The Blog / Commentary

Securing critical infrastructure: An interview with David Garbutt

1. What is your role in Le Beck and how did you get to the security field?

 I have two separate roles at Le Beck being both the company’s Operations Manager and a Senior Security Advisor.

As Le Beck’s Operations Manager, I coordinate and manage all operational activities from the development of the proposal to the completion of the contract. In addition, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.

In general terms I manage, coordinate, support and assist the CEO in business functions and promote, maintain and enforce the company’s core values. I also hold delegated executive decision making powers as provided by the CEO to undertake administrative, marketing and business development functions on his behalf and that of the Company.

As a Senior Security Adviser, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.

  • Security Risk and Threat Assessments

  • Security and Safety Reviews, Plans, Audits and Training

  • Security and Safety Plans, Policies and Procedures

  • Crisis Management and Evacuation Planning

  • Security Systems Project Management and Concept Design

  • Security Consultancy and Training

  • Fraud and Internal Crime Investigations

  • IT and Cyber Security Assessments

  • Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery

  • VIP Protection

I left the British Military in 2004 having served for 16 years as a Military Policeman in various theaters around the world. Since leaving I have worked in both the private and public sectors as a “Security Manager,” before moving into consultancy.


2.How do you think protecting critical infrastructure differs from other assets? What are the main challenges? 

Critical infrastructure is exactly that; critical. Therefore, the impact of any would-be damage or destruction would have a direct detrimental effect on the economy of any given country – Oil refineries in KSA being one such example. If there is any interruption to the supply of oil, then clearly that would have a devastating effect on the National economy. However, that is not to say that assets not deemed part of the critical national infrastructure are any less important; damage or destruction of a Bank Head Office for example, would clearly be of detriment to the company, although not necessarily so of the national infrastructure.

The main challenge to protecting national infrastructure stems mainly from the fact that any mitigating factors are defined by a governing body and are usually non-negotiable and not necessarily the most cost-effective way of securing and/or protecting any given asset.

Securing financial institutions: An interview with Devlin Zents

1. What is your role in Le Beck and how did you get to the security field?

I am a Senior Security Adviser with a specific focus in the financial sector. I spent a number of years in both the South African military and the South African Police force. I retired from the police force having worked as a detective within the specialised Commercial Crime Unit, investigating high value fraud and corruption. This was a precursor to my moving into the security field including Bahrain specifically in the hospitality, banking and later in Oil and Gas with Chevron Corporation as their National Security Operations Manager for Iraq.

2. What would you recommend to a client that would find him/herself in such circumstances? What should he or she have done prior to that in terms of contingency planning?

Financial security differs in that it is multi faceted as it incorporates auditing, physical security, manned guarding, electronic security as well as training to name a few of the activities.

The aim is to ensure an effective overall security strategy that meets the current threat requirements while at the same time building resilience and planning for the future. Doing so in a cost effective manner that supports the business plan of the bank and protects the reputational integrity of the bank

3. What do you think is Le Beck’s experience and competitive advantage when it comes to protecting financial entities?
LBi has a broad footprint in terms of skill set and expertise. This covers investigations, technical and engineering as well as multi national exposure to say the least. All this harnessed together allows LBi to present our clients with a robust security experience and capability.

Contingency planning in unstable countries: An interview with Tony Palys

1. What do you think makes a good contingency plan in a country like Libya, i.e. countries with an active conflict ongoing?

What happened in Libya shows the importance of a solid contingency plan that takes into account both the geopolitical landscape of the country where client interests are, as well as the cultural and business requirements of the client. Libya is one of these countries where the security landscape can change very quickly, and this is highlighted again with the recent Tripoli offensive, which saw an airstrike against the main airport and disruptions along the road to the nearest country (by land), namely, Tunisia. It is typical of, but not limited to, a country where active conflict is ongoing – Lebanon, for instance, is a good example of a country that is relatively stable yet, should a conflict with Israel break out, would see potential exit points immediately disabled.

