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  1. #1
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    Default Counter Surveillance - Tail Checks

    We used to do tail checks if we were working UC and wanted to know if the bad guys were now surveilling us. Some call this a "cleaning run" as well. We would often see the bad guys do this as well when they suspected they were being followed. The more thorough their cleaning run, the harder it was to follow them discreetly.

    The purpose of the tail check is to identify and/or lose surveillance. When you've finished a tail check you should feel confident that no one is watching or following. The tail check can be done in various ways or combinations, or by traveling a confusing or unpredictable route. A thorough tail check could take several hours, could cover a large area and involve various means of transportation.

    If you identify a "tail", it is always best to never acknowledges it. Some will want to go confront the tail, but that leads nowhere. After all, when you grab the tail by the lapels and growl at him, he can simply deny everything and that is that.

    Use the tail check to observe and if you realize someone is in fact following you, there are some things that can be done to identify them, and/or elude them.

    One option is to make a very obvious drop of something inconsequential...a manila envelope with nothing in it, a folded piece of paper, or a gum pack. Leave it on the table at the coffee shop, discreetly place it in someone's briefcase, etc. Or simply strike up a conversation with a total stranger and the abruptly leave. All of these will diminish the "tail team's" ability to stay up with you as they redeploy assets to retrieve things and follow inconsequential leads.

    Another option - is to make a discreet call to the police identifying the possibly armed man "casing the store" across from your coffee shop. This is another possible use for a burn phone. Watch the police contact the "tail". Does he show ID? Do they arrest him? Do they act as if he is a colleague? How do they interact with him? This will give you a great deal of information on your "tail". This can also be used to elude the tail.


    Your vehicle should be fairly common if this is a concern. Keeping track of the red corvette is far easier than the grey toyota. If you are really concerned, change modes of transportation often and randomly. Taxi, bus, tram, on foot, etc.

    While on foot, notice who seems to be there repeatedly. Once may be a coincidence, three or four times? While "professionals" will likely be men or women between 21 and 65, "amateur surveillers" may be children as well. Watch for anything that seems unusual, unusually repetitive, or stands out. A guy in a suit may fit in downtown, but would stand out in a rural area. Oftentimes surveillers are not good at hiding in plain sight.

    Your clothing should be layers and of varying shades and colors. Earth tones are far better than basic colors. Surveillers keep track of colors and types of clothing. Those descriptors are easy to follow in a crowd. For example, if you are wearing a black hoodie with a logo on it, ducking into a store and shedding the black hoodie to reveal the blue t-shirt underneath may give followers several moments of confusion. Same for hats....blue baseball hat, black beannie, grey hoodie, no hat, changing will make it difficult to pinpoint you visually.

    Faces are another matter. You will look differently with sunglasses on than without them. With a hat on will change your profile from what it appeared with it off. One man I worked with cultivated long hair and a scraggly beard. His reasoning was that if he needed to disappear, all around him would be fixed on his current look (which he sported for a year). Ten minutes in a public restroom and he would be clean shaven with greased back hair. Natures' Mask so to speak.


    There is of course much more to this, but these are some basics.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  2. #2
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    Jun 2006
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    Very good....... I have found that conducting counter surveillance TTPs, makes me a much better survailer as well. I

    Additionally these are good habits to get into; soon it becomes second nature and you become a generally more observant person.
    Last edited by SUA SPONTE; 04-01-2013 at 09:09 AM.
    Cheers
    T.

    "VICTORIOUS WARRIORS WIN FIRST...
    AND THEN GO TO WAR,
    WHILE DEFEATED WARRIORS GO TO WAR FIRST...
    AND THEN SEEK TO WIN." Sun tzu


  3. #3
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    An important consideration when conducting tail checks is whether you want the surveillers to know/suspect that you are looking for tails. There may be good reasons you absolutely don't want the surveillers to suspect. There may be other occasions when it does not matter to you. This issue can decide your level of aggressiveness in conducting them.
    I shamelessly profile. Extensively and all day long. It is what I credit my survival to.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Randall View Post
    An important consideration when conducting tail checks is whether you want the surveillers to know/suspect that you are looking for tails. There may be good reasons you absolutely don't want the surveillers to suspect. There may be other occasions when it does not matter to you. This issue can decide your level of aggressiveness in conducting them.
    This.

    When we found some guy doing a heat run, it was taken as confirmation that he was dirty. That greatly influenced the amount of future effort put into the case and how we dealt with him once we finally had contact. From the BG point of view, it marks you as a high value target.

