Anti-Terrorism Officers (ATOs)
Few security officers outside of the government community have the training or experience to effectively prevent and respond to threats associated with terrorism and organized violence. As a source of security risk, terrorism is unique and the methods used by terrorists require that security personnel receive specialized training, equipment, planning support, and tactical supervision. To address this need for security officers with specialized civil force protection capabilities, Critical Intervention Services created the CIS Anti-Terrorism Officer program.
CIS Anti-Terrorism Officers (ATOs) are Special Services Group personnel that have been specially selected, trained, and equipped for employment in situations where terrorism is a critical risk.
Anti-Terrorism Officers (ATOs) provide an effective and responsible alternative to conventional security services in homeland security roles. Some of the common types of ATO assignments include:
- Protection of airports and seaports
- Security of power plants, water treatment facilities, and other critical infrastructure facilities
- Protection of chemical plants and ships carrying hazardous cargo
- Security for public events
- Supplemental security at military bases, embassies, and other critical government facilities
Before the training and certification process begins, all CIS Anti-Terrorism Officer candidates are first required to meet several eligibility requirements. First, all ATO candidates must have prior military experience with honorable service records. This ensures that all ATO candidates possess at least a basic level of tactical competency, familiarization with the M16/M4/AR15 weapon system, and possess a basic understanding of Operations Security (OPSEC) principles. Candidates with experience and training in force protection, military police, installation security, and special operations are given priority selection status.
Once identified as potential candidates, all ATO recruits are required to complete standard CIS officer screening and testing. This extended screening process includes IQ testing, psychological screening, and a drug urinalysis test. All ATO candidates are also subjected to a rigorous background investigation, including screening for both signs of potential criminality and OPSEC indicators of Human Intelligence (HUMINT).
In preparation for ATO training, all candidates are also required to complete 48-hours of training as CIS Special Services Group officers, in addition to 68-hours of state-mandated security license training.
All ATO candidates are required to complete 52-hours of Anti-Terrorism Officer certification training, including classroom and hands-on training on a variety of anti-terrorism and security related skills.
In order to receive certification as a CIS Anti-Terrorism Officer, all candidates must complete the ATO written test and the ATO SOP quiz with an 80% or better score and all candidates must demonstrate practical proficiency in search and response skills by successfully completing all hands-on field evaluations.
Due to the unique weapon requirements of ATO assignments, all CIS ATOs are also required to qualify with the 9mm Springfield XD handgun, the .223 AR15 rifle, and the 12-gauge shotgun. To ensure that all ATOs are trained to a high level of mission readiness, the standards for special weapon qualification are designed to exceed state-mandated requirements for security and law enforcement officers.
In addition to standard ATO instruction, all ATOs are required to complete site-specific training including site orientation and emergency response training, tactical response drills, and hazmat responder training.
Click here for more information about ATO training and certification.
All ATO deployments are coordinated through the CIS Office of Special Projects to ensure that the ATO operation works integrally with the client’s security program. This coordination process usually begins with a joint vulnerability or security risk assessment to properly evaluate the client’s needs and ensure that the existing physical protection, operations security, and emergency response programs can effectively support the operation. If significant vulnerability issues exist, the CIS Office of Special Projects works with the client to design a security improvement strategy that provides effective and balanced protection. This may entail designing performance-based physical security upgrades, revising procedures and protocols for access control or emergency response, or even developing educational programs and policies to support OPSEC and impair terrorist intelligence collection efforts.
Once ATOs have been deployed to the client facility, the ATO chain of command ensures that procedures are carried out appropriately and that all operations in the field are conducted to CIS standards of professionalism.
One of the most important elements in any effective anti-terrorism program is Operations Security and Protective Counterintelligence (CI). By using effective strategies to impair and detect a terrorist’s attempts to gain target intelligence, most terrorist groups will abandon focus on the protected facility in favor of more vulnerable and predictable targets.
In addition to restricting and controlling dissemination of sensitive facility information, OPSEC in an anti-terrorist context requires careful observation, documentation, and analysis of suspicious events possibly indicative of intelligence collection activities. As a standard practice, all CIS ATOs are trained to actively observe, investigate, and report suspicious events and indicators of surveillance, reconnaissance, HUMINT activity, and dry runs. Suspicious events observed by ATOs are documented using a CIS-proprietary information system called SATAS (Suspicious Activity Tracking and Analysis System). SATAS provides a centralized system for the documentation of suspicious events and analysis of trends in suspicious activity.
Once a report is filed in SATAS, the ATO Counterintelligence Officer (CIO) investigates the incident to determine if the event is a legitimate occurrence or if the report should be further classified as unresolved and suspicious. By eliminating legitimate events through active investigation, the data set of unresolved incidents provides a more useful and meaningful base for analyzing trends of events indicative of terrorist intelligence collection.
In addition to investigating and analyzing trends of suspicious activity, the ATO Counterintelligence Officer is responsible for enforcing OPSEC policies, updating suspicious vehicle and subject watch lists, and coordinating with local law enforcement authorities on issues related to terrorist intelligence.
To ensure effective communications and fast response, all ATO field communications are monitored by the CIS Operations Center in addition to client security operations centers. This provides a critical layer of communications redundancy in the event of an emergency.
Additionally, all ATO field units have secure digital access to SATAS and the CIS Matrix database by use of laptop computers and GPRS modems. This ensures that ATOs have a fast and reliable method for retrieving intelligence and information about previous SATAS incidents, vehicle and subject watch updates, and direct SATAS reporting capabilities. The GPRS digital communications system can also be used to provide mobile ATO vehicle patrols with access to on-site CCTV cameras and intrusion detection systems. By using this secure communications technology, ATOs in the field can view CCTV cameras and investigate alarms directly from their vehicle mounted laptop computers.
CIS ATOs are provided with the necessary equipment to perform their mission with maximum effectiveness. Some of the personal field equipment issued to CIS ATOs include:
- Special weapons, such as AR15 rifles, tactical shotguns, and 9mm handguns (with appropriate state licensing waivers)
- Tactical weapon enhancements, such as infrared illumination devices, laser sights, EOTech holographic weapon sights, etc.
- Night vision optics
- Infrared spotlights
- Long range and close range digital cameras for documenting suspicious vehicles and individuals
- Field medical kits
- Radios and secure digital communications systems
- Laptop computers with SATAS access
- Personal load bearing gear
- NBC mask and protective clothing
If the situation should warrant, the CIS Office of Special Projects can also provide assistance with emergency physical security upgrades during periods of intensified risk. Within 48-hours notice, the CIS Office of Special Projects can assist in deploying temporary intrusion detection systems, improved fence and wire barriers, and active and passive vehicle barriers for perimeter and entry point protection.