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Vehicle surveillance:
The FBI's system...

     Part one in a five-part series
Copyright ©1998 Lee Adams. All rights reserved.
Be sure you read and understand the legal small print concerning this article.

     Wheel artist – that's spy-talk for an outdoor surveillance specialist operating in a vehicle. The FBI has lots of them – agents and bucars (bureau cars). Together they're called vehicle surveillance teams.
     Know your adversary.  Make no mistake about it, FBI vehicle surveillance teams are deadly. They get results. Consistently. FBI agents receive the best training and the best equipment.
     They don't just follow you – they surround you. They become part of your environment. You never see the same vehicle twice. They blend in with traffic. Up to twenty FBI agents at any one time. Even more if the investigation involves national security.
     Every agent on the surveillance team has just one thing on his mind – to get you. And they will.
     Unless you read this article.  Carefully.
What you'll learn
     This is the first article in a five-part series that teaches you how to respond when you're confronted by an FBI vehicle surveillance team.
     Article #1 – In the first tutorial (the article you're reading now) you'll learn the fundamentals of how vehicle surveillance teams operate.
     Article #2 – In the second tutorial you'll learn about the tactics, diversions, and decoys that an FBI surveillance team uses – including how they support the foot surveillance team.
     Article #3 – In the third tutorial you'll learn about advanced methods like setups, traps, ambushes, and attacks – as well as the FBI's psychological operations against you while you're driving.
     Article #4 – In the fourth tutorial you'll see how to use antisurveillance and countersurveillance. You'll learn how to detect and obstruct the FBI.
     Article #5 – In the fifth and final article you'll receive step-by-step instructions for breaking out of FBI surveillance. You'll learn how to give them the slip.
     How you'll benefit.  This five-part series of articles provides practical training in professional countersurveillance and antisurveillance techniques. If you are the target of FBI surveillance, this article will give you the edge you need to outwit the goon squads of government tyranny and repression.



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The FBI:  A dangerous adversary...
     The FBI is mainly interested in activity that occurs while you are out of your vehicle. The goal of an FBI vehicle surveillance team, therefore, is to track you to that location – and then help the foot surveillance team establish contact on you.
     Background.  The FBI's vehicle surveillance system is the result of six decades of experience. From rudimentary beginnings during Prohibition, the FBI system as it exists today is built in large part from techniques originally developed from 1938 to 1943 by the Gestapo to monitor and suppress resistance in Nazi-occupied countries. With the addition of more than 50 years of modifications and improvements, the FBI today possesses a surveillance apparatus that has led to the ruin of many suspects.
Triple threat
     Depending on the situation, FBI agents can choose from three different methods of vehicle surveillance. These methods are floating-box surveillance, hand-off surveillance, and static surveillance.
     Floating-box surveillance.  Floating-box surveillance is based on continuous coverage by the same team. FBI agents create a box of surveillance vehicles around you. The box floats with you as you travel along your route. Hence the name floating-box. It is very effective in urban and suburban locations. Very few suspects break out of a properly-run floating-box.
     Hand-off surveillance.  Hand-off surveillance involves more than one team. At key intersections or other decision points along your route, surveillance control is passed from one floating-box team to another. This is called phased coverage. It is very effective when large distances are involved – freeways, expressways, long commutes, highways, and so on. It is also used in city situations when lengthy periods of time are involved.
     Static surveillance.  Static surveillance is also based on phased coverage, but it uses fixed observation posts instead of a floating-box. Each observation post is located at a decision point (major intersection, etc.) along the target's route. Although this method of surveillance leaves many gaps in coverage, it is very difficult to detect this type of surveillance. The FBI uses this method when they first begin coverage on a hard target (such as a trained intelligence agent who is likely to be on the lookout for surveillance). The FBI swtiches to floating-box surveillance after they have identified general locations where coverage is required.

The FBI's floating box system...
     The FBI's floating-box is a powerful system. The wheel artists don't follow you – they surround you. They blend in. They become part of your ecosystem.
     An FBI floating-box can be run with as few as three vehicles – or as many as 20. A team consisting of seven to ten vehicles is typical. It is not unheard-of for 50 vehicles to be involved, especially in a major case where arrest is imminent.
     The FBI has for many years managed to keep secret the size of their vehicle surveillance teams. Even in court proceedings, the most they'll admit to is 20 vehicles. In some surveillance situations, FBI wheel artists don't just blend in with your environment, they become your environment.
     The image shown below illustrates the major components of the FBI's floating-box system of vehicle surveillance.

