Yesterday, Italian prime minister Berlusconi was hit by a guy hurling a statuette at him. He was taken away with blood all over his face. The hospital later confirmed he broke his nose and two teeth.
Berlusconi was amidst a crowd handing out autographs. Only last weekend tens of thousands marched in Rome to demand Berlusconi's resignation, accusing him of conflicts of interest and of tailoring laws to protect him from prosecution in cases involving his media, real estate and sports empire, and links to the mafia.
"EU leaders must show leadership!" shouted one while two others waved yellow flags reading "EU Save Copenhagen" and another started reading out a statement on the red carpet meant for the EU top officials: A bus load of Greenpeace activists stunned security officials at last Thursday's EU-summit in Brussels.
Eleven people dressed in suits, driving hired limousines, displaying look-alike security badges - displaying the Greenpeace logo and their real name -, were waved through at both a police and a private security firm's roadblock, before arriving at the red carpet amidst top politicians.
The reaction from the Belgian officials flabbergasted me: "If we would have thought anyone would be stupid enough to do this kind of dangerous stuff, then probably this would not have happened", said Christian De Coninck, the Brussels police spokesperson. "If people use heavy material like faked police cars, and ditto badges, than of course anyone can get in". He stressed the police had not made a single mistake and "there are no holes in the security system at the EU summit."
Securitas, the private security firm which staffed the last road block before entering the red carpet zone, stated: "It is our duty to check all delegate cars. For security reasons, none of these cars should stand still, so we can only do a superficial check." According to Paul Schoolmeesters, spokesman from Securitas, "we only did what the client asked of us".
Having worked for years in security constrained humanitarian operations, the comments in the last case have me rolling over in (cynical) laughter.
Both cases prove three things:
- If anyone wants to 'hit' anything or anyone, they can do so. Easily. It only takes some guts, creativity and very few means.
- Any security system has flows, flows which we don't see because we don't want to see them.
- Any security system is only as strong as the weakest link. The weakest links are often the people who implement the security checks.
No matter how good we think our security system are, there are always flaws. For as far as I know, no humanitarian organisation employs a "dirty Bob": a person with the sole task to try and break existing security systems, exposing their weaknesses. The results would be astonishing.
Pictures courtesy BBC and De Redactie