who need to take a wider international view of global security is that Brexit threatens to drown out all other news and thus skew our interpretation of world events.

A broader look at international reporting over the month of December paints an interesting picture at the strategic and tactical level. The US withdrawal of troops from Syria threatens to push the Kurds into an awkward alliance with President Assad in order to avoid destruction by Turkish forces and in so doing increase the regime’s leverage. Assad loyalists, Iran and Russia will inevitably gain while the West may lose a valuable ally in Syria and Iraq and thus change the balance of power in the Middle East.read more

Everyone a Human Radar

Why your staff should be the first line of defence

Suspicious Person Observation Training (SPOT) should now be a priority for security managers of crowded and public spaces in order to improve the ability of their workforce to detect suspicious behaviour.

So, what exactly is SPOT and what are the benefits?

As a former Assistant Chief Constable, I had the portfolios not only for Crime and Operations but also Counter Terrorism. There was always a need to ensure organisers of events and those responsible for the safety of large crowds such as shopping malls and stadiums, had the very latest information on best practice and were encouraged to embrace strategies and tactics that were proven to reduce risk.read more

SPOT the Difference

Detecting suspicious behaviours

In our high-tech world, it is easy to overlook the simpler and more obvious human solutions to the challenges we face and nowhere is this truer than in the security arena and the protection of crowded and public spaces.

Technology has a role to play of course, be it the provision and monitoring of CCTV, sniffer detection systems, access controls including body and bag scanners and so the list goes on. However, we should not overlook the contribution that staff who work in these spaces can make. Collectively providing a powerful mass observation tool that can be mobilised with just a little training. We refer to this as turning everyone into a human radar through use of the old fashioned but highly effective MK 1 eyeball coupled with our instinctive ability to know when something is not right or ‘sixth sense’.read more

A Room with a View

The Terrorist Threat to International Hotels

We are often asked about hotel selection and occasionally room selection too. Where we choose to stay is of course a key decision when planning an overseas trip. Thefts from hotel rooms account for one third of all travel insurance loss claims and poor food hygiene in hotel kitchens is a major cause of illness while travelling.

Then of course there is the issue of terrorism. Complex attacks on hotels are relatively rare but on the increase. Since 2002 there have been over 50 resulting in more than 1,000 casualties across 19 countries. Those affected include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia as one would expect, but also Thailand with 7 attacks and Indonesia with 5. The list also includes Kenya, the Philippines, Egypt and of course Tunisia where 30 UK nationals were killed.

There were 19 such attacks across the African continent alone. Hence the threat is not limited to high threat locations but to medium level, complex environments too.read more

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Countering the threat from Lone Actors

There has been a steady growth in so called ‘Lone Actor’ attacks by individuals inspired by but not directed or controlled by extremist groups like Islamic State. Influenced by other radicals within their immediate community and on-line propaganda, they employ everyday items such as vehicles and knives to carry out so called simple attacks requiring little if any preparation or planning.

They are much harder for the police and security services to counter. The lack of pre-event activity and little if any association with known extremist networks makes early identification and disruption of their plans difficult if not impossible for the authorities.

Lone Actors therefore present a particular challenge and the emphasis is therefore on all of us to use our eyes and ears to identify suspicious behaviour at the tactical level, particularly when in crowded and public spaces, and to identify these individuals during their target reconnaissance or when they are preparing for the attack itself.

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The Pen is mightier than the Sword

A critique of public information security initiatives

There have been an increasing number of public information initiatives of late in response to the recent terrorist attacks across Europe and the real threat of further terrorist attacks in the UK. These campaigns rely on the power of a few words to convey a strong message in an attempt to capture the public’s attention, influence behaviour and shape their responses but how effective are they? Can the word really be mightier than the sword?

The most recent of these initiatives is ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ (ACT) which uses a range of on-line media in order to communicate with the general public. The campaign asks people to take note of and report a range of suspicious activities and behaviours relating to attack planning and preparation.

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Left of Bang

The importance of Situational Awareness

Situational awareness, like cultural awareness is much talked about but all too often misunderstood and poorly applied in any practical sense. Recent events have caused many people to ask what can I do to better equip myself in order to avoid bad situations. The answer is situational awareness and alongside it, what we call tactical awareness.

Situational Awareness is a process that helps us identify potential threats early on and allows us to take early evasive action and avoid the threat. The term Left of Bang is used by the US Marines to refer to this pre-event activity. Military timelines run left to right so left of bang means activity before the bad event or the bang we wish to avoid.

The US Marines call it Combat Profiling. The programme is intensive and lasts several weeks. I was similarly taught situational awareness during my training as an Intelligence Officer before being posted to high threat environments overseas. Clearly the average business traveller can’t spend several weeks undergoing such training but a few simple techniques can be taught in a relatively short period of time and change how people see and interpret the world around them.read more

Cornwall comes to Devon

Edson Tiger on Royal Duties

We were recently asked to provide security for a visit by HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall to Plymouth where she opened the new BBC South West Regional Centre. We were of course very honoured to play our small part in this event working closely with our client the BBC and our friends at Devon and Cornwall Police. Our role was to act as the advance party, control access and provide over watch of the venue and surrounding area in support of the principal’s close protection team.

This was a rather unique assignment but we do provide complete close protection services in the UK and overseas for a number of clients ranging from celebrity protection at high profile media events in the UK to client protection teams working with the United Nations in Africa.  But whatever the environment it’s important that operators have the right core skills and experience.

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Bursting the Balloon

The Asymmetric Threat from Islamic State

Islamic State (IS) continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq this amounts to nearly fifty percent of the ground they once held including the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. In Syria they have lost around twenty percent and Raqqa itself is now under threat from a coalition of anti IS forces. As well as ground, they have lost valuable oil revenue and conditions inside IS held areas are deteriorating with shortages of basic supplies becoming common.  If Raqqa falls IS will lose not only its symbolic capital and centre of leadership but its main logistics base.  So how will IS respond to this change in fortune?

When conducting counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan we used to talk about squeezing the balloon. You put pressure on the Taliban in one district and they would simply withdraw only to re-emerge elsewhere. And so it went on like a balloon half filled with air. We would bring pressure to bear in one tactical space but the Taliban threat would simply be displaced to another as we lacked the resources to apply pressure equally across the whole of Helmand Province.

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