Category Archives: Terrorism

The Continuing Need for National Defense

Might be one of the top 5 articles I have posted.
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The following is adapted from a speech delivered on March 4, 2014, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

Harold Rood, a professor of international relations at Claremont McKenna College who died in 2011, was not as well known as he was influential. A soldier in Patton’s army in World War II, he taught his students that war is permanent to the human condition, and that in war it is better to win, for no one ever had to accommodate a loser. America will always have enemies, he told them, and those enemies will forever be planning and expending resources to place themselves in a position to defeat us. It would be nice if it was otherwise, he was fond of saying, but it is not otherwise. It is the way the world works.

During the Cold War, Dr. Rood would demonstrate in his classes–often by reading stacks of clippings from newspapers from around the world—that the leaders of the Soviet Union understood the world in these stark terms, and that they acted consistently on that basis. He would also lecture on technology, from German steel production before 1914, to the state of Japanese fighter aircraft before 1941, and even, curiously, to maps of America’s electrical transmission lines and power plants. It was important, he thought, to understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of a nation. His classes served as an antidote for students who had grown up in post-war America—a much needed antidote, because citizens of free nations in peacetime do not historically think in such terms. We today, and our elected leaders—in whose hands we place the responsibility for national defense—are in urgent need of such an antidote, because the U.S. is increasingly and dangerously vulnerable, and our elected leaders appear oblivious.

One would think the attack on September 11, 2001, would have awakened Americans for the foreseeable future to the need to prepare for unexpected dangers. Surprisingly, its effect was short-lived. Two relatively recent attacks show the problem. The first I’ll discuss took place on April 16, 2013, on an electric-transmission substation owned by Pacific Gas & Electric in California. One reason it did not get much notice was that the other—the Boston Marathon bombing that killed or injured 260 people—had occurred the day before.

The San Jose Attack

Last April 16, just outside of San Jose, California, a group of terrorists or soldiers, operating on American soil, attacked the Metcalf transmission substation in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure. The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later, using high-powered rifles, they began a 20-minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. To this day there is no trace of them.

John Wellinghoff, then chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would call this attack “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving [America’s electrical] grid that has ever occurred.” Obviously it was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—estimates of the number of gunmen range from two to six—with training in reconnaissance, stealth, and evasion. That the plan went undetected, the casings from the spent shells bore no fingerprints, and the perpetrators have not been caught, suggests a high degree of intelligence. Damage to the facility forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to the Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months.

The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—puzzling given its sophistication and its proximity in time to the Boston bombing—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.

America’s electrical grid is vulnerable not only to San Jose-style attacks, but to an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, creating an electro-magnetic pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. Such an explosion placed over the center of the U.S. could destroy the infrastructure that distributes electricity to consumers and industrial users in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s, and Cold War–era nuclear strategy assumed that a nuclear attack on population centers would be accompanied by an EMP attack in order to disable an enemy’s command and control system.

As a side note, it has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage—although probably less extensive. Scientists estimate that such storms, called Coronal Mass Ejections, strike the earth every 150 to 300 years. Since the advent of electricity we have not experienced this type of event, which means we are in the window—indeed, it is believed that such a storm just missed Earth last July. At a 2013 conference to assess such risks, analysts from Lloyds of London concluded that “the total US population at risk of extended power outage from a [Coronal Mass Ejection] is between 20 to 40 million, with durations of 16 days to 1-2 years.”

Why is it important to be thinking about the possibility of terrorists waging coordinated San Jose-style attacks on large transformers—maybe the San Jose attack was a practice run, after all—or of an EMP attack, or of a solar storm of the kind just described? What we know from work performed in the 1990s by a Congressionally-mandated EMP Commission is that without electricity, the U.S. has the industrial infrastructure to provide for only 30 million of its over 300 million citizens. If an EMP attack occurred right now, the lights in this room would go off and most of us would be walking home, since many cars and gas pumps would be disabled. Our cell phones and iPads are likely to turn on, but not our computers and laptops—and in any case, cellular networks and the Internet will have likely been destroyed. Those of us able to reach home would have no lights or refrigeration. Most water is pumped electronically as well. So we would have only the food and bottled water we have stored in our houses—normally about three days worth. Our ability to communicate, to travel, to operate hospitals, to provide water and other necessities, would be lacking. The great majority of us would die from lack of food and water, or from diseases associated with lack of sanitation, medicine, and temperature control—not to mention social breakdown and the absence of civil authority. For good measure, there would be no good way to prevent our nuclear power plants from melting down, since as we saw at Fukishima they require electric power to cool their reactors.

