Terrorists have “graduated” from hijacking and blowing up airplanes to target America’s forests, water supply, and power plants.
1. Forest Fires
On July 9, 2012, at an American Center for Democracy‘s Economic Warfare panel, former NSA official and editor of Aviation Week William Scott said that terrorism had taken on a new method. That new method is a subtle form of economic warfare via wild land arson — setting fires in U.S. forests and grasslands.
Scott said that among the cache of materials captured by the Navy SEALS in their raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, are the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda’s plans. Those plans included “a detailed campaign to start fires throughout the [American] West. U.S. officials have determined that some of the fires that burnt in California last year were ignited by al-Qaeda operatives.”
EJ Haust reports for the Conservative Daily News, August 30, 2013, that the seven individuals apprehended for trespassing at the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, Massachusetts, just after midnight May 14, 2013 are part of an “on-going criminal matter,” according to the Massachusetts State Police (MSP).
However, MSP refuses to release information on the identities of the seven individuals, not even the specific charges filed against them, if any.
In response to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for names, addresses, court dates, and charges filed against the seven individuals, the Office of Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts State Police cited several state statutes exempting the release of information requested.
The letter comes more than 3 months following an incident whereby 5 men and 2 women were apprehended for trespassing at the largest drinking water supply for the greater Boston area in the middle of the night. The 7 individuals of Singaporean, Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian decent claimed to be chemical engineering students, according to local news reports. No other information has been made public about the identities of the individuals involved.
The response letter revealed ties to a larger criminal investigation.
“…according to information provided to this office, this incident remains the subject of an on-going criminal matter.”
The Massachusetts State Police recently shared publicly their discontent with a Clerk Magistrate’s decision not to proceed with the criminal investigation of the seven individuals. The magistrate judge who’s blocking the criminal investigation is from the East Hampshire District Court which serves Belchertown, MA where the reservoir is located.
Robert Spencer of JihadWatch urges us to call the Office of Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts State Police and ask them, politely and respectfully, to release all information on this case immediately: (508) 820-2311.
3. Power Grid
Ryan Gorman reports for the Daily Mail that the FBI was investigating a “military-style” attack on a California electric power facility on April 16, 2013.
Foreign Policy has a detailed account of the well-planned attack, in which as many as two gunmen stormed the PG&E Metcalf substation in a San Jose suburb at 1 a.m., severing landline and cell phone service so that PG&E employees had no means to call for help.
The gunmen fired more than 100 rounds from high-powered rifles , disabling 17 of 20 big transformers, causing about $16 million in damage. Cooling oil leaking from at least one transformer bank caused transformers to overheat and shut down. This led officials to warn locals to conserve energy, but no major power outages occurred, nor were there major damage or injuries. However, substation equipment was damaged and underground fiber optic cables nearby were severed.
A senior intelligence official told Foreign Policy that “Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement. However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”
In an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Wellinghoff called the attack ”the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.” Wellinghoff said he’s going public with his concerns because he believes national security is at risk and that thousands of U.S. electrical utility sites are poorly protected.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters at the time the objective of the attack appeared to have been “shutting down the system.” But the FBI says it does not think a terrorist organization carried out the gunfire attack on the San Jose substation.
No arrests have been made in the San Jose incident.
Meanwhile, the FBI is also investigating a series of attacks on the Arkansas power grid where multiple high-voltage transmission lines were severed and one substation was set on fire, according to the New York Times. “You should have expected U.S.” was scribbled on a control panel at the torched substation.
There is no indication the attacks in Arkansas and California are related.
UPDATE (Feb. 7, 2014):
The Wall St. Journal reports (via FoxNews) that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she and fellow senators plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the electric grid’s reliability, to “set minimum security standards for critical substations.” One proposal being discussed in Congress is would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to write and impose interim rules on grid defenses. The utility industry would still be able to influence any permanent requirements.
Some utility industry executives told the WSJ it would be difficult to come up with rules for improving security that would work in both urban and rural areas. Lisa Barton, executive vice president of transmission for American Electric Power, said increasing protections could be costly and that “One size fits all may not get you true resiliency. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it.”