Navy SEAL Chief Behind bin Laden Raid: Keystone XL Would Be a Terror Target
Photo Credit: alexan55/ Shutterstock.com
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Dave Cooper, Command Master Chief SEAL(Retired) for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), has authored a threat assessment concludingTransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is potentially at-risk of a terrorism attack.
In the report, Cooper concluded operational security vulnerabilities for the pipeline have been overlooked by the U.S.government. Cooper — most famous for overseeing the Abbottabad, Pakistan Osama Bin Laden raid as the commander of Navy SEAL Team Six — wrote the report as a consultant for billionaire Tom Steyer's advocacy group NextGen Climate Action.
“The very nature of Keystone XL’s newsworthiness, should it ever be built, increases its attractiveness as a target to terrorists: Keystone XL, aside from being a 'soft' target just like any other pipeline, has a built-in emotional impact that can’t be denied or wished away,” he wrote in the report's introduction.
“That simple fact, a newsworthy proposal that engenders strong passions, should clue in pipeline owners and government officials to the very real possibility of intentional attack.”
For the report, Cooper utilized a “red cell” methodology, parlance for U.S. special operations forces performing pre-mission reconnaissance, using open source data readily available to terrorists on the internet. In so doing, the special operations forces snuff out operational security (“OpSec” in military lingo) weaknesses, which they use as actionable intelligence in defense missions.
In the report, Cooper explained he “designed [the methodology this way] to showcase weaknesses in the current reality by exploiting the same information to which an outside terrorist group would have access.”
Cooper's probe included a due diligence trip out to the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, where Phase I of the Keystone Pipeline System is currently operational (the northern leg of Keystone XL is Phase IV). Going out into the field, Cooper came away shocked by his discoveries.
His findings raise a troubling question: have real Keystone XL terrorism threats been ignored, while non-violent activists have been labeled potential eco-terrorists? Cooper offered his take on this question to DeSmogBlog.
“No Sight” of Active Security Program
Cooper said he mapped out his entire Nebraska trip by using a maps of the Keystone Pipeline System he found online.
“In military parlance, the site visit at [redacted] was a 'cold shot,' done with no advance preparation or planning, using only information and intelligence gathered from publicly available sources,” wrote Cooper.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System; Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
“[redacted] was selected because it has both a valve and pumping station for the operational Keystone 1, it is somewhat near Keystone XL’s route, and it is roughly similar to the proposed Keystone XL – with presumably the same level of security as the proposed pipeline.”
Once on the ground, Cooper found absolutely nothing indicating an active security program.
“I was able to freely approach, then stand at a Keystone 1 pump station for over 15 minutes snapping photos,” he wrote. “I was not approached, questioned or even noticed at any point.”
Cooper concluded that in a worst case scenario, a dozen terrorists could cause a seven million gallon spill by attacking the pipeline at three points. And that's if TransCanada were to have perfect execution of shut-down protocol.
KXL and FBI/DHS Fusion Centers
In concluding his report, Cooper pays homage to domestic intelligence agencies for practicing predictive policing.
“This assessment also cannot speak for the innumerable and valiant efforts of our intelligence agencies, those who strive daily to defeat terrorists 'upstream' before they can actually act on their designs,” wrote Cooper. “Their persistent actions in our defense could very well thwart any such pipeline attack during the terrorists’ observation, orientation and decision phases.”
DeSmogBlog has reported on these predictive policing efforts as it pertains to KeystoneXL. And the results, put mildly, haven't been pretty.