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Terrorism and the American Infrastructure


On 10 October 2001, at the National Academies Energy Workshop in Washington, DC, Yannacone presented a paper entitled, “Must Global Terrorism Mean the End of Western Civilization and “One Nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for All?” However, that public presentation was the introduction to a detailed presentation documenting the vulnerability of the infrastructure of America—particularly the electric utility Grid—to relatively unsophisticated terrorist attacks. The audience included a number of high ranking uniformed officers from all the services and a number of unidentified “spooks” from a variety of intelligence agencies who were concerned about ecoterrorism and thought Yannacone was an expert on the subject. Regrettably he was and still is, but has refrained from commenting on the vulnerabilities he identified in that high level meeting a little more than a month after the 9/11 attack.

Facing our infrastructure vulnerabilities

Since William R. Forstchen published his apocalyptic novels based on the very real danger of complete destruction of our civilization as the result of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a high-altitude explosion of a nuclear weapon and the more recent report by Ted Koppel about the vulnerability of our national electric power grid there is no longer any justification for knowledgeable experts to conceal the full extent of the real threats to Western civilization in general and the American way of life in particular.
The recent public outcry over random terrorist attacks on “soft” targets with automatic weapons and IEDs is a distraction from the real need for an immediate public discussion of our infrastructure vulnerabilities. That discussion is even more imperative because democratically elected officials in governments throughout the world have ignored all the warnings since before 9/11 about the catastrophic damage which can be wrought in developed countries by unskilled and untrained terrorists with access to only primitive explosives and an internet connection.
The electric power grid in the United States can be destroyed by a coordinated attack with easily obtained relatively primitive explosives while the electric power generating system can be destroyed with widely available malware such as the now famous stuxnet which crippled the centrifuges concentrating uranium in Iran.

Harden our infrastructure and improve cybersecurity. Now!

Rather than hardening our infrastructure and increasing its resiliency as well as protecting the most vulnerable targets and improving cyber security, our political leaders are behaving much the way they did during the days leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack and 60 years later, the 9/11 attack.
There was time for America to mobilize after the attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed our Pacific Fleet. However, we will not be able to mobilize after an equivalent surprise attack on our infrastructure, particularly the electric power grid and the electric power generating facilities which power the American way of life. We might survive for a reasonable period of time if our supply of gasoline was suddenly cut off, but the American Free Enterprise System and our way of life will not last a week without electric power.