Given the potentially devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated but vulnerable electrical grid, citizens might well wonder how it is that our government, which doesn’t bat an eye at spending billions of dollars on the most frivolous and wasteful projects, fails year after year to do so. The explanation goes deeper than America’s physical vulnerability—it goes to our intellectual vulnerability. Which brings me to the Boston Marathon bombing.

The Boston Attack

Immigrant brothers Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev—the former a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the latter a sometime recipient of taxpayer largesse in the form of welfare—appear to have read an Internet publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—likely the creation of the late American-born imam and al Qaeda commander Anwar Al’Awlaki—called Inspire. It was there that they came across an illustrated article on “how to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” Each and every issue of this publication seeks to inspire action against America as Islam’s number one enemy. Last spring it contained a piece by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Commander Qassim Ar-Reimy, which read in part:

O American nation, indeed, your security is not achieved by despoiling other nations’ security or by attacking and oppressing them . . . . Do you dare think that after all this you will be salvaged and feel secure? Nay! Instead, everyday you will be hit by the unexpected and your leaders can repel nothing! Hence, blame none but yourselves. Gulp the bitterness of war, death, destruction and insecurity as other oppressed humans do.

O American nation, did the war end with the killing of Sheikh Usama bin Laden (may Allah accept him) like your leaders lied unto you? The Boston events . . . indicate that . . . operations against you has taken a path which can be controlled not. Because making these bombs has become in everyone’s hand reach. They have this way and a bit of thinking, choosing a location which will damage your economy and terrify your hearts, thence you will pray for woes and destruction.

The automatic response whenever one brings up the Boston bombing, or any domestic attack or attempted attack inspired by Islam, is that there are many patriotic American Muslims who do not read the Koran literally and who abhor such violence. This is true. But here are some facts: We have today between five and ten million Muslims in the United States; and in surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, 21 percent of these Muslims find suicide bombing acceptable and five percent have a favorable view of al Qaeda. That may be a low percentage, but five percent of five to ten million is a lot of people. Often these Muslims are radicalized by foreign agents such as the publishers of Inspire—as well, it must be said, as by the ideological left in our schools and in Hollywood, who tirelessly and tiresomely portray America as an oppressive country with a tradition of exploiting its minorities at home and third world peoples abroad. In any case, such a large and disaffected population presents a real problem in a free society such as ours, which is based on ideas like religious freedom and individual rights. We must hold firm to these ideas, which are the source of our greatness. But we must not be blind to the presence of those who seek to destroy us by taking advantage of our freedom.

Above all, we ought to speak the truth: When Army medical officer Nidal Hasan was charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” for instance, he should have been charged with terrorism or combat-related murder, and not with “workplace violence,” the euphemism preferred by the Army and the Defense Department.

The leaders of Iran—a nation that possesses advanced ballistic missiles and either already has nuclear warheads, as some Soviet defectors believe, or is in the process of building them—do not themselves mince words. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has recently said: “America’s interests and all of Israel are within the range of the Islamic Republic, and there is not the slightest doubt among Iran’s armed forces to confront the American government and the Zionists.” After 30 years of sponsoring attacks on America with impunity—from the Hezbollah bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983 to the 9/11 attack, prior to which some of the hijackers received their final pre-flight training in Iran—Iran’s leaders see no reason to stop now. For America’s part, we say that we will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, but we engage in negotiations that will let them do so by subterfuge—and we look the other way as China and Russia aid them, cutting our defense budget as we go.

What Is To Be Done

There are clear practical steps to be taken to address America’s physical vulnerabilities. The first step in protecting our electrical grid is simply to build fences around the substations to hide the large transformers. This modestly priced step has been proposed by the former head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but has yet to be acted upon.

