Hezbollah perfected the truck bomb. We learned this the hard way in the 1980’s when the American Embassy and Marine Barracks were hit in Beirut. We were never good at predicting where the org would strike next, as we watched unfold with the two attacks in BA, Argentina. Both of these events surprised us. Hezbollah always seemed to be one-step ahead of the intelligence community, so my hat’s off to MI5 for neutralizing this threat. The question becomes what were the targets?
Always nice to receive letters of appreciation after a talk. This one is especially nice since I joined the rescue squad in 1975. The org gave me my start in public safety. I loved driving Rescue 19, the Kenworth rescue truck. We also had a 1964 GMC squad truck.
Fred Burton knows the ins and outs of counterterrorism and investigative work. For about two decades, he lived it. And, he says, it was living that life that got him hooked on reading about it.
When I was a special agent in the 1980s, I used a black diplomatic passport and flew aboard Pan Am Clipper Class flights and U.S. Air Force Special Air Missions from Andrews Air Force Base. I could never sleep on a plane. I (like a lot of other special agents) read spy novels many times as I zigzagged around the globe on the hunt for the people behind various plane crashes, bombings, hostage-takings and hijackings. They kept my mind busy.
These days, Burton hosts Stratfor's popular "Pen and Sword" podcast. He still gets to bask in the fast-paced, exciting, and sometimes dangerous world — but from a cozy chair. Between reading and conversing with authors such as Annie Jacobsen, Kate Winkler Dawson, Brad Thor, Jack Carr, and Mark Greaney, Burton continues his own work as chief security officer at Stratfor, an advisor on public safety for many other organizations and writing best-sellers about his career.
Sometimes, stuffed inside my Ghurka carry-on bag, right next to my spy books, was a sealed, bright orange diplomatic pouch, containing classified documents or evidence from an attack. I never quite understood why the diplomatic pouch was bright orange? I would have made it black.
If you're interested in reading the books that kept Fred Burton awake and alert on many a clandestine flight, he shared some of his favorites below.
"There's a reason I don't own one," says Fred Burton, chief security officer at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence and forecasting firm based in Austin.
As a former police officer and special agent Burton says you won't find any smart devices in his house -- especially locks. He's content with an old-fashioned deadbolt and key.
"I think that as criminals get more sophisticated, this is the kind of opportunity that affords them to be able to enter into your house," explains Burton.
Your chances of being targeted may be slim, but it's a risk he isn't willing to take.
"Some folks have a higher tolerance for risk, some folks don't think about risk, but this is the kind of issue you need to think about from a risk mitigation standpoint as well as if you have children at home," says Burton.
MCP Rockville Station oak courtesy of Karl Plitt.
On May 11, 2019, I greatly enjoyed speaking about Beirut Rules, at the reunion for retired Montgomery County Police Officers, at Rocky Gap Casino, Flintstone, Maryland. I ran into many retired police officers that I had worked alongside as a young officer and a few remembered my Dad, who owned Burton’s Chevron, in Bethesda, Maryland. We also discussed many old terrorism cases, to include the murder of Israeli Colonel Joe Alon (Chasing Shadows) in Chevy Chase, Maryland.