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     The target's vehicle is shown in blue. The vehicles of the surveillance team are depicted in gray. The green rectangles represent urban terrain.
     The illustration is not rendered to scale. Distances in the real world are significantly greater. Furthermore, surveillance vehicles in the real world are never the identical make, model, and color. FBI teams use sedans, coupes, stationwagons, pickup trucks, vans, minivans, sport utility vehicles, taxis, motorcycles, commercial trucks, ambulances, 18-wheelers, and others.
Specialized roles
     Each of the surveillance vehicles in the above illustration is charged with carrying out a specific assignment.
     Command vehicle.  The command vehicle is tasked with maintaining visual contact with the target. The agent is said to have command of the target. This is a pivotal role. This agent keeps the other team members informed of the target's direction, speed, intentions, etc.
     Backup vehicle.  The backup vehicle provides a fill-in function. Because the command vehicle is the vehicle most likely to be detected by the target, the FBI has devised a number of strategies that let the backup vehicle take over the command role, thereby allowing the previous command vehicle to exit the surveillance box. Many suspects have been duped by this strategy, as you'll learn later in this article.
     Advance vehicle.  The advance vehicle is like an early warning system. The agent provides advance warning of obstacles, hazards, or traffic conditions that would otherwise catch the surveillance team unaware. The advance vehicle also fulfills another important function. If the FBI has bugged your telephone or your office or your residence, they're likely to already know your destination. Naturally, the advance vehicle arrives before you do. Many suspects have been completely fooled by the undercover FBI agent who is already seated at the restaurant when the suspect arrives.
     Outrider vehicle.  The outrider vehicles patrol the perimeter of the floating-box. Their assignment is to make certain that the target does not get outside the containment of the box. They also play a key role when the target makes a turn at an intersection, as you'll learn later in this article.
Surveillance advantages
     The floating-box is a very powerful and flexible system. It allows the FBI to successfully respond to a variety of situations. The FBI is almost never caught off-guard.
     Recovery from mistakes.  If visual contact with the target is lost, the box can be collapsed inward, enabling the agents to quickly re-acquire command of the target. (Whenever the FBI loses visual contact with the target, the surveillance team immediately executes a lost-command drill. The FBI has a number of strategies they use to re-acquire command of the target.)
     Quick response.  The floating-box also allows the FBI to react quickly to a target who is attempting to evade surveillance. If the target unexpectedly makes a left turn, for example, the left outrider vehicle turns left and becomes the new advance vehicle. The other elements in the team shift roles as appropriate. More on this later.
     Signature shift.  The floating-box makes it possible to quickly alter the signature of the team, making them more difficult to detect. In the previous illustration of the floating-box system, there are five surveillance vehicles. At first glance one might assume they can be reconfigured five different ways if they switch roles. In actual practise, a team of five vehicles can be reconfigured 5x4x3x2x1 = 120 different ways. Not all of these configurations are useful in the field, especially when the command vehicle's role is unchanged. In practise, about two dozen configurations are practical – more than enough to deceive most targets.

The FBI's stakeout box...
     A vehicle surveillance operation begins with a stakeout box. The FBI watches your office or residence, waiting for you to get in your vehicle and drive away. At that moment the stakeout box becomes a floating-box.
     The image shown below illustrates the basic components of an FBI stakeout box.

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     The target's vehicle is shown in blue. The vehicles of the surveillance team are depicted in gray. The image is not rendered to scale. Distances are much greater in the real world.
     Note how vehicles Alpha, Brava, Charlie, and Delta are prepositioned. They are pointed away from the parked target vehicle. Each of these four layup vehicles is ready to initiate a follow, no matter which direction the target takes.
     Trigger vehicle.  The trigger vehicle is responsible for maintaining visual contact with the parked target vehicle. When the target begins to drive away, the agent in the trigger vehicle alerts the other members of the stakeout box. The agent is triggering the rest of the team into action – hence the name, trigger vehicle.
     Layup vehicle.  After being alerted by the trigger vehicle, the appropriate layup vehicle – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta – picks up the follow and becomes the command vehicle. The other vehicles assume roles as outriders and backup until the team can be augmented with other FBI vehicles being held in reserve.
     Picking up the follow.  In a smoothly-run stakeout box, the layup vehicle that is initiating the follow will often pull out in front of the target vehicle, as shown in the illustration above. The layup vehicle becomes the command vehicle, with command of the target. When the command vehicle is in front of the moving target vehicle, it is called cheating. A cheating command vehicle is more difficult to detect that a command vehicle that is following the target.