Second, there are workable proposals to harden the grid against damage from an extreme solar storm. The Secure High-Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (or SHIELD) Act has been introduced by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks. The cost would be less than a billion dollars—a drop in the bucket in an economy of over $16 trillion. Yet the bill remains in committee.

Third, the threat of an EMP attack—the consequences of which could be even more terrible—requires a ballistic missile defense of a kind well within our capability that could stop not only a ship-launched attack from Iran, but a missile launched by China or Russia as well. The Obama administration opposes missile defense in principle, thinking it destabilizing. As a result, we are purposefully kept vulnerable, by our own government, to nuclear blackmail or attack by Russia and China and by their surrogate Iran. This is reprehensible, and missile defense should become a major political issue until our government acts.

As for the threat of domestic terrorism by Jihadists living in this country as citizens and as legal and illegal aliens, the Muslim Brotherhood—which has made it their goal, as stated in their main operational documents, to “destroy [America’s] miserable house from within”—should be declared a terrorist organization both here and abroad. Its affiliates such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America should be disbanded, and their activities made illegal. Today these groups not only take advantage of the protection of our laws to work toward our destruction, but are officially recognized as representatives of American Muslims by officials in the White House, at the FBI, and elsewhere. At the same time, we should institute an educational program of assimilation, teaching immigrants the virtues of the American creed of equal rights, civil and religious liberty, and the rule of law under the Constitution.

Here is Abraham Lincoln in a speech in 1838:

All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

As a nation of freemen today, we are courting suicide by ignoring clear and present dangers. Our elected representatives have eyes but do not see, and they have ears but do not hear. We must awaken ourselves, and then awaken them, before it is too late.

Copyright © 2014 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325.
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Pakistani Journalists Under Fire

Let’s hope America doesn’t come to this.
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Lahore, Pakistan

On Friday, Raza Rumi, a well-known TV anchor on Pakistan’s Express News, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the center of Lahore. His driver, shot 11 times by two gunmen, died at the hospital.

Raza, a friend, had just left the television studio when two men on a motorcycle rode up next to his car, unleashing a volley of bullets. Raza was sitting in the back seat, and he plunged his body onto the floor.

“I jerked my head under the seat which was quickly filling with shattered glass,” he told me when I visited his house shortly after the incident. “I suffocated myself in order to survive.”

Raza’s 25-year-old-driver, Muhammad Mustafa, was completely exposed in the front. “He used to play football with my kids,” Raza told me. “He was married just a year ago.”

We have been here before. When Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, was assassinated in 2007, I was getting ready to go to a wedding, as I was on March 28 when Raza was shot at. I remember the evening clearly: “She’s dead, she’s dead,” cried my mother, her earrings jangling against her cheek. When Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s largest province and a family friend, was assassinated three years later, I was home reading the newspaper he published.

Journalists declared Saturday a day of protest in response to Friday’s attack, but one wonders what difference it will make. A February 2014 report by the South Asia Free Media Association listed Pakistan as one of the five most dangerous places in the world for journalists. The attack on Raza was the fourth attack on journalists from the Express Media Group. At his house, Raza told me the attack was likely linked to a recent hit list circulated by the Taliban. There are 15 names on the list, including Raza’s, and my father’s, the journalist Najam Sethi.

“The tragedy is that the state cannot protect us,” Raza told me. “I should say, if the state doesn’t kill you, nonstate actors will.” It made me think: In the good old days, repressive governments bullied, blackmailed and imprisoned journalists. But at least you got out alive.

In modern Pakistan, the government is immobilized by a clutch of sectarian organizations and terrorist groups. This is a Pakistan in which one of the most popular politicians, Imran Khan, labels those who want the government and army to fight the Taliban, like those on the hit list, as “American agents” who are “dollar-fed.”

In recent months, as the liberal (as in nonsectarian) Pakistani media have closed ranks against the Taliban, the media have been threatened and attacked. The Taliban, who obsessively monitor opinion and news content, know exactly who speaks out loudest against them. Raza is one of these people. He is a “liberal”—a term almost uniformly used as a pejorative in modern-day Pakistan.

