Intelligence needs related to security will largely be determined by the type of operation a company has in a particular location, the size of the footprint, number of personnel, amount of infrastructure and assets, etc.  As an example, a company involved in oil, gas or mining operations with extensive and costly infrastructure will typically need to take a longer view of the situation in a given country than a wholesaler that sends buyers to the country for short periods of time.

Therefore it is critical that the company’s security management understand the difference between tactical and strategic intelligence, how this applies to business operations and how to best gather each type.  Strategic intelligence covers the Macro and generally more long range view of events in a particular location.  What affect will upcoming elections have on the business environment?  Is a coup d’etat imminent and will that require an evacuation of company employees?  Tactical intelligence is more micro in its scope.  What routes are safest to use between the company’s residential compound and the office or between the hotel and the airport?  What intersections are likely to be affected by an upcoming political protest?  What neighborhoods have the highest levels of street crime?

Clearly both strategic and tactical intelligence are important when assessing risk.  Generally, the more nimble an organization is and the smaller its footprint is the less reliant it is on strategic intelligence.  On the other hand, a company with more physical assets and infrastructure that is less able to disengage itself quickly without risking the loss of its assets must be more mindful of long-term events in the country that could affect its business and employees.  Any organization with employees in a particular country or traveling to a particular country needs to be attentive to tactical intelligence on that location.  Unfortunately of the two, tactical intelligence is often more difficult to get in an accurate and timely manner.

One area that is perhaps best described as a subset of tactical intelligence is the understanding of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by criminals and terrorists in the locations where your company does business.  This is also sometimes referred to as modus operandi and is often highly specific to the location you are operating in.  Two examples are the methodologies used by express kidnappers in Caracas,Venezuela and carjackers in Nairobi,Kenya.  During the summer of 2005, OSAC released a report describing a number of incidents where travelers were met at Maquetia airport in Caracas and directed to taxis or private car services where they were subsequently express kidnapped and robbed.  The report detailed several specific incidents, mentioned ruses that were used, etc.  A previous report on express kidnappings at Maquetia airport also included a physical description of one team involved in the incidents.  Similarly, when looking at carjacking techniques in use in Nairobi, Kenya it would be important to look at trends from past incidents in terms of frequent locations of occurrence, size of carjacking teams, presence of weapons, use of violence, use of blocking vehicles or ruses to halt target vehicles, etc.

Another good example of a tactic is the popular use of incapacitating drugs in certain countries to facilitate other crimes such as robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault (this will be discussed in greater depth in a future post).  In the Philippines, the drug Ativan is frequently introduced by criminals into a victim’s food or drink to incapacitate them.  In Colombia, the drug Scopolamine, locally referred to as Burundanga is used in a similar way.

This type of detailed information on the methods used by different threat groups in various locales provides the company’s security management with important information to use when implementing effective countermeasures and is also valuable in educating travelers and expatriates about the nature of the threat in a particular place.

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