Overseas travel could be more dangerous following Bin Laden’s death.

While the U.S. (and other Nations) rejoices following the news of Bin Laden’s death, those about to embark on overseas travel, especially those holding U.S. passports, should exercise extreme caution.

Not only has the State Department issued travel alerts (http://www.emergencyemail.org/newsemergency/anmviewer.asp?a=1058&z=1 ), but a plethora of INTEL and Govt. types have also issued warnings concerning the need to be aware of the possibility of retaliatory attacks.   It is too simplistic to feel that Bin Laden’s demise will bring about the downfall of Al-Qaeda.  

Whilst it is true that the A.Q. organization will be “leaderless” until they can find a suitable replacement, this does not mean that they are not capable of inflicting serious casualties to “get back” at those who have denied them of their leader.  This can be looked upon as a type of “wounded animal” syndrome. 

Speaking on CNN’s “Piers Morgan” last night, former NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani said; “in the short term we are in more danger, but in the longer term, we will be safer”.  The question remains however; ”how long is “in the short term”?  I have an immediate vested interest in trying to understand the viewpoint of these grieving radicals, since I will be flying to a volatile part of Asia next week.

My advice is not to take chances with your safety.  If travel can not be avoided or postponed, focus intently on your own personal safety and on the safety of those you send overseas – whether employees or family members.  This reminds me of a call I received from a potential client last year. 

He and other staff members were going to Pakistan to form a joint venture involving a lucrative project for his company.  He was concerned for their safety and asked about bringing U.S. bodyguards on the trip.  The host company in Pakistan told him that they would provide the foreigners with local security.

Having worked around the world on many International assignments, I was experienced in how certain countries train their personnel.  I advised the potential new client to bring experienced U.S. security personnel as part of their team.  The busines owner was concerned that he might insult his new business partners if they discovered that they had brought their own security consultants. 

This is why it is important to find a highly experienced security consultant and LISTEN to what they tell you.  There are ways to include highly trained and experienced security personnel with your staff so that they blend in as engineers or legal assitants or whatever else may be your business.  What you should NEVER do, is to to compromise your safety or the safety of your employees.   

If something happens, what effect do you think it will have on your company’s reputation?  Ask yourself is it worth it.  Our advice to you is not to rely on local resources, but to bring those experts with you – either openly or covertly.  Remember that training standards in many other parts of the world are nowhere near the level that they are in the U.S.

How Private Investigators Interview to find “Bad Guys”

How many companies with security problems use their own internal resources to investigate employee theft, industrial espionage, etc. ?  I think the answer would probably be; “the majority”. 

HR Departments have traditionally been the ”go to” people within corporations to conduct interviews.  Proprietory security personnel have also been used for these tasks. My question is; “what specialized training or experience have these folks received that equips them for such roles? 

Having conducted interviews totalling in the thousands around the world, I can share with you that it takes many years and probably thousands of hours of interviewing to develop not only a certain comfort level, but the ability to be able to pick up on things like eye movement, breathing, body shifting, hesitation, etc. 

What experienced investigators know is that simply talking to a person and taking notes is not enough.  The interview process begins way before that.  A good investigator will conduct research and prepare questions before the interview ever begins.  They know that there are a number of important factors to consider, such as planning on where the interviewee will sit.  Have you previously considered this?

Some other questions to consider are; “do I know the right questions to ask?”, ”what are the signs of stress?”, “how can I make a person tell me what I need to know?”, “how do I follow-up?”.  Unfortunately, you won’t find all the answers you need in a blog or a book.  It takes time, training and putting that training into practice. 

Corporations should not feel like they have to “do it all”.  In-house security personnel may be quite capable of taking care of many of the day-t0-day security tasks that arise, but they probably should not be asked to conduct investigations involving employee theft, sexual harrassment, workman’s comp, fraud cases etc., where extensive interviewing is needed. 

Credentialed and experienced professionals can not only save a company millions of dollars in lost revenue and or litigation/law suits, but protect their reputation from being tarnished and damaged.  The question then becomes; “what value do you put on your reputation?”. 

Most Fear Latin America

In his article for “Security Management”, Matthew Harwood informs us that Security Directors and other executives view Latin America to be the riskiest region in the world.

This is quite telling when you consider this means that Latin America ranks higher for risk in their minds than the Middle East. On “Mad Money” this evening, Jim Cramer spoke about the huge upside potential that Columbia holds for investors.

According to Cramer, Columbia could have more potential than Brazil, which has been regarded as the “jewel in the crown” of emerging markets. A new focus on countries such as Columbia by corporate executives could spell an opportunity for security consultants and executive protection agents alike.

Security companies may not be able to hire Afghan police in future.

This Canadian report states that the Government of Afghanistan may start cracking down on security companies who lure Afghan police officers away for bigger pay.

It is little wonder why police officers would be enticed to resign – they are currently paid approximately $160 a month by the Afghan Government, but they could make quadruple that by working for private companies.

Afghan officials put the figure of lost police at around 19% of the Force. With a total force opf 97,000, those leaving account for nearly 20,000. One measure they may introduce is to put a “cap” or ceiling on the amount that police may be paid if they leave.