Essentially this shows that a contingency plan must prepare for the worse case scenario.

Understanding the client’s business requirements, priorities, and objectives is key in that sense, along with the plan’s simplicity and flexibility so as to allow for change, especially if there is a requirement to move or evacuate the location or even the country. Communication & Training is also central, so as to allow for staff inclusion from the outset, especially in cases where families may be involved. Similarly, good liaison with embassies, consulates, local law enforcement (it they are reliable), and, of course, a reputable security consultancy.


2. What would you recommend to a client that would find him/herself in such circumstances? What should he or she have done prior to that in terms of contingency planning?

There are several steps that should have been taken prior to any such development. They include:

  • Identifying a core group of business continuity decision makers to make sure the decision-making process (including whether assets should be evacuated or not) be made in swiftly.

  • Carrying out an internal risk assessment of the business requirement and the acceptable loss of business/financial loss.

  • Is there a requirement for a Business Continuity Site and, if so, where is it located, can it be supported and has it been tested?

  • Drafting an all staff communications plan with a backup that is tested.

  • Know where your staff are located, especially families, and keep the database up-to-date, including those travelling, schools, and even hospitals.

  • There may be a need to have a “safe location”, such as a hotel, to locate staff and their families if the need arises. Good ties with such locations can go a long way in ensuring support to one’s plan with the minimum of “fuss”.

  • Knowledge of where the emergency services are located and what to do if help is required.

  • Training for all staff throughout the company to include out of city/country locations so that all are prepared and know what to do when the need arises

  • Keep a contingency cash fund available for those unforeseen expenses and keep the company cars fully maintained and fueled.

Bouteflika’s half concessions unlikely to quell protests

This section is a sample of Le Beck’s On-the-Spot Analysis released on March 12, and which provides paid subscribers more timely, in-depth analysis on transformative events in the MENA region.

Following an unprecedented wave of protests that began on February 22, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not – after all – seek a fifth mandate. In a letter, the ailing Algerian leader further announced the postponement of the upcoming April elections, the drafting of a new constitution, a cabinet change, and the creation of a National Consensus Conference (NCC).

The NCC would, according to Bouteflika’s letter, represent all segments of the Algerian people and parties, and will draft reforms alongside a new constitution that will have to be approved by parliament. Several reports suggest that Lakhdar Brahmi, a former UN diplomat, could serve as its head. The conference would have until the end of 2019 to draft reforms and a new constitution. While the president didn’t mention a specific date to which the elections will be postponed, he stated that they will only take place once a new constitution has been drafted.

In addition, in the wake of the announcement, PM Ahmed Ouyahia resigned and was replaced by Interior Minister Nourredine Bedoui. the position of Vice PM was also created and given to Ramtane Lamamra, a former foreign minister who was also appointed as the country’s new FM.

However, despite these announcements, mass protests have been called for Friday, March 15, while a student demonstration already began in front of the Grande Poste in Algiers today. Night protests were also seen in various areas of the country last night, with slogans denouncing the “4+” mandate, namely, the extended fourth mandate.

While Bouteflika’s announcement is a clear victory for protesters, the Algerian regime still appears to be trying to “buy time” and manage a possible transition out of the “Bouteflika era”. As initially assessed, this underscores the fact that the main goal of the “Presidential faction”, which stands behind the largely incapacitated president, is to be given enough time to manage that transition and find a replacement for Bouteflika that all the stakeholders in the Algerian “deep state” can agree upon. Indeed, the announcement does de facto implement a previous promise made by Bouteflika to organise early elections a year into his fifth mandate, in which he would not be a candidate, and which would be preceded by a similar conference. By postponing the elections, Bouteflika does exactly that, without the need for actual elections in April and in a manner that is largely unconstitutional.