Ms. Sethi, a former assistant books editor at the Journal, is a writer living in Lahore.

via Mira Sethi: Pakistani Journalists Under Fire – WSJ.com.

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Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism – WSJ.com

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
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SAN JOSE, Calif.—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 PCG -0.58% 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 attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., said Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time.

The Wall Street Journal assembled a chronology of the Metcalf attack from filings PG&E made to state and federal regulators; from other documents including a video released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department; and from interviews, including with Mr. Wellinghoff.

The 64-year-old Nevadan, who was appointed to FERC in 2006 by President George W. Bush and stepped down in November, said he gave closed-door, high-level briefings to federal agencies, Congress and the White House last year. As months have passed without arrests, he said, he has grown increasingly concerned that an even larger attack could be in the works. He said he was going public about the incident out of concern that national security is at risk and critical electric-grid sites aren’t adequately protected.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t think a terrorist organization caused the Metcalf attack, said a spokesman for the FBI in San Francisco. Investigators are “continuing to sift through the evidence,” he said.

Some people in the utility industry share Mr. Wellinghoff’s concerns, including a former official at PG&E, Metcalf’s owner, who told an industry gathering in November he feared the incident could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger event.

“This wasn’t an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided, after a few brewskis, to come in and shoot up a substation,” Mark Johnson, retired vice president of transmission for PG&E, told the utility security conference, according to a video of his presentation. “This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components.” When reached, Mr. Johnson declined to comment further.

A spokesman for PG&E said the company takes all incidents seriously but declined to discuss the Metcalf event in detail for fear of giving information to potential copycats. “We won’t speculate about the motives” of the attackers, added the spokesman, Brian Swanson. He said PG&E has increased security measures.

Utility executives and federal energy officials have long worried that the electric grid is vulnerable to sabotage. That is in part because the grid, which is really three systems serving different areas of the U.S., has failed when small problems such as trees hitting transmission lines created cascading blackouts. One in 2003 knocked out power to 50 million people in the Eastern U.S. and Canada for days.

Many of the system’s most important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.

Transmission substations are critical links in the grid. They make it possible for electricity to move long distances, and serve as hubs for intersecting power lines.

Within a substation, transformers raise the voltage of electricity so it can travel hundreds of miles on high-voltage lines, or reduce voltages when electricity approaches its destination. The Metcalf substation functions as an off-ramp from power lines for electricity heading to homes and businesses in Silicon Valley.

The country’s roughly 2,000 very large transformers are expensive to build, often costing millions of dollars each, and hard to replace. Each is custom made and weighs up to 500,000 pounds, and “I can only build 10 units a month,” said Dennis Blake, general manager of Pennsylvania Transformer in Pittsburgh, one of seven U.S. manufacturers. The utility industry keeps some spares on hand.

A 2009 Energy Department report said that “physical damage of certain system components (e.g. extra-high-voltage transformers) on a large scale…could result in prolonged outages, as procurement cycles for these components range from months to years.”

Mr. Wellinghoff said a FERC analysis found that if a surprisingly small number of U.S. substations were knocked out at once, that could destabilize the system enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most of the U.S.

Not everyone is so pessimistic. Gerry Cauley, chief executive of the North America Electric Reliability Corp., a standards-setting group that reports to FERC, said he thinks the grid is more resilient than Mr. Wellinghoff fears.

“I don’t want to downplay the scenario he describes,” Mr. Cauley said. “I’ll agree it’s possible from a technical assessment.” But he said that even if several substations went down, the vast majority of people would have their power back in a few hours.

The utility industry has been focused on Internet attacks, worrying that hackers could take down the grid by disabling communications and important pieces of equipment. Companies have reported 13 cyber incidents in the past three years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of emergency reports utilities file with the federal government. There have been no reports of major outages linked to these events, although companies have generally declined to provide details.

“A lot of people in the electric industry have been distracted by cybersecurity threats,” said Stephen Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which runs much of the high-voltage transmission system for the utilities. He said that physical attacks pose a “big, if not bigger” menace.

There were 274 significant instances of vandalism or deliberate damage in the three years, and more than 700 weather-related problems, according to the Journal’s analysis.

