The art of surveillance is a sophisticated one that breaks into three major pieces. The offensive portion is actually called surveillance. Let’s examine . . .
The offensive portion is actually called surveillance and involves following a target and cataloging his routes, his stops, and his contacts along the way. You record the time, day, weather, and other things related to that target’s movements. There are two types of surveillance—close, or discreet. Discreet is where the target never sees you or your team and there’s a chance that you’ll lose the target to maintain that invisibility. That’s the risk. On the other hand, close surveillance is where you follow the target and don’t care if he sees you. you practically bumper-lock his car with your own, much like the Soviets would do during the Cold War to someone they feared was going to defect.
Both types of offensive surveillance are time-consuming and expensive if you field a proper team, because you need people and vehicles available continuously so you can swap them out and prevent the target from seeing the same face, car, or license plate enough to uncover the operation.
The second component to the art of surveillance is surveillance detection. That involves preventive and defensive actions taken by you to detect an enemy team and, sometimes, prevent it from following you. The primary tactic is a surveillance detection route (SDR), literally a route designed to force pursuers on foot or in a vehicle to make mistakes, to expose themselves, all while allowing you, the intelligence officer (IO), to maintain your cover and not appear to actually be craning your neck to see them.
Consider the following very compressed example of an IO (intelligence officer) in Rome heading out to meet an agent. He might take a taxi for a few blocks, then get out and walk down a one-way street against the flow of traffic to a shaved-ice shop. Inside he might buy a few scoops, then turn and eat while standing in the storefront window gazing out at the street he’d just used to get there.
To the average observer, he looks like a tourist taking a break and getting a snack. But in actuality, taking the taxi forced anyone following him on foot to have to get into cars to catch up. Then walking down the one-way street against the flow of traffic stripped off those and any other cars that might have followed him down the road in the taxi. Standing in the window gave him a chance to see foot surveillance standing around in the street or on the sidewalks, trying to find something to do.
But if the IO chose the shaved-ice shop carefully, there would be no bus stops to loiter near; no newspaper stands to read next to; no phone booths for pretend calls. In such a situation, it’s harder for an enemy surveillance team to look like normal people: they stand out like dog’s balls, and thus the SDR fulfills its function in detecting surveillance because it forces the team to commit errors of cover for status and action, as well as errors of correlation. An error of correlation is when the movement of the enemy surveillance team mirrors that of the IO. He turns left; they turn left. He stops; they stop.
The challenge to the IO, though, is to pull this surveillance detection route off without looking like he’s checking for surveillance. It’s easy to spot someone walking down the street obsessed with looking over his shoulder—you know he’s guilty of something, or else why would he be looking? As an IO, you don’t want to be that guy—you want to be relaxed and natural. The only way to accomplish that is to assume you are always under surveillance and let the route uncover surveillance, not your neck. That’s the rule.
The third basic component of the art of surveillance is countersurveillance, or CS. That’s a team that watches your back to see if anybody is following you when you arrived and when you leave. If the people and resources are available, the IO will set up a team who actually watch his back when he is going operational—when he’s on his SDR.
Using the IO in Rome again as an example, his CS team might take up positions at certain points along his route. As he passes these points, he might perform some action, such as stopping at a bench to sit down and drink something. After finishing the drink, he might stuff a napkin into the bottle and leave the bottle on the ground next to the bench and walk away.
His CS team would stay in place watching that bottle to see if anyone moved in after he left. Did anyone try to retrieve or check it? If that happened, then it’s one of two things—a trash collector or a surveillance team checking to see if the IO left a secret message in the bottle for his agent. If the IO’s team sees that sort of activity, they then alert the officer that he has surveillance on him, at which point he’ll probably abort.