Operation Left Of Center
Operation Left Of Center
By Stanley I. White IACSP, AFIO
Suspicious behavior is one of the primary indicators that a hostile entity
may be attempting to gain field intelligence on a potential target. This
technique is better known as hostile surveillance. During these dangerous
times law enforcement and security professionals need to
maintain a hyper-sensitive level of awareness and avoid the dismissal of
suspicious activity. Federal and state officials urge the general public
to remain alert but the bulk of the responsibility still rests with
professionals in the field. These professionals need to guard against
burnout that stems from monotonous routines and lack of support from upper
management. These professionals also need to stay abreast of new terrorist
trends and techniques while continuing to develop an intimate knowledge of the
areas they patrol. This knowledge involves knowing when someone or something
is out of place and does not belong in a given location.
Below are listed common indicators of suspicious activity associated with
Hostile operatives position themselves in areas adjacent to critical
infrastructures and key resources that may be under consideration for a
future attack. During the planning stages of their operation these
operatives will attempt to acquire as much intelligence on the target as
possible. This field data may be obtained through the shooting of video
footage, taking of still photographs as well as the production of field notes and
hand drawn maps.
Hostile operatives conducting field intelligence activities on potential
targets may use elicitation to gather key information on staff and
and security, types of on-site security and emergency response protocols,
routes to and from the target, volumes of pedestrian and vehicular
traffic near the target, access to sensitive areas, work shifts, etc.
False alarms, bomb threats and cyber attacks may be executed against the
target to provide the operatives an opportunity to document the response
and countermeasures executed against these actions. Operatives may even attempt
to physically penetrate security elements on-site to document the response
of security. Operatives may even pose as venders, security staff, delivery
and cleaning personnel to gain physical access. These tests may also involve the abandonment of a stolen vehicle as close as possible to the target.. The operatives will then monitor
the response of security to the vehicle and how long it will remain in place
before it is investigated and towed off site.
During my tenure on the waterfront I have encountered suspicious
individuals who were suspected of conducting hostile surveillance in
several sensitive areas. One such incident was referenced as "Operation
Left of Center" reads as follows:
While on duty in the Waterfront District across from Manhattan I received
a call from an on-site Building Manager, Mike Daley, who said he needed me
to check something out at one of his high-rise buildings, the River View,
located in the northern section of the district. The River View was a 15
story high-rise that was still under construction with the first six floors
completed and partially occupied with residents. I met Mike outside in the
main parking lot and said, "What's up Mike? What's so important? Every time I
respond to calls involving this building you never give me the whole story until I'm physically on-site."
Mike shrugged and replied, "Every since we have had residents on the first
six floors burglar alarms and fire alarms have been going off twice a week
and the local PD wants us to give them more info prior to them running out
here for nothing."
I looked at him and shook my head and said, "So call security."
"They're all tied up. So tag your it," Mike chuckled back.
"Okay so answer the question. What's so important Mike?"
Mike pointed up and said, "Seventh floor you'll get all your answers there."
Mike and I made it to the seventh floor, Unit 714. This unit was
above the occupied units and vacant with a spectacular view of the transit
bus maintenance yard and the northeast corner of the new light rail
station. The door was open and we entered the unit and moved to the living
room. There we found an individual dressed in a black trench coat and
ragged baseball cap seated on a rickety folding chair behind a make shift
desk consisting of a wood door on top of two garbage cans. The individual
was positioned in front of the unit's large bay window. At this point I
looked at Mike and frowned. "What's this guy’s story," I whispered to Mike.
"Some kind of secret agent says he's doing top level surveillance and he's
not leaving his post. I figured you might know who he is or something. If
I called PD and he's the real deal it might not look good," muttered Mike
under his breath looking down at the floor.
"Okay lets go make some introductions shall we," I said to Mike quietly
extending my arm outward while making a gesture of after you. At which
point Mike gestured back in a non-verbal fashion mouthing the words, "No
after you." At this point we made our way into the living room being
careful not to startle our mysterious guest.
"Excuse me Sir. Can I help you with something," I inquired?
"No not at all." Our man of mystery must have been set up at this
location for some time as evidenced by the piles of cigarette butts and
empty paper coffee cups that littered the floor around his make shift
post. He took two long drags on his cigarette and blew the smoke into the
air and said," But maybe I can help you two winners with something. Then
after that I can get back to my work."
I pulled my sunglasses to the tip of my nose and looked at Mike who then
shrugged at me. This master of mystery never turned to acknowledge either
me or Mike. As our guest continued to peer through his binoculars and
scribble notes on his coffee stained notebook, I positioned my self behind
his right shoulder. My past defensive tactics training said 85% of the
population is right handed. If this encounter should take an evil turn
I would be in position to control the dominant side of his body while
re-introducing him face first to his home made desk and stained notebook.
As far as first impressions go either this dude was super bad or just
another clown not fit for a circus. I cleared my voice and attempted to
continue our dialogue, "I know you’re a busy man, but fact of the matter
is my man Mike here is the building manager of this building and there
are residents, contractors ... So I was sent here.."
Before I could complete my sentence my guest abruptly cut me off and
shouted, "Who sent you? Was it headquarters?"
I took a half step back, slightly dropped my weight and prepared myself to pounce on our
un-welcomed guest. At this moment he turned and made eye contact with Mike
and myself. I relaxed my posture and held my hands out above my waist in
a non threatening fashion and said, "Look you figured me out, they did send
me to make sure you got everything you needed to get this ops done. They
tell me you're an experienced operative."
"That's right. I've been down this road before Khobar Towers 1995, Somalia
1991 and Beirut 1981. Each one I was there in the flesh."
"Sir let's start all over,” I said, “My name is Stan and I'm just a low guy in the
mix," Our guest shook his head in agreement while puffing his cigarette.
"Sorry for the attitude, you are just a grunt following orders. My name is
Buck but you can call me Bucky."
Suddenly my radio went off. I reached inside my jacket and an unhooked it
from my belt.
Like a little kid, Bucky's eyes lit up and he piped, "That's a nice radio."
"Thanks,” I said. “Before I take this, did they hook you up with the
standard gear,” I asked?
"No that's probably why your standing here," grumbled Bucky.
"Hey I'll bet they didn't even issue you a firearm for this ops Bucky."
"No, not yet," Bucky responded with a twisted facial expression.
"Not a problem. I'm going to get you set up the right. A man with your
experience should be setup like this. The whole thing is a disgrace. Tthe agency can do a lot better than this."
“ I'm with you on that," said Bucky as he turned around to face the window and continue his surveillance.
"I'm going to take this in the other room. I want to give headquarters a
piece of my mind," I said looking at Mike with a smirk. Mike looked back
at me with a look of terror in his eyes that said; “Don't you dare leave
me with this banana.” Before I moved to the next room, I mouthed the words
to him,"I got this.”
I went into the next room and quietly radioed Frank Gasanno, the head
of waterfront security and explained the situation. He stated that he
would meet Mike, Bucky and myself downstairs in the front of River View.
Frank stated that he would have a plain clothes police officer with an
unmarked car parked immediately south of the entrance. Frank doubted that
this guy was the real deal as I did and to be on the safe side he wanted
the proper personnel on-site to scoop our guest up rapidly with any
unnecessary fanfare. The plan would have us go to the front of the building
with Frank and company making the confirmation Bucky was "left of center"
and transport him off site for a more detailed debriefing.
I entered the living room to find Bucky continuing his surveillance and
Mike sweating bullets. “Hey Bucky its all set in about 10 minutes. Pete from
headquarters is going to meet us downstairs and get you set up.”
“Headquarters wants you to pack up all the intel you have gathered so far
for a quick review, then you get your gear and you're right back on the job,” I said with a smile
hoping Bucky was buying my story.
Bucky turned, nodded and replied “,About time I got some
cooperation. This Pete what's he like> Does he know his stuff?"
"Pete, he's a former Navy SEAL, your type. You'll be in good hands. I'm just glad things are getting worked out the right way."
Well the 10 minutes went fast. Bucky packed up his stuff and we headed
downstairs to the front of the building. Frank and Pete were in the
unmarked car parked to the south of the building within visual range. Frank
gave me the signal confirming that Bucky was a certified “banana” and the
unmarked vehicle rolled up to meet us. Then Pete got out and advised Bucky
he was going for a ride to headquarters to get his gear. Bucky then got in the back and the two
Mike looked at me as though I was insane and asked, " That guy Pete was he
really a SEAL?"
"How should I know. All I know is Bucky is going to headquarters for
questioning." At this point I thought maybe Mike should have been sent
along for questioning.
"So Bucky was not a special agent, huh," Mike asked.
"No he is definitely something special but an agent he's not," I chuckled.
Now I was certain Mike should have went along for a sit down.
"How did you know?" asked Mike.
History Mike. History.... The Khobar bombings occurred in 1996 not 1995.
The Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia took place in 1993 not 1991 and the
Beirut Barracks bombings occurred in 1983 not 1981. “Anyone fortunate
to survive those events would at least get the dates right.”
Our mystery man Bucky was later found to be an individual with issues who
had a history of posing as a secret agent, police officer and fireman. The
moral of this story is simple: Every suspicious individual posing as
something they are not should always be investigated to determine whether
they are a legitimate threat.