Former top government officials who have been warning Washington about the vulnerability of the nation’s largely unprotected electric grid are raising new fears that troops from the jihadist Islamic State are poised to attack the system, leading to a power crisis that could kill millions.
“Inadequate grid security, a porous U.S.-Mexico border, and fragile transmission systems make the electric grid a target for ISIS,” said Peter Pry, one of the nation’s leading experts on the grid.
Others joining Pry at a press conference later Wednesday to draw attention to the potential threat said that if just a handful of the nation’s high voltage transformers were knocked out, blackouts would occur across the country.
“By one estimate, should the power go out and stay out for over a year, nine out of 10 Americans would likely perish,” said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.
At the afternoon press conference, Gaffney dubbed the potential crisis the "grid jihad."
A lack of electricity would shut off water systems, impact city transportation services and shutdown hospitals and other big facilities. Fresh and frozen foods also would be impacted as would banks, financial institutions and utilities.
Pry provided details of recent attacks on electricity systems and said that ISIS could easily team with Mexican drug cartels to ravage America.
He told Secrets, for example, that the Knights Templar drug gang blacked out the electric grid of the Mexican state of Michoacan in 2013 to provide cover for killing those fighting the drug trade.
“The Knights Templars and other criminal gangs in Mexico will do anything for money, and ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, has hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal,” said Pry.
“ISIS could hire one of the Mexican cartels, or one of their criminal gangs already in the U.S., or activate jihadist terror cells already in the U.S., and inflict a multi-state blackout immediately, within days or weeks. Perhaps even a nationwide blackout,” Pry explained to Secrets.
“I am not saying it is likely they will do so. But given the capabilities and objectives of ISIS and our obvious vulnerabilities, it would be foolish to ignore the threat to the grid, to regard the threat as unlikely. Our planning should be based on imminent asymmetrical threats, and not assume that another 9/11 large-scale attack is years away,” he added.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recently said they believe there is evidence that ISIS plans an attack.
Pry, Gaffney and others have been pushing Congress to protect the electric grid from attacks including terrorists, assaults by U.S. foes like North Korea and even sun spots that can zap unprotected transformers with electromagnetic pulse.
Congress is looking at legislation to protect the grid via the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.