Substation terrorism blackout — news blackout

Filed under:News coverage,Nuts & Bolts — posted by admin on February 13, 2014 @ 8:41 am

powerlines_links_ATC

Talk about being behind the curve…  and NSA’s going to push my stats up!

Very strange timing here — an incident where “multiple transformers,” 17 transformers, or 5 transformers, 5 out of 7 transformer banks, depending what you read/hear, were taken out occurred on April 16, 2013, and it’s just now being reported.  Try googling “news blackout California substation electrical terrorism” and see what comes up.  Maybe it’s that former FERC chair Wellinghoff is out there talking about it?  There was also a congressional hearing in December that got some coverage…

At the time, the incident wasn’t publicized, but since he stepped down as FERC chairman in November, Wellinghoff is raising public attention to the California sniper’s attack to demonstrate the vulnerability of the nation’s electricity system.

Wellinghoff started talking about it publicly in November, 2013 it seems.

Do some googling and see for yourself the news blackout.  Also,several articles are noting it occurred a day after the Boston Marathon bombing, but not one yet is noting that it occurred the day after taxes are due.  How many anti-tax wing-nuts are out there?

They publicized similar sabotage in Arkansas and arrested the perp (interesting, he unbolted a tower, connected a cable, and used a moving train to tip over the pole!):

Arkansas man charged in connection with power grid sabotage

Back to California — here’s what the substation and surrounding area looks like, and the actions taken, from the Wall Street Journal article:

Substation_Screen-Shot-2014-02-11-at-12.59.24-PM-578x620

In today’s STrib:

Who knocked out 17 giant transformers in Calif. — and why?

In the Wall Street Journal (I don’t have access… do you?):

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm for Potential Terrorism

From PG&E at the time:

April 16, 2013

Grid Operator Calls for Conservation after Substation Incident

April 17, 2013

PG&E Crews Continue Repair Work at Damaged Substation

Now going back to April, 2013:

Vandalism at San Jose PG&E Substation called ‘Sabotage’

AT&T Offers $250,000 Reward for Fiber Vandalism

CAISO’s Alert:

Flex-Alert-Urgent Conservation Needed Now – Santa Clara Silicon Valley  April 16, 2013

Here’s one from December, 2013, that is the most detailed and credible I’ve found:

‘Military-Style’ raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.

In this one there’s a statement that’s a recurring theme that I think is off base, the theme being that it’s a rehearsal for a “real” attack, and in other articles calling it a “dry run,” when I’d call taking out 17 transformers a “real” attack:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Another good detailed article in the NY Times:

Months Later, Sniper Attack at Power Hub Still a Mystery

And a video:

San Jose: Sheriff’s Office release video of attach on PG&E substation

On NPR:

Sniper Attack on Calif. Power Station Raises Terrorism Fears

In Bloomberg:

Rifle-Toting Terrorists Pose Great Threat to Power Grid

Now let’s see some other coverage that I’ll nominate for “wing-nut” status:

False Flag: New Details Emerge on Santa Clara County ‘Military-Style” Power Grid Attack

Latest ‘Domestic Terror’ Sniper Attack is Likely a Government False Flag

In which they say:

Those who still believe that this was the work of a home-grown terror cell, read between their own lines: according to the U.S. Navy investigation ordered at the request of  FERC chairman Wellinghoff, “it was a targeting package just like they would put together for an attack”.

‘Just like they would put together for a real attack’, he says?

Exactly, because this wasn’t a real terror attack.  ???  Again the mantra of a “dress rehearsal” or a “dry run.”  Isn’t taking out the fiber-optic and 911 service and then multiple substation transformers “real” enough?

Chilling: Why an Underreported, ‘Significant Incident of Domestic Terrorism’ Might Not Be A Failed Attack At All

In today’s STrib, the full article:

Who knocked out 17 giant transformers in Calif. — and why?

WASHINGTON – They came after midnight, two or more armed individuals who cut telecommunication cables in an underground vault and outsmarted security cameras and motion sensors at the power substation in a remote corner of Santa Clara County.

At daylight, FBI agents began poring over time-lapse photographs from the surveillance cameras. But the photos revealed only muzzle flashes from a semi-automatic weapon and sparks as shots hit rows of transformers. There was not a face, not a shadow, of who was doing the firing.

The shooters vanished before the first police arrived.

The military-style raid on April 16 knocked out 17 giant transformers at the Metcalf Transmission Substation, which feeds power to Silicon Valley. The FBI is still working the case, and agents say they are confident it was not the work of terrorists.

What they do not have is a motive, fingerprints or suspects. Theories are piling up.

Was it a gang bent on eco-terrorism? Was it a test of the vulnerability of the electrical grid? Was it a dress rehearsal for a larger attack to come?

Was it an inside job by disgruntled Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employees? Was it related to the bombing of the Boston Marathon across the country only 13 hours earlier?

Utility officials quickly rerouted power around the site, and nearby power plants picked up the slack, so there was no major blackout. And no one was injured. But it took utility crews nearly a month to repair the damage.

Four Democratic senators, including California’s Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, on Friday urged utility regulators to increase security at power plants and substations around the nation. They said the “sophisticated attack” was a “wake-up call” about threats to crucial infrastructure.

Warnings of attacks on grid

“We ought to be hyper-alert,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., whose district includes the substation that was attacked. “These were pros.”

Counterterrorism officials have repeatedly warned of a potential cyberattack that could disable or crash electric grids, causing outages and billions of dollars in damage, and federal authorities and utilities have rushed to beef up their digital defenses. But the assault 15 miles southeast of San Jose was decidedly low-tech.

Law enforcement sources say the gunmen fired 120 rounds from a high-powered rifle and that nearly every shot hit the transformers 40 yards away in a 20-minute period.

The transformers began to leak thousands of gallons of oil. They overheated and shut down, but did not explode.

The attackers managed “to disable these transformers without blowing them up and attracting attention,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif.

Officials say the attackers brought night-vision scopes for their weapons, used heavy wire cutters to snip fiber-optic cables in a bunker and knew which manholes to open to reach the right cables.

The team briefly disabled the 911 emergency system and phone lines. They set off a motion detector by the fence before leaving, but the facility sits beside U.S. 101, a convenient escape route.

Knew what they were doing

They were “clearly knowledgeable” about the layout of the substation and its communication systems, said one federal official, who, like others, was speaking confidentially.

The perpetrators arrived shortly before 1 a.m. and were gone 52 minutes later. Apparently the first call to authorities came from a driver speeding by on U.S. 101. He told police in Gilroy that “fireworks” were coming from the substation.

An operator at the Metcalf Energy Center, beside the substation, placed an emergency call about the same time.

Then the trail went dry.

“These guys took pains to make sure they would not be detected,” a federal official said. “And they got away.”

Sources said investigators had found no fingerprints on the shell casings, no matchable boot prints and no tire tracks.

A four-minute black-and-white surveillance video, which the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office posted online, shows little more than a line of trees and flashes of light along a chain-link perimeter fence.

No phone calls, e-mails or letters have claimed responsibility, “at least none that are credible,” one official said.

No composite drawings of possible suspects have been released. Few clues have emerged since authorities issued a news release after the attack saying that “no suspect information is available.”

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace