Brief Analysis of RCMP Tactical Troop Plan for Oct 17 Raid
As some of you may have already seen, the Halifax Media Coop released a PDF copy of the RCMP’s Tactical Troop “Operational Plan” for their October 17, 2013, raid on the anti-fracking blockade and camp near Rexton, New Brunswick. This was most likely acquired through court disclosures and has been re-posted on Warrior Publications.
I though it would be useful to go through the plan to better understand how the RCMP prepares for such actions and to highlight some of the more interesting parts.
The “Operational Plan” is a fairly brief, straight forward 17 page statement outlining the overall situation and the RCMP’s plan for clearing the blockade site, securing the area, and removing SWN’s vehicles (trapped in a parking compound blockaded by Mi’kmaq and non-Native protesters).
The plan begins with a synopsis of the situation and background, starting with the September 29 establishment of the blockade around the SWN vehicle compound off of Route 134, just east of Rexton, NB.
The plan itself is dated October 13, 2013. The apparent rational for the raid is the “breakdown” of negotiations on October 10. Despite this, negotiations were still ongoing up until October 16, but RCMP commanders, no doubt under political pressure, had decided that further negotiations would not end the blockade. This is an important point and reveals the use of deception by police, who clearly used the negotiations that continued after October 10 as a delaying tactic (while they mobilized their forces) and to psychologically disarm those participating in the blockade (some of whom may have believed that negotiations are ongoing, therefore no raid is imminent).
Under “Environmental Conditions” there is a detailed description of the terrain, the camp site used by blockaders, as well as routes in and out (including roads and ATV trails).
Next is a short section on “Officer Safety Hazards,” describing tents, vehicles, portable toilets, a trailer and camp fires as “fortifications.” It goes on to state that “These fortifications, although not insurmountable, provide concealment for protesters” (I would love to know how to conceal myself in a camp fire… ).
Under “Human Factor,” the RCMP single out the Mi’kmaq Warriors as the primary threat, based on their motivation and skills:
“The protesters are comprised of several groups within the site. Among these groups is the presence of protesters dressed in camouflage clothing who have taken an aggressive stance and have displayed an eagerness to provoke a physical confrontation. This group is displaying an elevated level of commitment to their cause and they seem to have a rudimentary knowledge of basic planning and tactics.
“There are other groups within the protest area made up of peace activists, media bloggers, elderly persons, local youth, and even small children.”
In a section entitled “How the objectives will be met,” it is stated that the RCMP Tactical Troops will be informed 36 hours prior to the start of the operation. At 18:00 hours on the day prior to the operation, commanders of the Tactical Troops, Emergency Response Teams, Quick Response Teams and Police Dog Squad commanders were scheduled to arrive at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Moncton.
At 0:300 hours, all troops and support personnel were to have arrived at CFB Moncton. Movement to the blockade and camp site is noted as being by bus and police vehicles (both marked and unmarked).
There are some acronyms in the document that readers may be unfamiliar with. An EMRT is an Emergency Medical Response Team, which are police officers trained in first aid. A PDS is a Police Dog Service, the K9 unit.
The Quick Response Teams (QRT) appear to be comprised of Tactical Troop members who serve as a mobile reserve, ready to move and intervene in other areas when conflict emerges. They are an extension of the Tactical Troop itself and organized into teams.
“At 05:00 hours C Division Tactical Troop leaves CFB Moncton by motor coach. C Division Tactical Troop will b e accompanied by QRT2 and QRT3 (16 members in 8 unmarked police vehicles) and ERT member.”
According to a separate RCMP affidavit for seizing media footage, close to 300 RCMP officers in total were deployed for the October 17 raid. This included Tactical Troops from J, H, L, and C Divisions (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, respectively).
HASP: High Altitude Surveillance and the Threat of Thermal Imaging
Another acronym that might be unfamiliar to people is HASP, which stands for High Altitude Surveillance Plane. This is an aircraft that is equipped with video and thermal imaging cameras. Through the HASP, police knew that in the early morning hours there were only around 30 people in the camp site:
“Current intelligence, observation by members as well as HASP surveillance indicates that approximately 30 protesters stay at the protest site overnight… These observations have been made between 0:600-0:700. Beginning at approximately 11:00 the number of protesters begins to increase to a maximum of 70-100. This number is larger during weekends and special events at the protest site.”
Little surprise, then, that the police raid occurred at around 7 AM on a Thursday.
According to the plan, HASP was also to be used during the October 17 raid to monitor the movement and numbers of people in the camp site:
“HASP to be on scene performing surveillance at 05:00 hours on day of operation and relaying current video and imaging, to detect any persons in the woods before and during the operation, to Incident Command.”
