Terrorism and Travel

Pre September 11 terrorism was an issue which did not overly concern Americans. It was something that happened in faraway places to people they did not know. In fact this was much the same for most western societies. Unfortunately in today's world this could not be further from the truth. If you travel beyond the borders of the USA or the UK in any direction you are stepping into the cross fire of a battle that involves thousands of people in dozens of countries.

The answer to this problem is not to refuse from traveling abroad. No, far from it, as this is in itself a victory for the terrorist. The solution lies in broadening your security awareness of the issue and adapting prudent travel habits. The single most important element in reducing your exposure to terrorism is for you to take active security and / or close protection preceditions. Like most criminal minds, a terrorist will pray on the easiest targets. We have to harden the target and stop making their job easy.


Terrorism defined is an act of violence or the threat of violence with the purpose of generating fear. While all countries have suffered as victims, Americans remain the number one target choice.

According to Andy Lightbody (an emerging authority on terrorism), since 1983 over 400 Americans have been killed by terrorist actions abroad and over 600 injured. These figures are deceptive as they do not take into consideration the hundreds of victims who have escaped physical injury but retain the psychological scars of terror. The FBI reports that the total number of terrorist bombings world-wide reported in 1986 alone, totaled more than 700. It is an increasing security problem with a frightening growth potential which all close protection officers should be aware of.

Security Tip: Prior to the end of the last Millennium if we removed the obvious trouble zone of Lebanon, we found that six countries dominated two-thirds of the recent terrorist attacks, namely Columbia, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Spain and Belgium. However fast forward to current day and the shift has moved to war zone areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. However terrorist attacks are increasing in many other global destinations. Security and close protection officers are advised to conduct rigid threat assessments prior to close protection operation deployment to these areas.

The terrorist of today is not the disorganized lunatic that you may envision. Many are from upper and middle class backgrounds, who for a variety of reason have been recruited into a fast-paced world of violent causes. They are organized to a high degree that would be accredited by the very establishment they oppose. While some terrorists have mercenary motives and others exhibit signs of raving insanity, the majority of terrorists are dedicated crusaders willing to give his or her life, as well as yours, for their cause. With extensive media coverage, terrorism against Americans has become an effective way to gain public attention in a world theater. These tactics are deplorable, but unfortunately successful and efficient. Simply stated, terrorism does work, because the need for security and close protection officers to understand the security information outlined in this terrorism and travel article part 1.


By acknowledging the fact that you or your security close protection VIP client could be a target of terrorism, that indeed indeed it could happen to you, puts you well on your way into the mindset of prevention. Although you do not want to be fearful, you can not be overly cautious. You need to remain in that perceptive middle ground between complacency and paranoia. This middle ground is the ground taken by many security, bodyguards and close protection officers.

Security Tip: Undertaking specialized security close protection training will place you in the higher ground of professional paranoia which is occupied by many of the world-class close protection specialists.

As you plan your vacation or business trip abroad, begin the process of intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, you may find an appalling lack of unbiased security information available to the general public as to the actual situation in the country to which you are traveling. Learn as much as you can about your destination through personal and security sources, following the media and keep current with the political changes of the region. Clearly identify the potential risks of traveling in that country. Make your plans to avoid large events in your host country such as national celebrations and anniversaries, military displays or air shows. Such events are often the target of violent protest against the government increasing your risk and the potential risk to your security close protection client of becoming an incidental casualty.

An excellent source of security information for professional bodyguards is our own State Department. They are not a travel agency and they will provide you with a candid assessment of the risk factor in any particular zone of the world. They can also inform you of any upcoming events in your destination country which you should plan on avoiding. For an author report on conditions abroad, call them at 202-6475225.

Some of your higher risk times, especially when conducting a security close protection operation will be in the airport before and after departure and on the plane itself. Because military, law enforcement and security personnel are specifically targeted by terrorists, do not carry your badge or other security ID in your wallet on the plane. If you must bring it for work purposes, pack it in your luggage. If you are on family vacation, it is best to leave all such identification at home. Clean out your wallet of all unnecessary information, telephone numbers and notes. Do leave in pictures of family and children as. hijackers have been known to be more lenient on families.

If you are hijacked, your passport will definitely be taken. If you are a frequent traveler, get a new passport as a multiple of visa entries will betray the fact that you are acting in an official capacity. If you visit Israel – ask them to stamp your visa on a separate piece of paper that does not need to be transported in your passport. The agreement will require agree as that government is painfully aware of the injuries inflicted upon their citizens and allies. Make a photocopy of the first page of your passport and your visas and keep this in your checked luggage. It will help you get a replacement passport quicker at your destination should your passport be confiscated or stolen.

Security Tip: In your carry-on bag, pack at least a six-day supply of any medication that you require on a daily basis. This small precaution will safeguard your health in the event of a hijacking. Do not carry your ground itinerary with your travel tickets as this alerts a terrorist to where you are going next. Do not carry controversial reading such as Playboy, Penthouse, or even Cosmopolitan. Many terrorist groups find this type of publication highly offensive and it will provoke them to unnecessary anger.

Leave a detailed itinerary of your travel plans with a contact person in the States. Make sure they know exactly where you will be, how you are getting there and how to contact you. it is, also, a good idea to leave with them a photo copy of your passport, credit cards and traveler's checks numbers.

For executive travel arrangements consider consulting security cleared travel sgency. a company who makes travel arrangements and consultations for corporations and individuals who carry a high risk factor and must keep terrorism in mind. They are usually staffed with experienced and intelligent personnel, sensitive to your traveling requirements.

Copyright (c) 2009 Dr Mark Yates