Snipers' Power Grid Attack Investigated Amid Terrorism Claims

Friday, 07 Feb 2014 06:07 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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As details of a sniper attack that occurred last year on a California electrical sub-station are making the news, concerns are being raised among government officials that the attack was terrorism.

The incident occurred in April last year and received little media attention at the time. But a Wall Street Journal article Wednesday reported concerns that the 52-minute shooting, which damaged 17 transformers, was a terror attack.

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The FBI doesn’t consider it an attack, the WSJ reported, but said that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jon Wellinghoff doesn’t agree. He called it “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.”

“We are aware of the attack and continue to monitor the investigation closely,” a House Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson told Fox News. “The security and reliability of the grid is a pressing concern, and we will continue our work to mitigate all emerging threats.”

Foreign Policy magazine was the first to highlight the incident in December, pointing out that Rep. Henry Waxman talked about it at a hearing: “It is clear that the electric grid is not adequately protected from physical or cyber attacks.”

Waxman also called the California attack “an unprecedented and sophisticated attack on an electric grid substation with military-style weapons.” He added, according to FP, “Communications were disrupted. The attack inflicted substantial damage. It took weeks to replace the damaged parts. Under slightly different conditions, there could have been serious power outages or worse.”

Those concerns were reiterated by Mark Johnson, a former PG&E leader, who said at a conference in November, “These were not amateurs taking potshots,” and believed the attack was a “dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

“There are ways that a very few number of actors with very rudimentary equipment could take down large portions of our grid,” Wellinghoff told FP. “I don't think we have the level of physical security we need.”

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