Executive Protection Training; Re-evaluating the threat of an “Off the Record” (OTR) event.

It has been generally accepted the threat to a principal is greatly reduced if no one knows your principal is coming. An assailant the conventional wisdom goes can’t plan anything if they don’t know the where and when right?

Do you really think when President Ronald Reagan walked into a Boston Pub an advance team didn’t check it out first? When President Obama went out for Five Guys it I understand it drove the Secret Service crazy, but you’re wrong if you think they didn’t have a procedure for an OTR trip for burgers.

 So explain the recent problems with government officials just trying to eat a meal without being harassed. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not once but twice, former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

So many events to choose from, but I will focus on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for now.

 Sen McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, were confronted by protesters as they left dinner at Georgetown University, you can see the video at https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/mitch-mcconnell/2018/06/26/mcconnell-face-protesters-over-trump-immigration-policies/736531002/

 Now you can see the vehicle was staged ok, directly in front of the doors, and you can see at least two agents escorting the pair and a driver in the vehicle. But the driver appears clueless of the protestors approaching the vehicle from behind, see video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2IL8BDxIhE and if he did see them there is no indication he alerted the close protection agents.  Then you have P2 left alone and eye to eye with protestors as her agent opens her door, oh then he leaves the interior of the vehicle and P1 open as he walks back to get her.

 Never mind there was no surveillance team outside to spot the protestors coming, or that the agents were out of their element as evidenced by the female agent going hands-on and yelling at the protestors. Never mind there was no local police support, or a covered arrival or departure point. None of this is the point.

 Fast forward to a few days later and this time Sen. McConnell and his dining companion, Kentucky politician Jonathan Shell are chased from a restaurant by what was described as an “impromptu protest” see the video at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nopgmOiglA and I see no security, no vehicle staged, and no police presence.

 Now maybe Sen McConnell was on a guest list or had a reservation in Georgetown. But in Kentucky, there is absolutely no indication of advance notice the Senator would be eating there that day. This appears to be an OTR event that went bad.

I place the blame for this incident and all the others involving members of the Trump administration squarely on the protestors, and the unacceptable state of our political discord. Now with that said…

 Sen McConnell and members of the administration, and their staffs have been acting in a totally irresponsible and inappropriate manner. The days of just walking around for an elected official is over, and every time you say “I don’t need security” you place yourself and those around you in jeopardy.

 And it’s not like you didn’t see this coming, just look back at Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos getting chased from a D.C. public school by protesters Feb 10, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSu5V6iqKuQ  and again Apr 6, 2017, on a visit to Florida International University. Then look at the security measures you see in Georgetown, I’m not sure those responsible for the safety or security of these officials are taking things seriously either.

 My solution, since government officials won’t take their security seriously as public servants, we may need to play to their ego and treat them like celebrities, and consider protestors as Paparazzi.  Assume information on your dinner reservations, doctor appointments or trips to the gym will be sold to one of these protest groups. Assume doormen are calling protest groups with tips on your location for a few dollars.

 Assume you will be recognized in public and may draw a crowd, assume crazy fans want to get into your hotel room and steal your clothes. But you’re just a member of Congress you say? Who would recognize me?

Senator, you spent how many millions in ads getting elected? Did how many TV interviews? And you support or oppose immigration, the wall, or Trump? Believe me, you’re getting recognized.    

 Security details know we need to keep our threat assessments updated, and covertly advance everywhere. No such thing as an OTR anymore. And BTW, you need to take the speed of social media, and the demographics of the venue, its staff, and local population into consideration. What does that mean?

 Sen McConnell is an older, white, male; republican that supports tougher immigration and “separating kids” from their parents. It doesn’t matter if that’s true, what’s important is what is believed true about him.

So is the restaurant owned by a Democrat?  Do they support Democrats? Check out the pictures on the wall, check donor lists and eat a meal there, listen to the conversations around you and what is on the bar tv. Do you really think a fellow diner won’t make a call or post live on Facebook while you’re there?

Are the wait staff immigrants? Oh, you’re going to be popular, just ask Mrs. Sanders about that. You are so getting dimed out to the protestors.

What is the neighborhood like, Georgetown or Baltimore? How is your politics going to play with the locals? It only takes one person to see and recognize you and then you have protestors outside.

And if the senator only wants a single driver and agent? 

Senator, Congressmen, Mr/Mrs. Secretary, will you please understand this is 2018 and political civility is on life support. Please understand threats or an act of violence against you by someone who disagrees with your politics is no longer unheard of, it’s becoming normalized, and you are part of the problem. Every time you cancel an event over security concerns, every time protestors get into your personal space, block your car or invade your office, you are encouraging it to happen to someone else by the “other side”.     

Every time you say “security keeps me from my constituents” you play into the very hands of those who would do you harm. And we don’t keep you from anyone; we set the conditions that allow you to safely meet with anyone you wish.

The ISA Training Division can and will send a team to your district, and we will train local or state police, private security or your staff in protective techniques. You won’t experience a Georgetown or be chased from eating lunch if you just allow us to give you the tools needed to get out among the ‘people”.

But you need to do your part and allow us to do our jobs. The OTR trip to Dunkin Donuts, no problem, a sit-down dinner in DC, no, that no longer qualifies as an OTR. I wish I was wrong, or I was exaggerating the threat, but ask the Sergeant in Arms or Capitol Hill Police what the threats are, what the intelligence says. Then call us so we can prepare your home team for the critical job of supporting democracy by keeping you from getting hurt or killed.     


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