Saturday, June 28, 2008

Executive Protection- The Low Profile Option

AK-47 magazines sit atop a wooden palette at a Baghdad neighborhood check point

In Executive or Close Protection there is a threat spectrum in which we operate. Low-threat jobs normally entail a single, unarmed agent who often spends more time facilitating than guarding. On the other end is the high-threat environment, which according to the American model, is normally the purview of the PSDs or Personal Security Detachments. Prevalent in Iraq and Afghanistan, PSDs operate with the philosophy that brute force and superior firepower will deter or defeat any attack on their client(s).

Aside from the threat spectrum, however, there is also a profile spectrum as well, one which many protection details fail to recognize or simply ignore. The profile spectrum is characterized by answering the question, how much or how little do you want the client and the protective detail to stand out and be recognized? Many American details lean toward the high-profile end of the continuum as exampled by US Secret Service operations, high-risk PSDs, the entertainment or sports industry where protection is a fashion accessory. When watching these operations its clear who the clients are or at least who the members of the detail are and what they are doing.

Now give some thought to the opposite end of the profile spectrum, low-profile or 'covert protection'. For me, this is where the art of close protection lies; in the game of deception, and subterfuge that securely moves the client around without ever giving anything away. Security comes from remaining hidden, obscured, not drawing attention to yourself or the client. There’s no need for flashy SUVs, sunglasses, or earpieces. It’s all done in plan sight and no one is ever the wiser for it.

The British teams are very good at low-profile operations, using tactics and techniques developed in Northern Ireland by their Special Forces during the “troubles”. I for one believe this explains why there are proportionally so many British protective details in the world compared to pure American teams. The Americans practice what they’re taught in the various executive protection schools. Very few, and I know of really none, have an emphasis on teaching low-profile or 'covert protection', as most of their classes are derived from official U.S. Government doctrine developed by the Secret Service, Diplomatic Security Service, the Department of Defense, etc…

Having said that, care must be given not to confuse the difference between low-risk and low-profile. Protective details can conduct low-profile operations across the entire risk spectrum as evidenced in Northern Ireland, some of the current British-based details, and very specialized American details in Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly high-profile operations can be conducted in low-risk environments, which is often the biggest mistake made by new operators.

Finally, protection should either be one or the other; high-profile or low-profile. Do not try to meet in the middle somewhere. All that achieves is maximizing the weaknesses of both doctrines without ever achieving any of their strengths.


Bruce said...


Well done with your spot on article. Too often I think there is a tendency to minimize the value of the low profile option as a means of protection from both an individual perspective as well as the executive protection perspective.
There is a lot of merit to what you are advocating to include executive protection considerations outside of high threat regions as well as with corporate and entertainment figures. In fact I would argue that some of the pro athletes who become victims of crime were targeted because of the high profile they nuture which subsequently attracts criminals.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this perspective to our attention.

Be safe down range.


Hucky said...

Eric I agree with Bruce. Nice read, love your blog
Have a safe day
Bodyguard Careers

Anonymous said...

Hucky and Bruce are 100%, and so is your article. Having recently worked with a former Special Forces Brit on a high threat detail I can say your article mirrored exactly how the detail was led and carried out.
Bill Peeler