Using the HASP, police could determine how many persons are present in a rural camp or blockade site, especially one that lacks thick overhead tree cover (which limits the capability of thermal imaging). In an image taken from the RCMP HASP surveillance of the anti-fracking blockade area, one can see that the camp and blockade site are exposed and extremely vulnerable to thermal imaging from the air.
While I knew the RCMP had used high altitude aerial surveillance during the standoff at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake) in 1995, I was somewhat surprised that it was used for the anti-fracking blockade in New Brunswick. Considering the scale of the operation, however, it now makes sense.
Along with the recent example of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) using the Draganflyer X6 drone during the Tyendinaga Mohawk blockade of a rail line, aerial surveillance and particularly thermal imaging of rural blockade and camp sites are now real security concerns for those engaging in such actions. Not only could police know how many persons were on site, they could also potentially see any movement in and out of the site, monitor those leaving a site, and discover any hidden positions.
What are some counter measures to these aerial threats? Against any type of video surveillance, masks and uniform clothing are a basic security measure used by warriors during actions.
In a rural area, thick forest cover blocks video cameras as well as thermal imaging devices.
Any solid material will block thermal imaging, such as under a vehicle, under a bridge, in a tunnel, etc. Leaning up against a thin wall, however, your body heat will begin to warm it and it could be detected by a thermal image operator.
Going underground also works. The top layer of earth must be thick enough to block your body temperature over long periods of time (if it is just a thin layer, your body heat will raise the temperature of the top layer of earth, which could be detected by a thermal imaging operator). If digging underground positions, care must be taken to conceal this activity as unearthed dirt and the hole being dug will initially have different temperatures than the land around it, which can be detected by thermal imaging. During the 1995 Ts’Peten standoff, RCMP claimed to have been able to detect several trenches and fighting positions dug by the defenders.
Other recommended counter measures to thermal imaging include the use of Mylar “survival blankets,” the thin tin-foil like sheets carried for outdoor survival. As these trap body heat, they can obscure a person’s thermal image. However, tests of this theory have shown that it is only effective for 2-3 minutes, at which time body heat begins warming up the Mylar.
Use two overhead layers of material, such as two ponchos, wool blankets, or Mylar sheets, with a gap of 30cm between them (this reportedly traps a layer of air and can obscure body heat).
Using a poncho design with multiple layers. On the outside a normal camouflage material, then a layer of Mylar, then an insulating layer (wool or Polartec, for example), a layer of Mylar, and a layer of camouflage material (five layers total). The camo material on the outside takes on the ambient temperature of the area (blending in), while the Mylar and insulating layers mask your body heat.
Ghillie suits, (which are heavily camouflaged suits made of netting with jute twine, rags, etc.,) also obscure body heat and can defeat thermal imaging.
Military issue combat clothing now used by both Canadian and US military are treated with chemicals that minimize detection by infra red thermal imaging. For this same reason, however, such clothing can no longer be sold through surplus stores (at least in Canada, where it is illegal for the issued CADPAT clothing to be sold).
Military issue camouflage netting is designed to defeat thermal imaging and infra red cameras.
An umbrella was reportedly used to defeat the thermal imaging devices on armoured vehicles by a US Army Sergeant. He was able to remain undetected by using a camouflaged umbrella held in front of him as he moved.
Thermal imaging devices cannot see through glass, and for this reason have non-glass lenses.
A New York fashion designed has launched Stealth Wear, clothing designed to defeat thermal imaging. According to a New York Times article, the clothing consists of “hoodies and cloaks that use reflective, metallic fabric — like the kind used in protective gear for firefighters — that he has repurposed to reduce a person’s thermal footprint. In theory, this limits one’s visibility to aerial surveillance vehicles employing heat-imaging cameras to track people on the ground.”
Other ways to defeat thermal imaging involve deception.
Heating large rocks or other objects throughout the night can be used to deceive thermal imaging, which may lead police to believe that there are more people present at a site, or that persons are present in a location where there is none.
If an action away from the site was planned that required secrecy, decoy groups could be sent out to distract the HASP while the real groups headed out later, in another direction. This is because the HASP is an expensive surveillance platform (whether as an air plane or helicopter) and it is likely that there will only be one deployed over the site at any one time).
Posted on April 11, 2014, in State Security Forces and tagged counter thermal imaging, Elsipogtog First Nation, HASP, High Altitude Surveillance Plane, Indigenous resistance, Mi’kmaq, Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, native blockades, native resistance, New Brunswick shale gas protests, RCMP, RCMP and Natives, RCMP Tactical Troop, thermal imaging. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.