Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Is the 2013 California Attack on PG&E and AT&T Related to Similar 2009 AT&T Incident?

In April 2013, there was a seemingly orchestrated attack on a PG&E electrical transmission facility and on the AT&T telecommunications network.  The incident was scarcely reported at the time, likely because of the Boston Marathon Bombing that happened the day before. The incident was also characterized as "vandalism" but the facts suggest something a bit more ominous.  Nearly a year later, the incident is rightfully attracting some new media attention (WSJ, TheBlaze).

During the 2013, parties unknown cut telecommunications cables in South San Jose, CA. Fiber optic and other cables were cut in two locations near Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E) Metcalf power substation. Later, multiple gunmen opened fire at the PG&E substation damaging 17 electrical transformers in an apparent effort to knock out power.  The telecommunications outage cut phone, cell phone, internet, and 911 service to thousands of people and businesses.

Some argue that the 2013 attack was a dry-run for a future, larger attack. Upon hearing the details, I've wondered if the April 2013 incident is related to a similar incident that happened four years earlier in nearly the same location.

In April 2009, parties unknown cut ten fiber optic cables in at least three different locations. Six of the cables were cut within three miles of the site of the 2013 incidents, straight up Old Monterey Road (Old Monterey Highway). In the 2009 incident, cables were also cut 33 miles away, but within easy access by car from the first site via Highway 101. At the time, some suspected members of the Communication Workers of American (CWA) union, who were in a labor dispute with AT&T. Those who cut the cables supposedly knew where to find the cables and how to cause the most damage.

Could the two incidents be related? It is only a theory on my part at the moment but the location and modus operandi seem similar enough to warrant more investigation.


2013 Incident

Wall Street Journal: Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism

The Blaze: Chilling: Why An Underreported, ‘Significant Incident of Domestic Terrorism’ Might Not Be a Failed Attack at All

CBS News Bay Area: Vandalism At San Jose PG&E Substation Called ‘Sabotage’

NBC News Bay Area: AT&T Offers $250,000 Reward for Fiber Vandalism

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Internet, cellphone customers cut off by outage: Fiber cut in Santa Clara County a challenge to repair

2009 Incident

San Francisco Chronicle: Sabotage attacks knock out phone service

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose police: Sabotage caused phone outage in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz counties

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