Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hit the Lights?

The potential for an attack that brings down all or part of the US power grid has been a concern of security experts for years. A disturbing story in today’s WSJ explains that we may have already had a dry run for just an attack. Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism:

The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.

Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.

To avoid a blackout, electric-grid officials rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity. But it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life.

Nobody has been arrested or charged in the attack at PG&E Corp.'s Metcalf transmission substation. It is an incident of which few Americans are aware. But one former federal regulator is calling it a terrorist act that, if it were widely replicated across the country, could take down the U.S. electric grid and black out much of the country.

The article goes on to detail how this attack was not a random act of vandalism, but a carefully planned and executed operation. Concerned now?

Since 9/11, we’ve been fortunate that terrorists haven’t focused their attention and imagination on the plethora of soft targets inside the United States that would be relatively easy to strike and that could cause significant disruptions either locally or even potentially nationally. Knocking out part or all or the power grid would definitely qualify in this category.