The Washington Free Beacon
March 11, 2014
Electric grid compounds across the country have faced an uptick in unauthorized intrusions by unknown individuals, causing concern that the U.S. grid is “inherently vulnerable” to widespread sabotage, according to a recent oversight report issued by New Jersey’s Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), which monitors the threat level.
Following at least eight “reports of intrusions at electrical grid facilities in New Jersey” from October 2013 until January 2014, the ROIC’s Intelligence & Analysis Threat Unit issued a report warning that the U.S. electrical grid is “inherently vulnerable” to attacks that could wipe out power across large swaths of the country.
The ROIC report, released in late February, is marked as “unclassified” but designated “for official use only.” New Jersey State Police Spokesman Trooper Jeff Flynn confirmed that a report of this nature had been commissioned by ROIC when contacted by the Washington Free Beacon.
The multiple incidents of “sabotage” and crime outlined in the report “highlight the grid’s vulnerabilities to potential threats,” according to a copy of the report obtained by the Free Beacon.
U.S. officials and experts have increasingly warned over the years that the electrical grid could be a prime target for terrorists or others seeking to damage the country’s infrastructure and disrupt daily life.
The concern is that many of the incidents outlined in the ROIC report could be a sign that preparations are under away for a larger, coordinated attack on the grid.
Highly sensitive areas of the electrical grid were found to be lightly monitored, leaving them vulnerable to attack, according to the report.
“The electrical grid—a network of power generating plants, transmission lines, substations, and distribution lines—is inherently vulnerable,” the report said.
“Transmission substations are critical links in the electrical grid, making it possible for electricity to move long distances and serving as hubs for intersecting power lines,” according to the report. “Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.”
While the incidents are greatly concerning to security officials—and remain mostly unsolved—the ROIC “currently does not have enough information to classify the New Jersey incidents listed [in the report] as indicative of pre-operational activity or connect them to a pattern,” according to the report, which does not discount this possibility.
However, the incidents of grid tampering are not isolated to New Jersey.
An unidentified individual in Tucson, Ariz., in January, “removed multiple bolts from an electric tower’s support structure, increasing the potential for collapse and electrical service interruption.”
Authorities suspect that the goal was “sabotage rather than vandalism” due to the “deliberate manner of the bolt removal, including probable acquisition of the requisite tools,” the report said.
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