Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tip of the Day: Protecting VIPs, Celebrities and Top Executives

Having served a good part of my US State Department career as an armed protective agent, where I was responsible for accompanying foreign dignitaries, US ambassadors, cabinet secretaries and legislators, I continue to be puzzled by the proclivity of many celebrities, VIPs and political figures to ignore the best-practices that can keep them alive and safe. 

One merely has to examine a number of case studies that have occurred in recent years to fully comprehend just how much well-known, identifiable public figures often ignore prevailing threat threats and continue to make very bad choices

One of the most obvious example is December 2007 assassination of former Pakistanti Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed after surviving an earlier assassination attempt, stood up through an open portal in the limousine and was shot and killed  by a combination of a simultaneous explosion and an assassin's gunfire.

Those that remained in the armored limo, were not harmed. Bhutto’s failure to adhere to even the basic security practices in VIP protection resulted in her predictable, yet unnecessary death:

In another case, Russian tennis star Anna Chakvetadze (seeded #6) was robbed and tied up when six gunmen broke into her home on the outskirts of Moscow. During the home invasion, the gunmen stole $106,000 in cash and $200,000 in jewelry, but the lingering question is, how did the intruders knew she had such a large amount of cash and jewelry in the home, and why was it not properly safeguarded?

Two other high-profile assassinations of political figures include billionaire and former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, and Amine Gemayel, an anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese Parliament and minister of industry, both Christians:

I would ask our readers to examine the referenced link below to learn about the kidnapping and death of Sidney Reso who was in charge of international operations for Exxon prior to the company merging with Mobil:

In February 2008, Anna Loginova, a former model-turned CEO of a security firm specializing in providing female bodyguards to wealthy Russians, was killed in Moscow when a carjacker pulled her out of a luxury Porsche Cayenne. 

Unfortunately, rather than choose the prudent option in simply surrendering her vehicle to the carjacker, Loginova held onto the door handle and was dragged some distance before letting go. 

Ironically, the model-turned-bodyguard earlier fought off another armed carjacker, but never quite learned that mere property is NEVER worth your life

Although seemingly well-protected, a German executive was shot and killed in Venezuela when gunmen attempted to abduct him:

If there is any lasting suggestion that I can offer to VIPs, celebrities and public figure, it is this:

Months before embarking on any foreign destination, be it personal or professional, have a reputable and vetted security consulting firm conduct an independent, comprehensive threat assessment encompassing at least 40 hours.

Additionally, on an on-going basis, the detail leader of any VIP, celebrity and/or public figure should conduct a comprehensive threat assessment annually that includes the following:

1. On-site evaluation of home, office, family and travel security with an eye toward reducing physical, procedural and technical vulnerabilities;

2. Adhere to route variance and tight security on daily schedules and movements;

3. Use armored vehicles (if deemed warranted) and use trained highly experienced security drivers;

4. Use emergency procedures in all broad-based, best-practices where executive security is warranted; 

5. Engage in evacuation drills using  mock principals at least quarterly; and

6. On foreign itineraries ALWAYS use advance agents in all countries with an Advance Assessment Report being reviewed by the Detail Agent prior to departure.