In April of 2013, one day after the Boston bombings, a PG&E power station near San Jose, CA was the subject of an attack that investigators are saying reflected a high level of planning and sophistication. The attackers cut the fiber cables around the substation belonging to AT&T which knocked out some 911 and cell service in the region and then fired over 100 rounds from a high powered rifle at the facility’s transformers damaging more than ten. On top of that, 52,000 gallons of cooling oil then leaked out and the entire substation shut down and power had to be routed around it. According to camera footage, local authorities arrived literally one minute after the attackers stopped their assault on the substation and left the scene. Below is what several involved in the investigation and experts are saying as well as some media outlets.
John Wellinghoff, Former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Wellinghoff, a retired George W. Bush appointee, is calling the incident…
“the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.”
Fox News explains that:
Wellinghoff…based his conclusion that this was terrorism on the analysis of experts he brought to the crime scene. The analysis pointed to the shell casings having no fingerprints and evidence that the shooting positions had been pre-arranged.
Wellinghoff went public with the story after briefing federal agencies, Congress and the White House, citing national security concerns and fear that electric-grid sites don’t have adequate protection.
Mark Johnson, former Vice President of transmission for PG&E
“These were not amateurs taking potshots.”
“My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.
“This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components.”
Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal
No one who wishes America ill has to blow up a bomb. That might cause severe damage and rattle us. But if you’re clever and you really wanted to half-kill America—to knock it out for a few months or longer and force every one of our material and cultural weaknesses to a crisis stage—you’d take out its electrical grid. The grid is far-flung, interconnected, interdependent, vulnerable. So you’d zap it with an electromagnetic pulse, which would scramble and fry power lines. Or you’d hack the system in a broad, sustained attack, breaking into various parts, taking them down, and watching them take other parts down.
Or you’d do what the people at the center of a riveting front-page story in this newspaper appear to have done. You’d attack it physically, with guns, in a coordinated attack.
On the other hand, the FBI is saying that they don’t believe it was a terrorist attack at all but are still investigating.
So what’s going on with the enormous chasm of opinions on this incident? Why are the choices “vandals” or “most significant incident of domestic terrorism?” Well, I have no idea but I find it extremely interesting that while the US is spending oodles of cash on protecting infrastructure from cyber attacks, two guys with a high powered rifle are able to take out a massive substation in 20 minutes. Get 12 guys doing that and you can take out the western seaboard. Also, how was this kept quiet only a day after the Boston bombings occurred? It seems like another possible terrorist attack only a day later possibly committed by two more individuals would have been something national news organizations would have been all over. So why has it taken 10 months for this incident to get any traction?
Below is a video of the attack. Sparks from the gunfire can be seen at 1:54, 2:07, 2:10, 2:57 and 3:01.