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Command of the target...
     The phrase command of the target refers to visual contact with the target of the surveillance operation. The surveillance vehicle having command of the target is called the command vehicle.
     The name is appropriate, for the command vehicle also has virtual command of the entire surveillance team. The agent in the command vehicle informs the rest of the team whenever the target vehicle changes direction, adjusts speed, or stops. The surveillance team follows the guidance of the command vehicle.
     The control and power that is provided by this approach is offset by the vulnerability of the command vehicle. In many surveillance operations, it is the command vehicle that is first detected by the target. In order to overcome this vulnerability, the FBI has developed a number of tactics to dupe the target of the surveillance operation.
     Hand-off.  The image shown below provides an example of how the FBI often reacts to a turn by the target vehicle.

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     After watching the target make a right turn at the intersection, the command vehicle continues straight through the intersection. The agent has, however, alerted one of the layup vehicles that the FBI has prepositioned at major decision points along the target's route.
     As you can see from the illustration above, this is a very potent maneuver. The target sees the car that has been following him continue straight through the intersection. He starts to question whether or not he was actually under surveillance – perhaps he was just "imagining things". As a result, the layup vehicle is often able to pick up the follow without attracting any suspicion.
     Cheating.  The image shown below shows a variation on this maneuver. Instead of pulling in behind the target, the layup vehicle acquires command of the target by pulling out ahead of the target. This is called a cheating command. It has fooled a lot of suspects of FBI investigations.

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     A hard target, however, will eventually notice a telltale pattern of vehicles on side streets who pull away from the curb and turn the corner in front of him. (This is how you detect surveillance teams – by watching for patterns of behavior around you.)
     Commit vehicle.  In order to further disguise their activities, the FBI often utilizes a commit vehicle, as shown in the illustration below.

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     The commit vehicle is prepositioned at a major decision point along the target's route. The FBI agent in the commit vehicle is charged with watching the approaching target vehicle. His assignment is to observe when the target has committed himself to a specific route. Hence the name commit vehicle. Because he is parked in a parking lot, driveway, or side street, his presence is difficult to detect by the target.
     Using a tactic like this allows the layup vehicle to be parked out of sight, as shown in the image above.
     At the appropriate moment the commit vehicle cues the layup vehicle to begin moving. This permits the layup vehicle to smoothly enter the situation and acquire command of the target without attracting the attention of the target. The target does not see the layup vehicle pull away from the curb – he only sees what appears to be just another vehicle in the normal flow of traffic.
BACKGROUND – A significant portion of the FBI's training program is devoted to timing. Agents must become proficient at judging distance and time during surveillance operations. If the agent in the commit vehicle does her job properly, she can cue the layup vehicle to enter the situation in a manner that is invisible to the target. FBI recruits spend weeks learning these skills – and an entire career perfecting them. The FBI denies that Seattle, Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia are key training areas for their vehicle surveillance teams.

     End of article #1

Coming up in Article #2...
     In the next tutorial in this five-part series you'll learn about the tactics, diversions, and decoys that an FBI vehicle surveillance team uses to keep you from detecting them. You'll see how the FBI modifies its vehicles. You'll find out about the basic driving skills of FBI wheel artists. You'll learn why you never see them communicating with each other. You'll see how the vehicle surveillance team supports the foot surveillance team.

Coming up in Article #3...
     In the third tutorial you'll learn about advanced methods of vehicle surveillance, like setups, traps, ambushes, and attacks. You'll also find out about psychological operations that the FBI can run against you while you're driving. You'll discover how they can use operant conditioning to covertly coerce you to alter your route – and leave you thinking it was your idea. Case studies supported by custom-prepared illustrations show you exactly how it's done.

Coming up in Article #4...
     In the fourth tutorial you'll learn how to defend yourself against a vehicle surveillance team. You'll find out about antisurveillance – that's spy-talk for detecting the presence of vehicle surveillance.
     You'll learn about the telltale patterns that give them away. You'll be able to detect them without them realizing you've spotted them. You'll see five maneuvers you can use while driving to trick them into revealing themselves.
     You'll also learn about countersurveillance – that's spy-talk for obstructing and harassing a vehicle surveillance team. You'll see ten maneuvers you can use while driving to make things very unpleasant for the FBI.

Coming up in Article #5...
     In the fifth tutorial you'll receive step-by-step instructions for breaking out of surveillance. You'll see how to give the goons the slip. You'll learn three methods for exploiting the flaws in the FBI's floating-box system.
     The first method teaches you how to out-maneuver a cheating command vehicle and its backup unit. The second method shows you how to beat the FBI's stakeout box. The third method explains how to slip away while the goons are shifting from vehicle to foot surveillance.
     In each case the FBI is forced to implement a lost-command drill in order to try and find you again.




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