The retired deputy chief of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service takes readers behind the scenes of investigations into some notable terrorist attacks of the 1980s and ’90s.
In a fast-paced narrative that at times reads like a spy novel, Burton describes the methodology for cracking some tough cases. The author, now a private-security consultant, has a keen eye for detail and uses it when discussing incidents including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland and the arrest of a man planning to assassinate then-Secretary of State George Schultz. Burton offers interesting factoids, such as why lace-up shoes are preferable to loafers (less likely to come off when kicking someone), and more significant information on how to scope out a crowd for suspects. His passion for his work—and hatred of those who have harmed innocent people—is apparent throughout. Describing his feelings when interrogating a terrorist who is about to become a double agent and betray his colleagues, he writes: “I firmly believe in our system of laws. I believe in justice. Yet reading a piece of filth like Ahmed [last name never disclosed] his Miranda rights makes my stomach do slow rolls.” Burton’s book contains little introspection, sentimentality or information about his personal life. The literary self-portrait he paints is of a typically hard-charging law-enforcement type with a John Wayne streak who is frustrated by what he sees as bureaucratic obstacles to achieving vital objectives. His prose is descriptive but never flowery, and he rarely wastes words. Burton is critical of officials in both political parties for not being sufficiently proactive, though he does not spend enough time explaining the constraints he ran up against.
Sparsely written but thorough—a nice complement to policy-laden, big-picture analyses of the war on terror.