Last June 8, 2021, during a visit to the town of Tain-l'Hermitage, located in southeastern France, a man slapped French President Emmanuel Macron.
We don't know how much the blow hurt the French president, but it certainly stung the French security agencies, particularly the Security Group of the Presidency of the Republic of France (GSPR), in charge of presidential protection. Beyond the fact that this attack could have resulted in something much more dangerous (even deadly, using a Swiss knife), it is quite shameful that the president of one of the leading nations in Europe and the Western world should be attacked in such a way. This event puts all Gallic security institutions into question, as the inability to effectively protect the president of their nation can be a very bad sign in the face of various hostile groups and organizations.
This event demonstrates once again how vulnerable the security of high-ranking dignitaries and celebrities can be to the threat posed by crowds. Unfortunately, we have many examples of attacks and attacks from the crowd, such as those committed against Pope John Paul II or the assassination of former presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, just to mention a few.
To mitigate this and other threats, it is essential to understand that the protection of executives, dignitaries and celebrities is not a single person or a group of armed individuals, but a system that includes several factors and measures. Those of us who have worked in this profession on the other side of the Iron Curtain know that during official visits of presidents and senior Communist Party officials to cities, extensive intelligence and counterintelligence work was carried out long beforehand. The intelligence services had well located dissidents and opponents of the regime, who would be isolated or monitored during the visit to avoid situations that could have attempted against the life or image of the protégé.
Also, the security services were very careful to ensure that the shadow agents, the unconventional ones discussed in this video, were placed in the front rows where the president would have contact with the crowd, so that, frequently, where the official was seen interacting with the public, in reality, he only had contact with his protection agents. When this was not possible at all times, for operational and logistical reasons, the security services saw to it that the front lines of interaction were mostly covered by people and family members who were demonstrably sympathetic to the Communist Party or its ideology. This explains why the leaders of the Eastern European countries during the Cold War had virtually no incidents despite frequent contact with the crowds.
Of course, this is something that cannot be employed as is in today's democratic countries; however, there are many principles of this system that can be applied and implemented in both the public and private spheres.
Although many people are shocked when we talk about the spying on citizens in totalitarian regimes, thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden, we now know that the government agencies of several Western countries, through our cell phones and other electronic means, are able to obtain the information they need from citizens, something that not even the Committee for State Security (the KGB, for its acronym in Russian) could have dreamed of. The information obtained from people includes their psychological profile, political opinions, geolocation, network links, private conversations, among other data.
So, whether one accepts it or not, the French security agencies, in order to take the corresponding preventive measures, had a lot of resources to determine who were the people who could put the president in any kind of danger in the area of operation. Clearly, if this fails, the deployment of infiltrated shadow agents on the front lines is essential, not only to thwart an attack or reduce the accessibility of the potential aggressor to the protégé, but to gather intelligence, learn the general trend of the crowd, and profile and detect individuals who could pose a threat well before the protégé arrives on the scene. Examples of this in actual operatives have been described in the book. Executive Protection in the 21st Century: The New Doctrine.
Such a strategy, in coordination and communication with close protection agents, is a very effective way to prevent the attack before it happens. Of course, this requires a team of specially trained protectors, which the French president evidently lacked. All he was left with were close protection agents, which, statistically, fail most of the time they have to react to a surprise attack. When working in the crowd, the agent should generally be even closer to the protected person; however, in this case, there was no one to protect the president's left flank, as the agent arrived too late to avoid the aggression that would have been easy to detect and thwart, if the agent had been in place, covering the flank properly.
Finally, the president himself makes the mistake of getting too close to the public, compromising his personal space and, consequently, leading to humiliating results. Even as president, the protégé himself must follow the security rules previously outlined by his protection team. By ignoring these rules, coupled with poor planning and strategy, the result was worldwide embarrassment.