In doing so, and offering half-measures that could easily be mistaken for a victory by protesters, the regime likely seeks to quell demonstrations and possibly move the debate out of the street and into the soon-to-be-created NCC. The conference will, indeed, be critical for “buying time” and testing the resolve of the protesters for several reasons. Firstly, demonstrators have yet to formally organise themselves and doing so may reveal deep divisions. Those claiming to speak in their name, including media-savvy figures such as Rachid Nekkaz, are not representative of the movement despite often being portrayed as such by foreign media. The conference will likely give ample space to existing opposition parties that also are unlikely to actually represent protesters, as most of them have worked with the regime in the past. Although some may be tempted to participate in the conference, several opposition leaders will also understand the risks of doing so and simply reject the idea of a conference without prior elections. This was highlighted by several statements from Ali Benflis, Bouteflika’s main challenger during the previous election.

The division within the opposition also means that the conference will likely take an extended amount of time rather that coming to a swift conclusion, further fueling division within the opposition. Finally, the drafted constitution would have to go through parliament, which is currently controlled by the ruling coalition and, thus, would give the regime some room to manoeuvre and either delay the election or change the new constitution.

In this context, while some protesters may feel that they have had at least some of their concerns tackled, most won’t. This is underlined by today’s protests, as well as calls for continued mobilisation on Friday with a mass protest. As assessed in our previous Weekly Security Brief, although the regime is buying time, they also continue to be largely out of options: a crackdown on demonstrations would likely reveal further cracks within the security apparatus, while protests are unlikely to vanish on their own without – at the least – Bouteflika’s immediate departure.

Militant groups in Egypt aim to capitalise on perceived silent unrest in Egypt with rising IED attacks

This section is an updated extract from Le Beck’s Weekly Security Brief that provides in-depth insight on more strategic issues affecting the MENA region.

In the latest in a series of rising numbers of attempted and successful attacks, the Cairo/Giza area has seen four IEDs in as many days. This includes one that detonated on February 18 near the capital’s Dar al-Ahmaras area as police pursued a suspect carrying the device and three that were discovered on February 15. Of those three, one was discovered at Nahda Square and two at Giza Square in Cairo, with one of the latter two exploding as police attempted to dismantle it. This resulted in the injury of one police officer and at least one civilian, while the other two devices were successfully defused. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) subsequently described the events at Giza Square as a failed attempt by “Muslim Brotherhood” (MB) members to attack security forces.

This now brings the total number of IEDs witnessed in the Giza/Cairo area since December to six, following one on January 6 that was dismantled at a Coptic church in Nasr City and another on December 28 that killed three Vietnamese tourists, the latter of which the MoI attributed to radical MB offshoot Hasm. This increase in attacks in and around the capital is especially notable given the decline witnessed over the past year and is likely to serve as a further blow to the already struggling tourist industry in the country.

Regarding these most recent attacks, it is also worthwhile to mention that they targeted distinguishable locations in Cairo, with Nahda Square and, to a lesser extent Giza Square previously serving as focal points for MB protests, particularly those spearheaded by students of the nearby Cairo University. These also do recall the series of IEDs that followed the June 2013 military intervention that led to former president Mohammed Morsi’s ouster and to the rise to power of then-General and now-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In this context, while these recent attacks have not been claimed – possibly because they can’t truly be considered successful – these were carried out either by radicalised MB elements, given the locations and the modus operandi of the spate of IEDs seen during the aforementioned time period, or by other groups seeking to potentially attract disenchanted MB members into their ranks.

The first possibility could point to Hasm as behind the IEDs. Indeed, as noted above, the MoI blamed them for the attack that targeted tourists in December, while the group is known to be active in and around the capital. There are, however, a few factors that reduce this likelihood. Firstly, their involvement in the December, January, and February 18 attacks would necessite a substantial shift in modus operandi that is not often seen. The first two (tourists and Copts) would necessitate a shift in targets from exclusively government/security forces and installations – alongside frequent emphasis in their propaganda that they refrain from hitting civilians. The last one would point to a change in their type of attack, with a video of the incident suggesting that the perpetrator deliberately activated the explosive device and committed suicide in order to avoid being caught. Although it certainly could have been a split-second decision, it could also indicate adoption of the more radical jihadist notion of martyrdom via suicide attack, with no indication from all of Hasm’s prior attacks that this is part of their ideology.

