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ICG Risk Blog - [ A comedic expose of flawed APEC security; had security protocols been effective the end should have been more tragic ]

A comedic expose of flawed APEC security; had security protocols been effective the end should have been more tragic


The simplest of penetrations: fabricate a motorcade (two SUVs sandwiching a sedan), complete with passes (albeit completely and intentionally bogus ones - more on that below), place the lot under false flag (Canadian - "something not to obtrusive or excessive"), add a few motorbikes and pose one member as a security guard running alongside the motorcade, and then barge ahead with the expectation of being waived through into the inner sanctums of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney Australia that housed 21 world leaders, Bush43 included.

And passed through they were, even though the esteemed passenger in the motorcade was dressed as Osama bin Laden. The badges were intentional frauds, designed to shout out their falsity to even cursory inspection.

The penetrators made hollow the "massive $170 million security net thrown up around the city for APEC" in what was the "most significant, international, diplomatic event in Australia's history... the biggest security operation in Australia's history. We've got 21 world leaders arriving in the city at the one time and it needs to be taken seriously."

The punch line is that few of the covering articles state that after being waived through at least two checkpoints, the bogus motorcade revealed itself rather than actually falling prey to inspection. The security services had apparently provided the comedic team with maps of restricted areas but the satirical team was being passed through checkpoints much faster and farther than expected. As they approached the hotel hosting APEC, the comedic motorcade believed that they had breached the APEC security perimeter and proceeded to turn about. Only then was it discovered.

Predictable reactions from police and officialdom:

  • Pompous statements to the effect that 'we got them a block away' (actually quite close to the Hotel InterContinental). Had the motorcade been a genuine attack, a limo scale car bomb would have put paid to the neighborhood, and who could calculate the impact had it has been a chemical or biological attack. (Or both; it was a three car cavalcade after all: the first detonation for brisance (blast) and a second (low order explosives) for gas or biologics.) Secondly, had it been a genuine attack, there well could have been other serial or parallel attacks in motion.
  • Misplaced emphasis in focusing on the 'danger' the bogus motorcade posed to themselves and bystanders.

What was missing:

  • Abject apology for an egregious security breach, with fulsome thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) TV comedy team from the The Chaser's War on Everything that pulled it off.

A formal police viewpoint:

"This is the most complicated security operation that Australia has seen since the Sydney Olympics - $250 million, several thousand people, it involves airspace protection corridors, maritime corridors, venue security," he said. "Somebody getting through an outer vehicle checkpoint hardly impacts or reflects on the standard of the entire security operation."

Reality of the security shield was somewhat different:

Police sources said no motorcades were being let through the first cordon unless accompanied by police escorts.

Officers involved in this country's largest security operation have told The Daily Telegraph that the police manning CBD [central business district] roadblocks are frequently not told whether motorcades coming toward them are legitimate.

"We're amazed at the lack of communication that allowed this to happen but how are they to know whether a motorcade is legitimate when they're not supposed to stop them and nothing is broadcast over the (police) radio,'' an officer said.

Stopping the motorcade would have been instructive:

IF ONLY the police had stopped to read the fine print on the "APEC 2007 Official Vehicle" sticker. "This vehicle belongs to a member of The Chaser's War on Everything. This dude likes trees and poetry and certain types of carnivorous plants excite him."

The comedic team outstripped the operating envelope envisioned by their legal advisors:

A source inside the show has told The Daily Telegraph the team never expected to get so far. The skit had been approved by ABC lawyers but was written in the assumption they would be stopped at the first checkpoint.

Instead they were waved through the first on Macquarie St, then a second, which had sniffer dogs, and eventually stopped themselves at Bridge St.

"As they did Chas got out of a car dressed as Osama bin Laden and said something like 'I'm an important world leader why don't I have a seat at the APEC table?'. Apparently that was the first time the police realised it was not authentic and they swooped in and arrested everybody," the source said.

Text from one of the 'badges' used in the 'penetration':

Chas Licciardello's badge (picture here) contained the following text and imagery, typical of each member of the team:

APEC 2007
Chaser's War
It's pretty obvious this isn't a real pass
[Image - Chas Licciardello]
Chas Licciardello
[Seal - containing "JOKE" in caps]
Insecurity [bold face]

Other badge photos and photos of the three car cavalcade and the bin Laden character are here. Video clip here.

