Category Archives: Middle East

What’s So Different About The ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course?


In short, everything and nothing.  Security Driving Guru, Tony Scotti recently said to me upon reviewing first hand the ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course , “Why don’t you just call it the “Executive Protection Course”, as all of the fundamentals are here”.  Mr. Scotti, had  a great point, and my response was that I wanted to make sure those that attended knew that in addition to those fundamentals they were also getting something at the class that had a clear distinction from what they could find anywhere else.   –An emphasis on working with Celebrities and the challenges and rewards that come with that segment of the marketplace from people that still do the work on a daily basis.  As we like to describe it; additional tools for the toolbox.

Along those lines, when we made the decision to introduce an Advanced 10 day course, I wanted to again have a distinction in the market.  This time it came in the form of not just teaching how to do everything the “right way” but also how to act (and react) when things go wrong.  the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course puts an emphasis on operating in a hostile environment with a client and covers a multitude of disciplines including Risk Assessments, Threat Planning, Surveillance Detection, Counteraction Drills and medical life saving techniques, with several curve balls thrown in.   Having recently wrapped a course to positive reviews, I think we are again practicing our philosophy of giving great value and respect to the time and resources expended by the attending student.  Now looking forward to Tony stopping by the next one and letting me know what he thinks.


Learn more about ICON’s Advance Executive Protection Course by clicking HERE.

ICON Executive Protection Themed Targets

A couple years ago, I commented to the instructors of  ICON Services Corporation how during the live-fire drills of our training courses I would like to use a paper target that spoke more to our industry as Executive Protection Agents.  Prior to this, we had been using some of the fairly common full-color situational targets that law-enforcement and the military shoot for practice (some of which had to have been photographed during the Reagan-Era).  While some were pretty good, none of them seemed to give me exactly what I was looking for — the scenario where I, as an Executive Protection Agent, has to suddenly pull my firearm to defend my client (as opposed to disarming a masked robber or shooting Bin Laden as many of the targets on the market portray).  As mentioned, we tried a few… then tried a few more, but I still didn’t “love ’em”.
Then inspiration struck.  If I couldn’t find what I was looking for, then I might as well create it.  Long story short, ICON was able to partner with North America’s largest distributor of paper targets to create the ICON VIP Protection Target Line.  Shot by the wonderful photographer Kiki Koralesky of Contact Front Photography, our initial series of 6 has been well received and have been met with brisk enough sales for the manufacturer to request additional targets in the future.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
Fast forward to July of 2011 where I got a note from a good friend of mine working in Afghanistan that referenced the “World being a small place“.  Turns out that while setting up some training with some other VERY distinguished Operators in that area of the world, he took a look at the paper targets they are using and guess what? –Yep, ICON.   While I do keep track though the distributor of the volume of sales, and realize that it’s not just the Close Protection community using them as orders have been place with Law Enforcement and Government Institutions, it was still nice to learn that the targets were serving their purpose in such a hostile area of the world.  The intent was to give the shooter a realistic situational target and in a region of the world where the stakes are as high as it gets, taking the time to train with the line speaks volumes.

Click here to learn more about the ICON VIP Protection Target Line.



A Timeline on the Special Forces Defeat of Bin Laden

The US Navy Seals executed an operation that resulted in the led to the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.  Here’s what we know so far:

* Four years ago: Officials uncovered a courier’s identity who they believe may have strong ties to Osama.

* Two years ago: Investigators identified areas of Pakistan where the courier and his brother lived.

*  August 2010: The residence of the courier and his brother was found in Abbottabad, 30 to 35 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.

* September 2010: The CIA worked with President Barack Obama “on a set of assessments that led it to believe that in fact it was possible” bin Laden may be at the compound in Abbottabad.

* February 2011: U.S. officials concluded there was a “sound intelligence basis” for pursuing bin Laden at that location.

* March and April 2011. President Barack Obama held a series of National Security Council meetings “to develop courses of action to bring justice to Osama bin Laden.” There were at least five NSC meetings — March 14, March 29, April 12, April 19, and April 28.

* April 29, 2011. President Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation.

* May 2, 2011. After months of decision-making and planning, a U.S. military team conducted a small helicopter raid on the compound. The officials did not provide a breakdown of team members, but a senior U.S. defense official said U.S. Navy SEALs were involved in the operation.

The senior administration officials provided these details of the raid:

* The team was in the compound for 40 minutes. It did not encounter any local authorities during the raid.

* Bin Laden resisted the assault force and died in a firefight. Along with bin Laden, three adult males were killed.

* Two were believed to be the couriers and one was a son of bin Laden.

* A woman used as a human shield by a male combatant died and two women were injured.

* A helicopter was lost because of mechanical failure.

* Intelligence on bin Laden was not shared with Pakistan and other countries.

* After the raid, U.S. officials briefed Pakistani and other world leaders.

* Bin Laden has been buried at sea and his body was handled in the Islamic tradition.  (via CNN)


What Happened to Lara Logans Security?

Security Professionals always look at incidents of violence perpetrated against public figures with a slightly different perspective than the general public.  Such was the case when I heard about the tragic story of CBS News Corespondent Laura Logan.  The journalist was a victim first of detention by the Egyptian authorities and following her release and return to the region a brutal assault by a mob.

The offical account goes as such:  The evening of the attack, Ms. Logan, 39, the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, was covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square in central Cairo with a camera crew and an unknown number of security staff members. The CBS team was enveloped by “a dangerous element” within the crowd, CBS said, that numbered more than 200 people. That mob separated Ms. Logan from her team and then attacked her.

I, as well as scores of my peers, have had first hand experience dealing with massive crows that are whipped into such a frenzy that you can feel the threat looming, so much so that it’s almost a tangible thing.  At that point, independent of even the clients wishes, a decision must be made to leave the area for the safety of the Protectee.  You might get chewed out or even fired later, but your client will live to tell the tale.  After initially hearing this story, the obvious question to me was, exactly how did her secuirty team become seperated from her?

While researching I stumbled upon outtakes of an interview Ms. Logan conducted with Esquire Magazine, conducted after the detention, but before the assault, that appeared to shed a little more light on the incident:

Esquire:  On whom she was traveling with:

Laura: “I’m not the only one going back, my producer is coming with me. And with my husband. We made this decision together. And with my boss.”

Esquire: On the precautions they’d be taking:

Laura: “We’ve made sure that the Egyptian embassy in the U.S. knows we’re going. They’re fully aware of it. They know what our purpose is, that we’re journalists. We’ve made every effort to try and get media accreditation before we left, but the embassy said because of the backup they couldn’t [get it to us], so they’re trying to help us on the ground. There are no surprises here this time. It is a better plan. Again, it’s not foolproof, you know?”

Esquire: On worrying about a repeat scenario:

Laura: “Sure, of course you can never discount [that], it would be foolish to discount that possibility.”

Esquire: On traveling with private security:

Laura:No. We are not. It’s been so chaotic. I think we do have a security person on with us now, on our team, but I haven’t had a chance to even address that.” (emphasis mine ~ES)

While in no way placing the blame of the assault on Laura Logan herself, I do think at least at the time of the interview, security was an afterthought.   There may or may not have been a trained agent from the states with her, and if there was, his available resources may have been minimal.  It is also likely that a local(s) could have been used, at which point the vetting process could have been anywhere on the scale of “bad” to “very bad’.  It is also possible that none of this was the case and the network provided Mrs. Logan with an equipped team of seasoned security professionals qualified to go into a potential hot spot with their primary responsibility of protecting their client — not of making sure she got an award winning news story.  It’s possible, but based off of my personal experiences, unlikely.

This is a story i’ll be following with great interest, and it is my hope that corporations placing their employees in hostile situations overseas begin to recognize the value of being proactive with security.  Sadly, Laura Logan has paid a high price for that lesson.

~Elijah Shaw

Judge Dismisses Shooting Case Against Blackwater

A federal judge dismissed charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in a controversial shooting in a busy Baghdad square two years ago in a ruling that sharply criticized the tactics of Justice Department prosecutors handling the case.

The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of the District’s federal court, found that prosecutors and agents had improperly used statements that the guards provided to the State Department in the hours and days after the shooting. The statements had been given with the understanding that they would not be used against the guards in court, the judge found, and federal prosecutors should not have used them to help guide their investigation. Urbina said other Justice Department lawyers had warned the prosecutors to tread carefully around the incriminating statements.

The five Blackwater guards — a sixth has pleaded guilty — were indicted in December 2008 on manslaughter and weapons charges accusing them of killing and injuring unarmed civilians.

Federal prosecutors have said the guards killed 14 Iraqis and wounded 20 in an unprovoked blaze of bullets and grenade explosions. The guards’ attorneys have said their clients fired in self-defense after being shot at by insurgents.

The incident, which badly strained U.S.-Iraqi relations, was the most serious one involving private security contractors in recent years, and it raised questions about using such guards in war zones. It so badly stigmatized Blackwater that the company renamed itself Xe Services.

For the full story click HERE.

Israel: The Solution to America’s Airport Security Problems?

Stumbled across an interesting article from The (via TF) on the differences between airport security in North America vs. how they screen in Israel.

While North America’s airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel’s, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience…

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

“The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport,” said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

“Two benign questions. The questions aren’t important. The way people act when they answer them is,” Sela said.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of “distress” — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

“The word ‘profiling’ is a political invention by people who don’t want to do security,” he said. “To us, it doesn’t matter if he’s black, white, young or old. It’s just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I’m doing this?”

Once you’ve parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion’s half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

“This is to see that you don’t have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious,” said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area…

For the full story click HERE.

Bodyguard Etiquette for Operating in Muslim Countries

I’m traveling to a Muslim Country to work an assignment, any protocol tips? -Nathan Cummings, CA

When travelling or working in a Muslim country the first rule of thumb is to dress conservatively.  Males, stay away from shorts.  For females, knee length or below for skirts or dresses and at least elbow length sleeves with shirts; your outfit should not be form fitting.  Always carry a headscarf as it may be necessary when entering some buildings (Mosques) or addressing certain officials or royalty.

