“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” That is a quote from German military strategist, Helmuth von Moltke, in its unabridged form, as he uttered it during his tenure as chief of staff of the Prussian General Staff from 1857 to 1871. Words to live by, I say, and I have always conducted my own mission planning with that very doctrine in mind.
Me, I like a good, concise, pithy, aphoristic one-liner to sum up a wealth of knowledge and to guide me through troublesome situations. Here’s another one that I hold of great value: “A plan is nothing more than a common point of deviation.”
The originator of that little jewel is none other that the man himself–Nic McKinley, the founder of the counter-human traffic task force, DeliverFund. Yes, that is him in the feature image of this article. I took that photo of Nic in the tactical operations center (TOC) preparing for operations in Houston, Texas during the Super Bowl. And no, it was not staged, though hard to believe, given the timely DeliverFund coffee mug turned just right.
Nic may give the appearance of being some sort of comic book superhero. In fact, in my mind, he is the very embodiment of a modern-day superhero in a country that grows increasingly poor in the essence that superheroes are made of. We need more heroes to come along—that we do.
The hunt for human traffic, in the model as I have helped create and define, can be loosely partitioned as: ~50% network Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) hunting, ~45% sitting idly watching a target subject for long periods of time hoping you can collect a key element of information, and ~5% cool-guy adventuresome exploits. Staring at a subject for a (sometimes) really long time, is known to us as the Persistent Stare (PS).
I find that my hours of persistent staring (PSing??) are spiced by a dash of creative thinking, and the more impatient I get, the more creative my thinking becomes. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” You see what I did there?
Here is an original not-so-aphoristic explanation of the key aspect of the PS: I define persistence as: “a percentage of probability that you will find a desired object, if you look for it enough times at a specific time and place.” Indeed, I have put in the work engaged in persistent stares in specific times and places, and eventually found my desired objects.
The Houston Super Bowl operation was titled Operation Game Changer (OPGC). At the time of execution we had two, 12-hour work shifts: one for the day hours, and another for night. I worked operations with Nic during the day shift. My replacement for the night hours was none other than the venerable Delta brother of mine, A. Greg “Ironhead” Birch—there can be only one!
The core of the OPGC was a panel of essentially novice analysts overseen by a select group of savvy analysts, a pair of whom come from the venerable IT organization Shadow Dragon. The panel searched for potential victims of human trafficking operations in a range of social media portals, and built cases on the victims using DeliverFund search guidelines, in accordance with DF reporting parameters.
The ultimate objective of the panel of analysts was to ‘sell’ their case to us in operations, to the extent that we would dispatch agents to locate the victims to verify their identities and locations. This event is key to undercovering HT operations and networks engaged in HT operations. With a positive identity and location, a persistent stare operation can monitor to learn who shows up to tend to and control the victim.
We call these the ‘network players.’ They may be a courier, a trusted agent to the pimp, even the pimp him/herself may show up to check on the victim, bring sustenance, collect money…etc. It is at this point of HT network development that the HT intelligence and specialized analytics can be handed over to the law enforcement authorities for a potential arrest.
The assets we had available for our street intelligence collections operations were a formidable group of men, including two professional baseball players, one retired SWAT officer, a retired Navy SEAL, and two professional MMA fighters, namely, retired Green Beret Mr. Tim Kennedy.
Tim brought his own realm of know-how from his personal experience fighting human trafficking, as well as sophistication in leadership ability gained from his time with military special operations in the Iraqi and Afghanistan theaters of operations.
All in all, some 45 traffic victim reports were generated by Game Changer that were ‘sold’ to the operations cell, then sanctioned for dispatch of human resources to vet the identities and locations. That many reports quickly overwhelmed law enforcement officers (LEO), as was predicted at the onset of the mission.
The planning for OPGC back in Albuquerque was intense, to be sure, but I never let the intensity rise above my respect for General Moltke’s statement about no plan surviving first contact. I recall a bout of lamentation from my understudy, Marc Mansini, regarding the conduct of operations in Houston. He questioned if we would be ready in time.
I explained that no matter how much preparation we did for Houston, the ground truth would inevitably be something different from what we envisioned in Albuquerque. Furthermore, I ensured our confidence in our ability, as we were ready that very day to conduct HT counter operations in any state at any moment of any day. We had our plan.
I’m not saying that I wrote the book on counter human traffic (CHT), but I AM in fact writing the book on it now. I have been writing it for months. In the book is the how-to workflow, the step-by-step guide on how to proceed with the work, should you suddenly wake up one morning and decide you want to be a CHT operator. It’s all in the book; there is even a formula that I…formulated to describe the workflow, for those who can only interpret the world around them through formulas.
When we come to a consensus that we have advanced as far into the intelligence collection endeavor as we can, or as far as we care to advance, we turn over our case to special agents in law enforcement—case closed for DeliverFund. We move on, and LEOs move on when the baton slaps their hand.
Various factions of LEOs come together with us in conference, and decide who wants, or can best prosecute, any DeliverFund provided case. It is almost endearing to see the LEOs reach for the case file, like a hungry family reaching for the dishes in the center of the dinner table.
There it is folks. Now get out there and catch those bad guys! The largest difficulty in the entire process lies in the resolve of law enforcement authorities to go bust these toads who are trafficking our children. Think of law enforcement as not actually a link IN the chain development, rather an end-state OF the chain; a transition point, or a common point of deviation.
The saga of the LEO is a ponderous one. The organizations are by and large hamstrung by bureaucratic procedure and a quagmire of legal interpretation. But therein lies the synergy between law enforcement and DeliverFund, the government and the private sector. Each are endowed with their own inherent prowess for the fight. Law enforcement is bound by laws from conducting many of the simple functions that private citizens are free to engage in. Get it?
To use a metaphor told to me years ago in terms I could understand: We are handing these LEOs a packed parachute. All they have to do is put it on and jump. Speaking of metaphors, here is one I have always hated: “We need someone to step up to the plate.” Yeah, well I think that is something one would only say, when one could’t think of anything clever to say. We need real heroes again. We need a hero to come along. Who wants to be it? DeliverFund does!
All photos courtesy of George E. Hand IV, Geo Perspectives LLC