In this article Scott Stewart talks about the surveillance portion of the terrorist planning cycle.
He points out that following somebody is an unnatural act. While conducting surveillance a person needs to look like they belong where they are, and further that they are doing something normal for the situation they are in.
That's all easier said than done, and the target can frequently get a feeling that something isn't right in a person's demeanor. Further, an accidental encounter can cause an amateur doing surveillance to panic and overreact.
For those reason Scott suggests that one should be attuned to gut feelings. It is often the subliminal rather than a the concious that will first alert you to a problem.
The beginning of the article is excerpted below, you can read the entire article by following the link at the end of the excerpt.
As for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe, with all the lurking about discussed the article immediately brought to mind a sub-genre of chick flicks. Of course, I'm talking about the sub-genre that features a femme fatale lurking around trying to steal a guy from the heroine. With that in mind, I settled on the film Angel Face and so Jean Simmons, who played the psychopathic Diane Treymayne in the film, gets the honors.
The film stars Robert Mitchum -- which makes it worth watching even though it is a chick flick -- who starts out playing an ambulance driver with his good, ideal future wife girlfriend who is a nurse. Ms Simmons enters the scene through an ambulance ride, and, since she's filthy rich, soon after hires Mitchum as her chauffeur.
Well, one thing leads to another, and much great 1950s dialog is slung about by Mitchum as he takes about 20 seconds to dump his goody-two-shoes sweetie for the completely nutty Diane Treymayne. Let's just say that things don't end well.
Detecting Terrorist Surveillance
By Scott Stewart, March 7,2012
As we noted last week, terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Those planning terrorist attacks follow a discernable process referred to as the terrorist attack cycle. We also discussed last week how terrorism planners are vulnerable to detection at specific points during their attack cycle and how their poor surveillance tradecraft is one of these vulnerable junctures.
While surveillance is a necessary part of the planning process, the fact that it is a requirement does not necessarily mean that terrorist planners are very good at it. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at surveillance and discuss what bad surveillance looks like.
Eyes on a Potential Target
As noted above, surveillance is an integral part of the terrorist planning process for almost any type of attack, although there are a few exceptions to this rule, like letter-bomb attacks. The primary objective of surveillance is to assess a potential target for value, security measures and vulnerabilities. Some have argued that physical surveillance has been rendered obsolete by the Internet, but from an operational standpoint, there simply is no substitute for having eyes on the potential target -- even more so if a target is mobile. A planner is able to see the location of a building and its general shape on Google Earth, but Google Earth does not provide the planner with the ability to see what the building's access controls are like, the internal layout of the building or where the guards are located and what procedures they follow.
The amount of time devoted to the surveillance process will vary depending on the type of operation. A complex operation involving several targets and multiple teams, such as the 9/11 operation or 2008 Mumbai attacks, will obviously require more planning (and more surveillance) than a rudimentary pipe-bomb attack against a stationary soft target. Such complex operations may require weeks or even months of surveillance, while a very simple operation may require only a few minutes. The amount of surveillance required for most attacks will fall somewhere between these two extremes. Regardless of the amount of time spent observing the target, almost all terrorist planners will conduct surveillance, and they are vulnerable to detection during this time.
Given that surveillance is so widely practiced, it is amazing that, in general, those conducting surveillance as part of a terrorist plot are usually terrible at it. There are some exceptions, of course. Many of the European Marxist terrorist groups trained by the KGB and Stasi practiced very good surveillance tradecraft, but such sophisticated surveillance is the exception rather than the rule.
The term "tradecraft" is often used in describing surveillance technique. Tradecraft is an espionage term that refers to techniques and procedures used in the field, but the term also implies that effectively practicing these techniques and procedures requires a bit of finesse. Tradecraft skills tend to be as much art as they are science, and surveillance tradecraft is no exception. As with any other art, you can be taught the fundamentals, but it takes time and practice to become a skilled surveillance practitioner. Most individuals involved in terrorist planning simply do not devote the time necessary to master the art of surveillance, and because of this, they display terrible technique, use sloppy procedures and generally lack finesse when they are conducting surveillance.
The main reason that people planning terrorist attacks are able to get by with such a poor level of surveillance tradecraft is because most victims simply are not looking for them. Most people do not practice situational awareness, something we are going to discuss in more detail next week. For those who do practice good situational awareness, the poor surveillance tradecraft exhibited by those planning terrorist attacks is good news. It provides them time to avoid an immediate threat and contact the authorities.
Keying on Demeanor
The behavior a person displays to those watching him or her is called demeanor. In order to master the art of surveillance tradecraft, one needs to master the ability to display appropriate demeanor for whatever situation one is in. Practicing good demeanor is not intuitive. In fact, the things one has to do to maintain good demeanor while conducting surveillance frequently run counter to human nature. Because of this, intelligence, law enforcement and security professionals assigned to work surveillance operations receive extensive training that includes many hours of heavily critiqued practical exercises, often followed by field training with a team of experienced surveillance professionals. This training teaches and reinforces good demeanor. Terrorist operatives typically do not receive this type of training -- especially those who are grassroots or lone wolf militants.
At its heart, surveillance is watching someone while attempting not to be caught doing so. As such, it is an unnatural activity, and a person doing it must deal with strong feelings of self-consciousness and of being out of place. People conducting surveillance frequently suffer from what is called "burn syndrome," the belief that the people they are watching have spotted them. Feeling "burned" will cause surveillants to do unnatural things, such as hiding their faces or suddenly ducking back into a doorway or turning around abruptly when they unexpectedly come face to face with the person they are watching.
People inexperienced in the art of surveillance find it difficult to control this natural reaction. A video that recently went viral on the Internet shows the husband of the president of Finland getting caught staring down the blouse of a Danish princess. The man's reaction to being caught by the princess was a textbook example of the burn syndrome. Even experienced surveillance operatives occasionally have the feeling of being burned; the difference is they have received a lot of training and they are better able to control their reaction and behave normally despite the feeling of being burned. They are able to maintain a normal-looking demeanor while their insides are screaming that the person they are watching has seen them.
Read the rest of Detecting Terrorist Surveillance at Stratfor.
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