Newsnation obtained the memo from federal law enforcement which read, "Power companies in Oregon and Washington have reported physical attacks on substations using hand tools, arson, firearms, and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure... In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance, or throwing objects over the fence and onto equipment."
Three days before the attack on the power stations, the Department of Homeland Security issued a "National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin" terrorism alert bulletin that stated, "Targets of potential violence include: public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents."
The bulletin followed another issued by the Department of Homeland Security in January, that warned of domestic extremists developing “credible, specific plans” to attack electricity infrastructure, according to the Associated Press.
Federal officials told the outlet Tuesday that it is too early to know a motive for the gunfire damage that caused power outages for over 40,000 people in Moore County, North Carolina. However, they did note that there have been similar cases of vandalism and plots that have been exposed in North Carolina and across the country in recent months.
In February, three men plead guilty after the Department of Justice discovered a plot to shoot up substations across the country with powerful rifles. According to a statement from the DOJ, “The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region. They had conversations about how the possibility of the power being out for many months could cause war, even a race war, and induce the next Great Depression."
According to federal prosecutors, the plot was discovered when two of the men were pulled over for a traffic violation by police in Ohio and one swallowed a “suicide pill.” He survived.
Sheriff's deputies in Jones County, North Carolina, reported on Nov. 11 that criminal vandalism had caused over 12,000 people to lose power for days. Though the investigation remains ongoing, no suspects have been identified or arrested.
ABC reported that in 2019, “a Utah man pleaded guilty to one federal count of destruction of an energy facility stemming from a 2016 rifle attack on a Buckskin Electrical substation in Kane County and was sentenced to 96 months in prison, according to federal officials. The attack caused nearly $400,000 in damage and triggered a power outage in Kane and Garfield counties.”
“As part of the plea agreement, the defendant admitted causing damage to three substations in Nevada, but was not charged in those incidents, according to federal prosecutors.”
For years federal officials have warned of domestic terrorism-related threats to US infrastructure. ABC reported that in April 2013, “a group of suspects wielding high-powered rifles staged an attack in California’s Silicon Valley, shooting up the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s Metcalf substation, riddling transformers with bullets, officials said. PG&E said the attack caused $15 million in damage and prompted the utility company to spend $100 million to beef up security at its substations, including installing intruder detection systems.” No arrests were made.
Law enforcement officials called the sabotage of the North Carolina substations on Saturday "coordinated attacks."
According to Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields on Saturday night just after 7 pm, several communities across the county began to experience power outages.
Fields said that Duke Energy, which operates the power grid in the county, responded to at least two different substations and found evidence of intentional vandalism at both. "We faced something last night here in Moore County we have never faced before," Fields said on a Facebook Live press conference on Sunday afternoon.
He added that there was extensive damage found at two substations caused by multiple gunshots. PowerOutage.us said 40,679 customers were without power as of Sunday afternoon.
Though no group has claimed responsibility for what Fields called a "targeted attack" he reiterated, "We have no motivation. I call them cowards."
Sen. Tom Mcinnis, (R-NC) said at the press conference, "It appears to be an intentional, willful and malicious act and the perpetrator will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Duke Energy said Tuesday evening that it "anticipates having nearly all customers restored by 11:59 pm Wednesday."
Additionally, Moore County Schools have been closed since Monday and the closures will continue through Thursday.
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