Counter-Terrorism Analyst Speaks On Algerian Hostage Crisis

video screenshot of the Algerian plant
Two of the three Americans killed in Algeria at a natural gas plant were from the Houston area. One security expert says when contractors take these kinds of assignments — they are informed of the risks — but it's difficult to imagine anything serious actually happening.

Fred Burton is the vice president of Intelligence for Stratfor, an Austin-based private intelligence and security firm.

Burton is a former special agent with the U.S. State Department and has spent years consulting with companies about high-risk locations like Algeria.

Burton says the oil and gas industry is always dealing with risk management, but situations like the one in Algeria are difficult to anticipate.

"There was probably an intelligence gap there which did not afford either the U.S. intelligence community or the Algerian government to be able to prevent this terrorist event from unfolding. Therefore, you are in a reactive mode at that time."

Burton says contractors know about safety concerns when they take overseas assignments, but he says energy plants are a particularly attractive target to terrorists, especially al-Qaida.

"It's been my experience from investigating numerous terrorist attacks, as well as talking to countless survivors from various terrorist attacks — from facility seizures to embassy bombings to aircraft hikackings — that nobody thinks they're going to become a victim."

Burton says BP and other industry heavyweights are always dealing with risk management plans that are less than perfect and they will seriously examine this event to determine what went wrong, as well as which security measures did work.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...