Another option is that Hasm was not involved at all and that other radicalised MB elements, including those part of the loose network of “Popular Resistance Committees” (PRCs) and unaffiliated with Hasm, were responsible. Given the modus operandi and at least some of the targets, reminiscent of the previously-mentioned period of time when these networks were far more active, the possibility that these elements are attempting to resurface should not be dismissed. Here too, however, the IED at the Coptic Church wouldn’t fit: although targeting tourists could be legitimised as an effort to reduce the economic benefits that the state obtains from tourism (and thus possibly be equated to the IEDs seen in the lead up to the Egypt Economic Development Conference) attacks against the country’s Christian minority falls outside the PRCs traditional modus operandi.

Finally, there are also other elements capable of carrying these attacks that are both interested in planting IEDs generally and attracting MB members by tapping into the perception among the group’s supporters that the organisation is failing to fight the Egyptian regime. This includes the Islamic State (IS), which has proven capable of operating in mainland Egypt through a series of attacks that have mostly focused on the Coptic Christian community and that has shown a failure to discriminate between civilians and government/security-afflicted targets. The lack of claims of responsibility, however, would be notable, given that they have previously claimed several attacks in mainland Egypt. At the same time, they have also, on occasion, deliberately failed to do so both in Egypt and abroad, whether because it would be unpopular or as a means of stoking tensions between the government and other groups. Similarly, al-Qaeda (AQ)-linked elements are also reemerging, with sources suggesting that they may be behind several attacks, including an ambush in al-Wahat in 2017 that was never claimed yet was later linked to these elements.

Regardless, any of these possibilities point to a growing threat in mainland Egypt despite multiple security raids over the past months and years. While the frequency of these attacks cannot be compared to the near-daily occurrence of IEDs seen across mainland Egypt at certain periods between 2013 and 2015, the recent ones do suggest the potential for such a trend to at least partly return. Radical elements may, indeed, be attempting to capitalise on the perceived (and unexpressed) political and socio-economic frustration, given the lack of a credible and viable political opposition, particularly at a time when the Egyptian regime is consolidating its power in the long-term through the recent constitutional amendments.

The National speaks with Le Beck about Trump and Islamic State

“The danger is not only to see an ISIS resurgence but also to have such a resurgence coincide with potential conflicts between rival forces”, explains deputy Head of Intel Michael Horowitz.

Read the full article here

L’Orient Le Jour (FR) speaks with Le Beck about the future of the US-led anti-IS campaign

“Most participating countries will look to the United States for potential options. They may be disappointed. Elements within the Trump administration still seem to believe that Arab forces could potentially be deployed to replace its own but it was unrealistic months ago, before the announced withdrawal of the United States, and it’s even less realistic now that the United States has made it clear that they are not planning to stay in Syria”.

Read the full article here in French

The National speaks with Le Beck on Pompeo’s Middle East tour

“The withdrawal means that this option is off the table and the GCC now has to revert to a Plan B, namely, trying to drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran. Whether they will be able to do so is far from certain and I think Gulf countries are realistic about what they can achieve given Iran’s deep penetration in the Assad regime,” said Michael Horowitz, deputy head of intelligence at Le Beck International.

Read the full article here

Le Beck speaks with BILD (DE) about Trump’s remarks on Iran’s presence in Syria

“Following Donald Trump’s statement on Wednesday that Iran can do what it wants to do in Syria”, Deputy Head of Intel Michael Horowitz explained, “Israel will have to accelerate its campaign against Iran and once again play up the possibility of an ‘escalation’ to get Moscow’s attention as Russia remains the last superpower standing in Syria”.

Read the full article in German here

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