Until the Metcalf incident, attacks on U.S. utility equipment were mostly linked to metal thieves, disgruntled employees or bored hunters, who sometimes took potshots at small transformers on utility poles to see what happens. (Answer: a small explosion followed by an outage.)

Last year, an Arkansas man was charged with multiple attacks on the power grid, including setting fire to a switching station. He has pleaded not guilty and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, according to federal court records.

Overseas, terrorist organizations were linked to 2,500 attacks on transmission lines or towers and at least 500 on substations from 1996 to 2006, according to a January report from the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded research group, which cited State Department data.

To some, the Metcalf incident has lifted the discussion of serious U.S. grid attacks beyond the theoretical. “The breadth and depth of the attack was unprecedented” in the U.S., said Rich Lordan, senior technical executive for the Electric Power Research Institute. The motivation, he said, “appears to be preparation for an act of war.”

The attack lasted slightly less than an hour, according to the chronology assembled by the Journal.

At 12:58 a.m., AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut—in a way that made them hard to repair—in an underground vault near the substation, not far from U.S. Highway 101 just outside south San Jose. It would have taken more than one person to lift the metal vault cover, said people who visited the site.

Nine minutes later, some customers of Level 3 Communications, LVLT +1.29% an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.

At 1:31 a.m., a surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.

The substation’s cameras weren’t aimed outside its perimeter, where the attackers were. They shooters appear to have aimed at the transformers’ oil-filled cooling systems. These began to bleed oil, but didn’t explode, as the transformers probably would have done if hit in other areas.

About six minutes after the shooting started, PG&E confirms, it got an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence, which is shown on video.

Four minutes later, at 1:41 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.

Riddled with bullet holes, the transformers leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, then overheated. The first bank of them crashed at 1:45 a.m., at which time PG&E’s control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.

Five minutes later, another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 shell casings of the sort ejected by AK-47s were later found at the site.

At 1:51 a.m., law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.

A PG&E worker, awakened by the utility’s control center at 2:03 a.m., arrived at 3:15 a.m. to survey the damage.

Grid officials routed some power around the substation to keep the system stable and asked customers in Silicon Valley to conserve electricity.

In a news release, PG&E said the substation had been hit by vandals. It has since confirmed 17 transformers were knocked out.

Mr. Wellinghoff, then chairman of FERC, said that after he heard about the scope of the attack, he flew to California, bringing with him experts from the U.S. Navy’s Dahlgren Surface Warfare Center in Virginia, which trains Navy SEALs. After walking the site with PG&E officials and FBI agents, Mr. Wellinghoff said, the military experts told him it looked like a professional job.

In addition to fingerprint-free shell casings, they pointed out small piles of rocks, which they said could have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.

“They said it was a targeting package just like they would put together for an attack,” Mr. Wellinghoff said.

Mr. Wellinghoff, now a law partner at Stoel Rives LLP in San Francisco, said he arranged a series of meetings in the following weeks to let other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, know what happened and to enlist their help. He held a closed-door meeting with utility executives in San Francisco in June and has distributed lists of things utilities should do to strengthen their defenses.

A spokesman for Homeland Security said it is up to utilities to protect the grid. The department’s role in an emergency is to connect federal agencies and local police and facilitate information sharing, the spokesman said.

As word of the attack spread through the utility industry, some companies moved swiftly to review their security efforts. “We’re looking at things differently now,” said Michelle Campanella, an FBI veteran who is director of security for Consolidated Edison Inc. ED -0.28% in New York. For example, she said, Con Ed changed the angles of some of its 1,200 security cameras “so we don’t have any blind spots.”

Some of the legislators Mr. Wellinghoff briefed are calling for action. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) mentioned the incident at a FERC oversight hearing in December, saying he was concerned that no one in government can order utilities to improve grid protections or to take charge in an emergency.

As for Mr. Wellinghoff, he said he has made something of a hobby of visiting big substations to look over defenses and see whether he is questioned by security details or local police. He said he typically finds easy access to fence lines that are often close to important equipment.

“What keeps me awake at night is a physical attack that could take down the grid,” he said. “This is a huge problem.”

—Tom McGinty contributed to this article.

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism – WSJ.com.

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