When meeting and greeting clients or associates do remember that a firm handshake is wise but do not offer one to the opposite sex. Learning a few words in Arabic or the local language can also be very beneficial. A customary greeting is salaam alaykum (Peace be upon you). Shaking hands and saying “kaif halak” (how are you?) to a male or “kaif halik” if greeting a female.

There are several styles of greetings used in the Islamic world; it is best to wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting. A more traditional greeting between men involves grasping each other’s right hand, placing the left hand on the other’s right shoulder and exchanging kisses on each cheek.

The left hand is considered unclean and reserved for hygiene. Do not point at another person and do not eat with the left hand.  (See HERE)

Try not to cross your legs when sitting and never show the bottom of your feet to others.

When in the presence of a VIP, avoid admiring an item too much, you host may feel obligated to give it to you. When offered a gift, it is generally impolite to refuse.

Arabic names can often be confusing to foreigners. It’s best to get the names of those you will meet, speak to, or correspond with before hand and practice saying them to yourself. Find out both their full names and how they are to be addressed in person.

In political settings, it is proper etiquette to refer to a royal as “Your Highness”, and any members of the government ministries as “Your Excellency”.

In many countries, males will stand closer to each other than many westerners are used to, and members of the same sex will often touch arms when postulating or emphasizing a point. You should not draw away from this, as it would be considered rude and rejecting.

A useful online guide for some simple greetings and basics can be found at

Susanne Dancer is a former butler and administrator who has trained with the Guild of Professional English Butlers.  Her work in Etiquette has taken her from Brisbane to London with an emphasis on International Protocol.  She is regularly consulted as an expert in her field on subjects such as how to dress appropriately while working with High Net Worth individuals, and the delicate subject of table manners.

Have an etiquette question for Susan?  Ask it HERE.

Executive Protection Training Calendar

Celebrity & VIP Protection Course :  (5 Days) January 5 – 9, 2011

a five-day course of practical theory and hands-on training in the world of Celebrity & VIP Protection.Taught by industry veteran Elijah Shaw, who in addition to his corporate clients, has traveled the world as the personal bodyguard of international public figures such as musical giant Usher, supermodel Naomi Campbell, and rap megastar 50 Cent.

Advanced Pistol Course:  (2-3 Days) February 11 – 13, 2011

Taught by our highly qualified instructors, this two day course is open to the public and will prove a dynamic experience into the world of offensive/defensive shooting using a combination of classroom, drills and extended live fire exercises.  In addition, an optional 3rd day is offered to members of the Executive Protection Community with specific training geared for the Close Protection industry.

Advanced Executive Protection Course:  (10 Days) March 4 – 13, 2011

This intensive 10-day class is an excellent tool for Operators sharpening their skills with a focus on conducting close protection assignments with a potential high threat level. Work with experienced professionals who are not teaching “theory” put practical applications developed from many years of doing the job.  Lead by Instructor Dave Marris who has spent over 15 years in private security working in a number of high-risk environments including Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, Southeast Asia, South and Central America.

Surveillance Detection Course:  (5 Days) April 6 – 10, 2011

Icon Services Corporation together with Israeli-Based Multi Tier Solutions Ltd. are proud to present a unique course focusing on detecting stalkers, potential kidnappers & pre-attack surveillance. This course greatly benefits those in the corporate and low enforcement sectors with special emphasis placed on detecting terrorist activities.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the above courses, click on the links or send and email to  We can also put you in contact with previous Alumni to talk about their past experiences.

Iraqi Reality Show Plants Car Bombs on Celebrities

File under “S” for stupid.

Move over Punk’d, a new show on Iraq television makes unwitting contestants think they are going to jail after they are pulled over at a security checkpoint and a explosive device is found in their vehicle.

The show “Put Him in [Camp] Bucca” has received numerous protests but continues to air.

Popular public figures are tricked by being invited to the headquarters of  TV station Al Baghdadia to be interviewed, while en route a fake bomb gets planted in their car while they were being searched by Iraqi soldiers — who amazingly are in on the prank.

The unwitting celebrities are then secretly filmed, Candid-Camera-style, as they reacted with shock, disbelief and anger as fake checkpoint guards shout abuses at them: “Why do you want to blow us up?” “You are a terrorist.” “How much did they pay you to do it? You will be executed.”  Quality television indeed.

Click HERE for more on the story.

And just in case you think “how dumb is it that Iraqi soldiers are doing pranks like this in a war where untold lives are being lost“?  Meet a member of the US Military who while on active duty in Iraq, decided to film his own version of Punk’d by planting a explosive device in a car during a traffic checkpoint and filming the drivers reaction.   Nice.  Click HERE for the video.

IRAN – Anatomy of a Presidential Detail

the good folks over at STRATFOR posted an excellent analysis of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s security detail as he navigated the crush of the crowds during a recent public appearance.  It was during that appearance, depending on who you ask, an explosive was detonated or a firecracker thrown.  Regardless, viewing the video shows you the challenges the Iranian presidential guard faces and the marked difference between this motorcade and that of say a US President.

To watch the analysis, as a part of their Above the Tear Line series, click HERE.

See Related:  Assassination Attempt on Iran’s President