“But when you look at security holistically, any security director is looking at those three things: You are finding a way to protect key assets, and they can be human, they can be physical, and they can be related to information."
Director of Security
Q & A with Carlos Barron
Director of Security
Tell us a little about your background
My grandmother from Spain met an American by the name of Tom Barron who served in the U.S. military when they were building the Panama Canal. They fell in love and settled in Ontario, Calif., where my father grew up and went to high school. On a Fulbright scholarship to Spain he met my mother. They fell in love, got married quickly in Gibraltar and returned back to California, where my father took his first job as a professor of Spanish literature at UC Santa Barbara.
My younger brother and I grew up bilingual and bicultural. I spoke only Spanish with my parents, and we had a home in the outskirts of Madrid where we would go every summer. So I grew up in both those worlds. You could drop me in Madrid, and nobody would know I was from California.
You spent 25 years with the FBI. How did that come about?
My first year at UC Davis, I missed a bus and I had 30 minutes to kill on a really hot day. I was looking for a place with air conditioning, and I walked into the Memorial Union and lo and behold, they were having a job fair. There were hundreds of tables and booths from local, state and federal entities looking to recruit kids from UC Davis, and I literally bumped into the FBI table. And there were these three imposing FBI agents from Sacramento wearing dark suits, just like in the movies.
They asked me, ‘Are you interested in the FBI? And I said, ‘I'm sorry, I'm not a law enforcement person. I'm not really here for that.’ So, they asked if I could just answer three questions. Question No. 1 was, ‘Are you a US citizen? I said, ‘I'm from Santa Barbara.’ Perfect. Question No. 2 was, ‘Do you speak a foreign language?’ I said, ‘Spanish is my first language.’ And they said, ‘Great.’ And then they asked me, ‘Have you ever been arrested for drunk driving?’ And I said, ‘Of course not.’
So, I filled out a piece of paper and I caught the next bus. That turned into some Spanish tests at the office in Sacramento. Then I took the required psychological tests, academic tests, a battery of interviews and everything else you could imagine. At the ripe age of 25, with two degrees in my pocket, I went to the FBI Academy in Virginia to become a special agent.
What were some of your assignments through the years?
When I was an agent trainee, I really wanted to get back to California and see the ocean, but they sent me to Tucson, Ariz. They picked me because at the time, there was a huge war on drugs -- this was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s -- and they needed Spanish speakers on the border to work the cartels and develop informants. I spent 6 ½ years in Tucson and I loved it.
Then I spent three years in San Juan, Puerto Rico, working narcotics trafficking and violent crime. I spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands, chasing cocaine from the sky and doing a lot of very cool stuff. I decided that I wanted to be a manager, so I raised my hand and went to Washington, D.C., where I spent the next four years on the intelligence and narcotics side of the house. I worked at the (National Security Agency) for a year. I was a telephone and communications expert, and I did a lot of very interesting things at the NSA that I can’t talk about that had to do with drug trafficking on the border.
And then came 9/11. Can you reflect on that experience?
That changed everything. It changed everything around law enforcement and the world that we knew.
I was brought back to the main office at FBI headquarters to lead the group that was involved in understanding the methodologies and mediums the 19 hijackers used to communicate. I did that with FBI agents and analysts and support staff from Washington, and it was some of the most satisfying work I had ever done in my career.
How about the emotional impact of being involved in that type of work?
It is something I will never, ever forget. There were specific agents that I worked with in New York during that investigation, and on every 9/11 since, we still email each other and say hello and talk to each other. We remember everything we did 20 years later, and we still connect. Anybody who worked in law enforcement will carry that with them forever.
I think I said this during one of my (MLBPA) interviews: If you're a Major League Baseball player and you’ve left the big leagues, there’s still that connection and that brotherhood that comes with knowing what it takes to get there. I use that same analogy with the FBI: Once you're in the FBI, even if you’ve retired, you’re in the FBI. You have a network of individuals that served with you who understand how hard it is to be in that fishbowl for all that time. It’s similar to, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’ right?
When people hear the term “director of security,’’ they typically think of someone who is stone-faced and stoic. You have a gregarious and outgoing personality. Are people surprised when they see you?
People have sort of a Hollywood-esque idea about what an FBI agent should be, with the G-Man and the suit and all that. But the FBI is made up of almost 38,000 employees, with 12,000 of those being special agents. And I can tell you, the strength of the FBI is the ability to communicate with people, because that's how cases are built. That's how informants are developed and how cases are solved -- through the ability to communicate.
In my class of 30 special agents back in 1991, I was fascinated by all the diverse backgrounds. I came from an academic environment. We had teachers. We had a rocket scientist. We had former military folks from the first war in Iraq. We had law enforcement officers. We had a little bit of everything.
Have you ever been involved in any particularly tense or dangerous situations?
This isn’t always portrayed very well, but the FBI is not really a reactive organization. The people at the FBI are planners. If they’re going to put their hands on somebody or arrest somebody, it means that person is being investigated or has been investigated for a while.
I was fortunate in my career. I was on a lot of arrest teams in Arizona and Puerto Rico and in Houston as an executive overseeing the SWAT team as they were conducting searches and arrests. If you go through my career, I signed a lot of operational documents giving approval for men and women to put their lives at risk in order to execute something. Those were the moments I really remember, because it was my signature that said, ‘Go.’ It was me on the scene saying, ‘Green light. Go. Hit the house or make the arrest.’ I was in Puerto Rico on a Coast Guard cutter trying to prevent a boat filled with 1500 kilos of cocaine from making it to the island. I wasn’t in harm’s way, but it was almost like a Hollywood movie.
There are things you see working in narcotics trafficking and making a lot of arrests that are extremely impactful. I carried a gun for 25 years, and I never had to discharge my weapon unless it was in training, Thank God.
Before coming to the Players Association, you oversaw security for the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash, the men’s and women’s professional soccer teams. How do you assess your role as head of security for the PA?
As Director of Security, it will be important for me to listen to everyone, and to build relationships both inside and outside of the organization in order to protect our key assets. In the PA, they are not only our employees, but our 1,200 players across the U.S. and around the globe. Next, we focus on securing our physical assets – our offices, venues and training facilities. The third really important piece is protecting our information. My hope is to be a resource for everyone in our organization.
When I took this job, which is a newly created position, one of the things that drew me to it is the fact that it's a blank canvas. But when you look at security holistically, any security director is looking at those three things: You are finding a way to protect key assets, and they can be human, they can be physical, and they can be related to information. So those are the three things that I will be focusing on in this new role.