The following article by Michael Copeland was originally posted at LibertyGB in 2014.
Attacks on Utilities
by Michael Copeland
Back in April of 2013, in a little-publicised incident that was featured a few months later at Gates of Vienna, an electricity substation serving Silicon Valley in California was put out of action by what was initially and inadequately described as “vandalism”. It was nothing casual.
Deliberately, a critical telephone cable, accessed by a manhole with a cover too heavy for one person to lift, had been severed beforehand. A shooter or two with AK 47 rifles had conducted an attack at one o’clock in the morning, lasting some nineteen minutes. They knocked out 17 transformers and slipped away into the darkness before police arrived. It seems to have been a test run, and a highly successful one, of domestic warfare by persons of hostile intent. No group has claimed responsibility.
The site had evidently been staked out beforehand: investigators found little piles of stones left as if to mark good sniper positions. Spent cartridge cases on the ground had been carefully handled: they bore no fingerprints. In the event the utility company had been able, by contacting other generating stations, to bring replacement power by other routes on the grid to make up for the disabled station, so life continued without very much interruption. Replacing the damaged equipment, though, most of it specialised, takes time: the sub-station was out of action for a month. Questions remain.
“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” said Mark Johnson, a former vice president of the utility company,
“My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal.”
Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission assessed it as “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.”
Alarmingly, an FBI spokesman, reluctant to call it terrorism, pointed out, “It doesn’t take a very high degree of training or access to technology to carry out this attack.”
That incident is not alone. Other substations in other states have been disabled. Such events are not particularly newsworthy, though: no celebrities are involved. Even if they are reported, the public swiftly forgets. As yet unsolved, they expose just how simply and effectively an essential service for modern life can be put out of action. Think about it. No power: offices and factories closed, no water pumping, no sewage control, no street lights, no traffic lights, no home lights, no television, no internet, no air-conditioning, no refrigeration, no washing machines, a surge in deaths in old people’s homes, and so on. In exchange for a few rifle shots at one o’clock in the morning whole populations can be disabled and thrown into disarray. Worse, several attacks at once “could destabilize the system enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most of the U.S.” Further, the replacement components are not available off the shelf: they are expensive and have to be made. Co-ordinated attacks would instantly exhaust what supply there is, and whole areas of population would have to spend months in a state of camping improvisation before power could be restored. It would be economically devastating.
Power is one area of vulnerability. Water is another. Al Qaeda has threatened to poison Western water supplies. This is to achieve maximum deaths of non-muslims in line with the Koran’s command, part of Islamic law, to “Kill unbelievers wherever you find them” (Koran 9:5, the chapter cited by the killer of soldier Lee Rigby). Several plots for mass poisoning have been exposed, and arrests made in USA, Canada and Spain (cited in Jihad Watch). An unusual incident occurred at Quabbin reservoir that serves Boston: seven foreign muslims, chemical engineering graduates, were discovered after midnight inside the security enclosure. Nothing had been tampered with, but why they had trespassed there at that time of night has not been explained. They were arrested, the action being initially treated as criminal. Some time later no charges were brought, and the matter was dropped.