When I headed up the United Nations’ Special Investigations Unit in the former Yugoslavia, we also had former Balkan Police working for us. One young guy who acted as our official interpreter/police liaison in Croatia had only earned about $100 a month from the Croatian Government, saw his earnings skyrocket overnight when he began working for the U.N. for around $700 a month.

Hopefully both sides can come to some kind of mutual agreement so that the locals will be able to make and save a bit more money than they can now and thereby improve their living conditions and better help their families.

Why Your Mother Should Not be Your Bodyguard

I was flying back to the D.C. area the other week when I ran out of my own reading material. To pass the time, I truend to the in-flight magazine.

I don’t usually care to read about 19 year oldcountry/pop singers, but the interview with TAYLOR SWIFT caught my eye.

When asked about her fears, Ms. Swift admitted that she was scared of being alone in a dark parking lot and walking to her car. Honest answer, but my question would be; “why would you even put yourself in that situation”?

Ms. Swift comes across as a very down to earth person without any of the airs and graces we usually associate with famous singers and actors. That is great, but going overboard to prove how “ordinary” you are is not always going to be the best policy. Especially when you are no longer ordinary.

Folks, the world is full of crazies. Not a very P.C. thing to say, is it? When you have been involved in security for a few decades and have worked in war zones and mean streets around the world and have seen up close and personal the bad things that happen to good people, you have little time for being politically correct.

John Lennon was the epitome of Peace and Love. He was a brilliantly gifted musician and song writer. If all was right with the world, he would never have been shot in the back and killed on a New York city street.

Ms. Swift stated that she just wants to blend in an didn’t want “four giant security guards” walking into her local Nashville restaurant behind her. She then declared that she brings her mom with her a lot and tries not to be alone. If you are in the field yourself and reading this, you’re probably feeling the same as I did.

Thankfully though, Ms. Swift does realize that there are alternatives to being followed by “4 giant security guards”. She continued by saying that if she does have security, she tries to have a detail that completely blends-in and nobody even knows they are there.

Thank you Ms. Swift for that last minute touch down….I was begining to think that the game was lost, but you rescued it.

Now let your mom enjoy the show and have your guys who blend-in keep an eye on her too.

Metro Crash Victims Laid to Rest

The funerals of the Metro crash victims took place this week in the Washington D.C. metro area.

What makes it all the more tragic, is the fact that these poor people died needlessly.

Metro Trasit should never have allowed the aging train cars to be used after being warned three years ago that they were unsafe. Being a security advisor, I have become used to clients disregarding the very advice for which they asked in the first place.

Most times it is due to cost. I have no doubt that is what happened with Metro. They probably did what they thought was a “risk assessment” of their defective equipment. They probably weighed the cost of replacing the older cars against the possibility of an accident and decided there was little chance of an accident.

Anybody who disregards professional advice like this and is subsequently responsible for people being killed and injured should be sued to the hilt. While no amount of money can ever bring back loved ones, Metro should have to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars as a punitive measure.

They have showed that they care more about saving money than saving peoples’ lives. I say they should be hit where it hurts – in their miserly pockets.

Some things just don’t make sense.

Have you ever thought that there are somethings that just don’t make sense?

Granted, there are things that may not seem to make sense at the time and later on situations may change. Take the Bernie Madoff case for example.

At the moment, many of us are sceptical about the rumors of a “plea bargain” arrangement with Bernie Madoff. Except for his wife, there must be a couple hundred million people in this country looking forward to him going to jail for life.

The question at the back of our minds is;”but will he?” Time will tell. Hopefully the authorities will do the right thing and won’t have us all wondering if there is a different law for the rich (and parasites who swindle people out of their life savings).

What I am talking about though is Customer Service. I have been seeing a noticeable deterioration in customer service these past months and it makes no sense.

In these hard economic times when people are watching their spending habits, you would think that customer service would be at an all time high. I’ll give an example. One of my Executive Protection Agents was flying in to work at the inauguration with our clients and I picked him up at Dulles airport.

On the way back, we stopped to get something to eat. The waitress who took our order, returned with one glass of water and was never seen again until the manager checked on us a half hour later. I told the manager that we had to find another waitress and my guest had actually to go to the “warming” area and find his own food.

I also let her know that businesses need to go “above and beyond” these days to make sure that customers have a pleasant experience and keep returning so that the business can remain operating. She agreed 100%.

On Friday I went into my wireless phone company with a question about my service. I counted nine employees and three customers (I was the third). After watching them gossip with each other and talk on their personal phones for twenty minutes, I had had enough and asked to speak with a manager. I did not get an apology and the person who responded took another five minutes to do so. I felt like asking; “CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?”

Those of us in security should always realize that customer service is an important part of the service we provide. If you notice others doing a poor job,do not try to emulate them. Give the client your full attention, be courteous and alert and ready to respond to any situation at all times.

To do otherwise would just not make sense.

Kidnap Expert Becomes Kidnap Victim

In last Thursday’s New York Times, Marc Lacey wrote about an interesting incident which took place in Mexico recently.

