Executive Protection Institute

Executive Protection Institute

The attack against the Serbian president, a success story of advance protection

Last January, the Balkan region was rocked by the news of the foiled assassination attempt on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Now many can imagine the brave Serbian escorts rushing in to cover and evacuate their president while others triggered their weapons to cut down the attackers. However, this was not the case.

French intelligence, as part of its regular operational activities, intercepted a telephone conversation between members of a criminal group who, allegedly supported by the intelligence of a country in the region, were in the last phase of preparation of the attack against the president of Serbia. The organizers of the attack are inhabitants of Montenegro and Kosovo, while the sniper, who was to carry out the attack, is a Chechen national. The weapon had already left a warehouse in Slovakia and was on its way to Serbia via Bulgaria. The attack should have taken place at a public event in February of this year; however, French intelligence agents informed their Serbian colleagues, who in turn organized an extensive police action in the region that led to the dismantling of this group, thus thwarting the attack weeks before it took place. 

This is a clear example of how advance protection works. Thanks to accurate and timely information, the attack was thwarted far away from the executive both in time and space, and at no time were the life of the protected person, his bodyguards or the lives of citizens, who could have been collateral damage in the attack, put at risk.

At this point many might object to me that this is all well and good for the president of a nation but that, in the executive protectionIn the private sphere, we do not have at our disposal the intelligence services of various countries, nor can we tap phones to obtain privileged information, at least not legally.

This is true beyond any reasonable doubt; however, there is great confusion here between the scope and the principle. The fact that in private executive protection we do not have the same scope as in presidential protection does not mean that we cannot apply the same principle, of course, with the resources we have available.

On how to apply these principles of early protection, through the DETA (Detection, Disabling, Early Evasion of Threats) system, to any type or size of operation, I have talked extensively in my book Executive Protection in the 21st Century: The New Doctrine. Here it is sufficient to mention that, using intelligence, counter-surveillance and early warning measures, we can act effectively to defuse threats in advance, and all this at a lower cost than that implied by traditional executive protection.

As we can see from this recent example (the assassination attempt on the Serbian president), advance protection is more effective and safer, and its principles can be applied to any size of operation in the private sphere. Applying these principles to the operations we do every day will make our profession much safer for both protectees and protectors.