This bogus badge reminds me of an event at NSA (early 70s if memory serves) when the security officer, tiring of the marine guards posted at the top and bottom of every escalator not rigorously inspecting every badge of each passerby, placed the photo of a gorilla over the photo on his badge, armed himself with a sheath of security violation and proceeded to walk purposefully up and down the escalators. For each inattentive marine that allowed him to pass unchallenged, the security officer turned and gave the hapless marine a citation.

Soon the marine detachment was bordering on the frantic; the word spread among the unit even as the security officer continued his rounds without donning disguise. Still, the mind numbing effort (ask anyone who is tasked with watching security monitors), complicated by periodic gluts of personnel that clogged the escalators, yielded more security citations.

Welcomed rather than interdicted:

All pretence of interdiction of the comic team (eight Chaser cast members, one crew member and three hire car (limo) drivers) by the security cordon collapses as the Chaser team describe the end game:

In a statement, The Chaser team say they had no intention of breaching security.

In fact, they say police welcomed them through the check point.

"When The Chaser reached the perimeter of what they thought was the APEC restricted zone, they voluntarily turned around," the statement said.

"The police only detained The Chaser motorcade when it was turning around and after Chas Licciardello emerged from a car dressed as Osama bin Laden.

"Members of The Chaser team were all wearing mock 'insecurity passes' which expressly states that it was a joke."

Without knowing the security protocols in place, I find it difficult to accept the self-congratulatory summary police have made of the comedic event, i.e., since it was a spoof rather than terrorists, the police were justified in withholding deadly force:

The police appear to have made a rather self-congratulatory summary of the comedic event, i.e., since it was a spoof rather than terrorists, the police were justified in withholding deadly force:

"The reality is there were people that, through their actions yesterday, put security services in a position where they may have had to take an action that no one would want,"… "We had snipers deployed around the city. They weren't there for show."…

"People can talk over each other on radios and there can be confusion, so the police response - I think - was terrific," he said.

"And thank God it was what it was. You've only got to look at the experience that a very professional police service had in London when a young Brazilian was tragically shot by anti-terrorism forces.

"As that motorcade approached the InterContinental Hotel, if the call had gone out on the encrypted radio that it was bogus, if there had been any miscommunication, any misunderstanding, any lack of professionalism or just confusion - unlikely as it is - somebody might have been shot.

"So I think the police are to be commended with the professional way that they did identify the incursion, the restraint that they showed in handling it and the fact that what we're talking about today is a bad and irresponsible joke, instead of a more tragic set of circumstances."

Restraint or failed protocols? Most of the details that screamed hoax were invisible without closer inspection; the motorcade's externals, save for motorbikes in place of police motorcycles, appeared genuine, especially when in motion.

At a mimimum, the police should have challenged and interdicted. Police performance in this instance would not have known it was a terrorist event until a suicide team had disembarked and the vehicles detonated. I would at least accuse the police of a failure of imagination.

Had it been a terrorist attack, instead of crowing, the police would be stammering to explain the security breach of the quarter-century to a stunned population and the embassies of attending nations.

One wonders what the Secret Service After Action Report (AAR) looks like for this event. I would have felt more secure had the Chasers been aggressively contested.

APEC Security Savaged by Satirists
Posted September 7th, 2007 by Vera
Sydney Indymedia

Chaser comic convoy beats summit security
David Braithwaite and Andrea Petrie, Sydney
The Age
September 7 2007

Chasers 'might have been shot'
ABC News
Posted Fri Sep 7, 2007 2:26pm AEST
Updated Fri Sep 7, 2007 3:47pm AEST

Top cop livid over Chaser APEC stunt
By Rhett Watson and wires
The Daily Telegraph
September 07, 2007 01:10pm

Lucky it was us and not Al Qaeda, says Chaser
ABC News
Posted Fri Sep 7, 2007 11:43am AEST
Updated Fri Sep 7, 2007 12:19pm AEST

Chaser stunt raises questions about APEC security
ABC News
Posted Fri Sep 7, 2007 9:00am AEST
Updated Fri Sep 7, 2007 10:49am AEST

We had permission, Chasers say
By staff writers and wires Sun
September 07, 2007 08:47am

Cops gave us the okay, say Chaser
By Paul Carter
Herald Sun
September 07, 2007 02:07am

11 charged over Chaser APEC stunt
ABC News
Posted Thu Sep 6, 2007 8:00pm AEST
Updated Thu Sep 6, 2007 8:06pm AEST

Gordon Housworth

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