TEL AVIV – The seriousness with which the FBI and AT&T are treating the severing of fiber-optic communications cables in the San Francisco area indicates the sabotage could have been a dry run for a terrorist attack.
This according to a leading homeland security and terrorism expert who has been sounding the alarm about imminent threats to the U.S. electric grid, some with the capacity to destroy the nation’s infrastructure.
Peter Pry, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both congressional advisory boards. He also served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission and the House Armed Services Committee.
“The FBI and AT&T are characterizing these attacks as a threat to public safety and considering all possibilities, ranging from a disgruntled former AT&T employee to terrorism,” Pry told WND.
“This is unusual for both the FBI and the utilities, (in) that are both always reluctant to publicly acknowledge the worst-case possibility,” he said.
On Monday, two AT&T fiber-optic cables in Livermore, California, Monday night were deliberately severed, the latest in a string of 14 other similar attacks on the infrastructure backbone of the Internet in California.
“It’s a serious matter and affects public safety at large,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said told USA Today on Tuesday.
The FBI described how an attacker opens a targeted underground cable vault, climbs inside and cuts through both the protective metal conduit inside and then severs the cable lines.
Michele Ernst, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s San Francisco field office, confirmed, “It’s being taken very seriously by the FBI and our law enforcement partners.”
The culprits would be subject to state and federal prosecution since the AT&T fiber-optic network is considered by law to be a critical component of the nation’s Internet infrastructure.
Pry pointed out the public information indicates “the person or persons attacking the cables is deliberately targeting them, knows where the underground cable junctions are located, knows how to gain access and knows which cables to cut.”
He noted that utility companies and law enforcement agencies have tried to minimize the seriousness of such criminal acts.
“In the recent past, utilities in the San Francisco area dismissed attacks on fiber optics communications cables as probable vandalism by thieves hoping to steal copper wire, who severed the fiber optics cables by accident,” he said.
Following the 2013 attack against the Metcalf transformer substation that provides electricity to the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area, Pry charged that “for months the electric utility PG&E tried to cover up the incident as vandalism.”
“Later, an investigation by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Navy Seals determined the attack on Metcalf was probably by well-trained terrorists or special forces, practicing for a larger future attack on the electric grid,” he said.
In the still largely unexplained attack April 16, 2013, on PG&E Corp’s Metcalf Transmission Substation outside of San Jose, California, a team of gunmen fired sniper and assault rifles, severely damaging 17 transformers.
Pry believes the attack could have been part of a terrorist group’s preparation for a future attack on the U.S. electrical grid.
Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the U.S. agency responsible for grid security, also warned that the Metcalf attack was likely a dry run for a future large-scale attack.
On the same day as the Metcalf attack, North Korea flew its KSM-3 satellite on the optimum trajectory and altitude to evade U.S. radars and carry out a potential EMP attack drill.
“Today’s concern over attacks on fiber-optic cables in the San Francisco area coincides with renewed nuclear threats from North Korea,” Pry told WND.
Indeed, on Monday the director of the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute escalated the country’s anti-U.S. rhetoric.
“If the U..S and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time,” the director said.
ISIS threat to U.S. power grid?
Regarding the threat to the U.S. electrical grid, a leaked U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report divulged last March that coordinated terrorist attacks on just nine of the nation’s 55,000 electrical power substations could provoke coast-to-coast blackouts for up to 18 months.
Such an attack would mirror the devastating impact of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack without the need for any nuclear device or delivery system.
The congressional EMP Commission previously estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, upwards of 90 percent of the U.S. population could possibly die from disease, lack of food and resources and larger societal breakdown.
Speaking on this reporter’s radio show last August, Pry pointed specifically to the possibility of ISIS hiring Mexican extremists such as the Knights Templar drug cartel, which in 2013 successfully utilized guns and Molotov cocktails to attack numerous Mexican power stations, leaving 11 towns without electricity.
“Now those guys are just across our southern border,” stated Pry at the time.
Pry continued: “That means that ISIS doesn’t have to actually come to the United States on those U.S. passports. You know, Obama is always talking about how he’s got a phone. Well, ISIS has got a telephone, too. All they’ve got to do is contact the Knights Templar, wire these guys $10 million; I mean, they’ll do anything for money. And say, ‘Hey, go across that open U.S. border and take out the electric grid in Arizona, or New Mexico, or Minnesota or New York. Or the entire nation.’”
Pry surmised such an attack on the U.S. power grid “wouldn’t be difficult for them.”
“There are … open-source computer models where you can figure out which are those nine critical transformer substations where if attacked would take down the whole national power grid,” he said.
“So something like that could be arranged. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen next week.”
Pry pointed out ISIS allies in al-Qaida in June 2014 attacked power lines in Yemen that left the entire nation without power for a day.