Back on Dec. 10, an American, Mr. Felix Batista was abducted outside of El Meson restaurant in Saltilo, Mexico. What makes this particular kidnapping remarkable is the fact that the victim was himself, a security consultant specializing in resolving kidnappings.

There have been many kidnappings at popular restaurants in recent times. If a person frequents a restaurant regularly, it is only a matter of waiting until they return. Even the waiting/surveillance can be easily outsourced for a few dollars.

It is ironic that prior to being kidnapped, Mr. Batista had addressed a gathering of prominent entrepreneurs on steps to take to avoid being kidnapped. One wonders if this was a case of; “do as I say, not as I do”, or were other factors involved?

Mr. Batista was the third anti-kidnapping expert to have been abducted in Coahuila State. During his security seminar down there he informed the attendees that kidnappers generally avoided foreigners. Perhaps he became careless thinking he himself was safe as a foreigner.

Be careful about dropping your guard, especially in high-threat areas like Mexico. Do not become overly confident or complacent. Never think that it “couldn’t happen to me”, because you may just be the next victim.

Chairman Tata Surprised by Tricky Terrorists

Chairman Rata Tata, whose company owns the Taj hotel in Mumbai, gave a frank and honest interview to CNN. I would imagine that the Tata Group’s PR people and General Counsel are scrambling at the moment trying to do as much damage control as possible.

The sad part of this unfolding story is the feeling one gets that the terrible loss of life at the hotel may have been prevented or at least mitigated had proper security measures been implemented and if the security that had been in place prior to the attack had not been removed.

One eye witness who stayed at the hotel a week before the terrorist assault spoke about metal detectors and baggage being checked. The same witness then went on to say that those security measures had been removed within the last week, allowing people to enter without being checked.

The most surprising news to surface must be the Chairman’s comments regarding the terrible event. Unbelievably, he actually said; “They knew what they were doing and they did not go through the front. All of our arrangements were on the front entrance”.

Who is Tata’s security advisor, a kitchen worker? Actually, he might have been better off if that were the case since the terrorists entered the hotel through the rear kitchen door. ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL CHAIRMEN AND CEO’s; Terrorists are Tricky. That is their job. They are watching your businesses and will do the opposite to what you expect.

In the case of the TAJ HOTEL, you made it easy for them. Did nobody in Mumbai ever stop to think that a bad person can go through the back door? It is one thing for a cafe in a pedestrian area to be attacked as anyone can walk right by or walk through the front and open fire, but how can a major landmark that attracts Western vistors drop their security measures AFTER they have received terrorist alert warnings that the hotel may be the target of terrorsit attacks?

I don’t know if it was the case with the Taj Hotel, but cutting corners where security is concerned is common place in corporate culture. Security is often seen as a necessary evil and usually the first department to experience budgetary cutbacks. It is very difficult to convince some clients that nothing happening is really a good thing and that by cutting out security may open the door to evil.

This appears to have been the case with the Taj. There is no doubt that the terrorists had conducted hundreds of hours of surveillance in and around Mumbai. Was it a coincidence that the attack occurred the week after security measures had been removed? What might have been the result if security had remained tight (if you could call watching the front entrance and disregarding the back as “tight security”)? Maybe the terrorists would have held back another month or two…maybe in that time they would have been detected…

One thing is for certain, places like the Taj Hotel have to get serious about security. Mr. Tata’s claim that; “If I look at what we had…it could not have stopped what took place”, must be replaced by more progressive, proactive thinking. If the Tata Group had spent an adequate amount of funding on ensuring that a strict security policy was in force – if only for the period in question – then they might not now be facing a 5 Billion Rupee reconstruction bill. Who knows how high the civil suits against the Taj will run when compensation and punitive costs are calculated.

Kudos though to Chairman Tata for at least recognizing that the Indian authorities may not be able to handle the situation on their own. “These attacks underscore the need for Law Enforcement to seek outside expertise for training, equipment and strategic operations”, he said.

We agree Mr. Tata. We also hope that you will recognize the need for the Tata Group to seek similar outside expertise to assist you with your security planning and training.

Sleep more and live longer

An interesting study was discussed on WTOP radio today.

It seems that two Swedish doctors conducted a sleep study between 1987 and 2006. Their findings have been published in the New England School of Medicine’s records.

They discovered that 5% more heart attacks were recorded the Monday after clocks go forward. At the same time, there were less heart attacks documented on the Monday following the weekend period when clocks go backward.

The findings indicate the importance of getting a good night’s rest. When the clocks are set forward an hour, people lose an hour of sleep. That was the time when more heart attacks were found to have occurred.

In the field of security, it is not always possible to get enough rest. Many times it is necessary to work a 12 hour shift and then drive home afterwards. If this is the case, the officer/agent should make sure that he/she gets adequate rest when they are off duty.

Unfortunately, there are other elements that add to a less than healthy lifestyle such as; drinking a lot of coffee, not eating balanced meals, lack of exercise, etc. Armed with the knowledge that sleep is so vital to our health, it is more important now than ever to ensure that we are taking proper care of ourselves.