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.