    Far better to lose your tail without theatrics.
    __________

    "To spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary." Pournelle

  5. #5
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    I could see wanting to make it look deliberate especially if you want to set a trap. You would want someone to think you are running, and then bam when they turn the corner. Huh, this is an interesting conversation.

  6. #6
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    Good one, Gabe. In my field we call this an running an SDR (Surveillance Detection Route). Same concept. A prescribed method and area of travel, even done at certain times so as to observe the tail.

    An addition to this is how to do a "scrub off a tail". How to dump him/them without them realizing that you have figured them out. Of course by letting them know you know, or "catching" them, you have lost or more more accurately, given away the tactical advantage.

    Regarding a comment by someone on your other post: LE, Mil and HUMINT guys all have similar modus operandi, but differ in greatly in approach, type of back-up (sometimes none at all...sometimes a single partner or a friggin' battalion or even close air support), operational space, and end use. However, we all share one thing in common....a strong desire to get home in one piece after closing out the task.
    If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

  7. #7
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    Once the "tail" is identified, like I said, something in us wants to go and say, "Hey Mickey Foxtrot...whiskeytangofoxtrot!!!", probaly while bouncing his face off a Coke Machine.

    But consider this. Confronting the tail gives you nothing...really nothing. I recall one time I was "made" and the guy, a big wrestler type walked and shoved me. My initial instinct was of course to want to break his knee, but mission takes precedence. I was watching him and knew he had made me and knew he was coming so as sonn as he shoved me, I yelled fearfully, "Hey man...don't hurt me...someone call the police!". He left and the beer was on me for having been made.

    What did I give him? Nothing. He was still followed and we eventually got what we wanted. I did not say, "Well Mr. Bruiser, You got me...I am working for LA Impact and we have had you on our radar now for several weeks due to your possible involvement with the Red Door gang members". I acted like a scared p*ssy.

    So instead, consider simply doing a couple of scatterbrain moves to really verify.

    1). Shop like a woman. If you have ever shopped with a female shopper you know they are in one spot of the store and then for no apparent reason they get up and go shop somewhere else...and then back to where they started. So here is what you do. Go to the mall. Go into a large store, like Sears, and bounce from one department to the next...buy a couple of shirts...a few socks. And watch. What are the possibles that the guy or guys you thought were tailing you ALSO shop at that place and ALSO are there to buy the same things.

    2). Walk in one direction at the same mall, casually and then pick up your phone. Then start talking as if you were having a conversation. You've seen people do this. They kinda wander and talk with their heads right up their own arses. Bad for them but good for you because it allows you to create chaos in movement and travel, which if emulated by others, is again indicative.

    Anyway...once you are pretty sure, how do you profit from it. What do you want to gain?

    Options - call other team mates and have them get into position. Advise them of the party's clothing, description, etc. Then when they have him, shake the tail in some form that appears to be so random its almost stupid. make it seem as if they lost you, not that you lost them. But then have your guys tail them and report back. In today's techno-climate photos should be super easy as well.

    Options - Have your guys watch them as you make a passing contact with a non involved party. Drop something in their bag, and then leave. Have your guys see if that "contact" is left alone or stopped.

    Options - If you are good, once you lose the tail, you can begin tailing them. Here is one way. Like I mentioned, wear layers if you can. Surveillers will be focusing on the guy in the black jacket. Pop into the head, ditch the black jacket and wear the "sport's team" hoodie underneath. Grab that red hat, and those reading glasses and you are in effect a different person. They OTOH, will not have done that and you still know who they are and what they look like. If in doubt, they will be the guys that look like they have lost someone. Watch them and see what they do, who they talk with, etc.

    All of that will give you bits of information that you can work into workable intelligence of what, why, who, etc. That will be far more valuable than showing the guy that you are a bad dude.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  8. #8
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    One thing those looking to detect surveillance will be looking at is the footwear. Clothes may be easy to change but footwear gets a little harder to do/requires time that may not be available.
    I shamelessly profile. Extensively and all day long. It is what I credit my survival to.

  9. #9
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    Toughest follow I ever did was a guy who drove safely and obeyed all the traffic laws---and did it 7-10 mph under the posted limit. Think how obvious the only guy who won't pass you is.
    __________

    "To spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary." Pournelle

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Randall View Post
    One thing those looking to detect surveillance will be looking at is the footwear. Clothes may be easy to change but footwear gets a little harder to do/requires time that may not be available.
    Very true. Same for pants. So the answer is the next best thing....wear what everyone wears. Can't go wrong with jeans, and darker colored shoes. In a crowd what you tend to see are shirts and heads, so if you can disguise those, you will have most of it done. If there are 500 people in the area all wearing jeans and dark shaded shoes, that may not be such an identifier.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

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