ATTACKERS SEVER FIBER-OPTIC CABLES IN SAN FRAN... 14th Time in Year... Access to Underground Vaults... Terrorists Probing Infrastructure?
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.