By WESLEY LOY
Anchorage Daily News
January 20, 2006
The unknown author encourages small cells of four or five mujahedeen, or Muslim guerrillas, living in the United States or in Canada or Mexico to mount the attacks.
The 10-page posting includes numerous links to Web sites providing maps and other basic information about the pipeline.
Attacking oil and gas targets in the United States and other countries is key to bringing down the economy of the "American devils," the author writes, saying the message was posted in response to calls from Osama bin Laden and his top al Qaeda deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The Arabic posting was discovered and translated in late December by the SITE Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that tracks international terrorists.
The "presentation of targets" essentially was a posting to a password-restricted Web forum known to be affiliated with al Qaeda, and there's no way to identify the author or know whether it could inspire an actual attack, said SITE director Rita Katz.
However, she said the posting was unusual and alarming in its length and detail.
Spokesmen for the FBI and other law enforcement and security agencies said Tuesday they were aware of the posting, but none would say whether it had prompted any extra security measures in Alaska.
Curtis Thomas, a spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the Anchorage-based oil company consortium that runs the 800-mile pipeline, said his company also was aware of the posting, but that "we're not aware at this time of any imminent threat" to the system. He said company policy is to not discuss security procedures, staffing levels or other issues.
"We're in communications with state, federal and local law enforcement and private entities that would be affected by this," said Eric Gonzalez, the FBI's Alaska spokesman.
He added that the posting did not seem to contain information beyond what is readily available to anyone with a little digging.
"I don't think it's a secret to anyone that the trans-Alaska pipeline, the terminal at Valdez, is a critical asset not only to the state but the country," Gonzalez said. "It's stating the obvious - that this pipeline plays a critical role in this nation's economy."
The Alaska pipeline carries more than 800,000 barrels of crude a day from the North Slope oil fields to the Valdez tanker port. That's about one-eighth of U.S. production.
The posting suggests mujahedeen hit pipelines and other oil and gas assets in the United States, as well as in Iraq and the Caspian Sea region, as a way to hurt the U.S. economy and to gain payback for the war in Iraq.
"The bloody trash tore our children and dishonored us," it says. "This is our time to teach them a lesson in how to deal with Muslims."
It singles out the Alaska pipeline as a particularly valuable, and vulnerable, target for terror.
The author notes that 300,000 gallons of crude oil spewed out of a bullet hole in 2001, and that the pipeline is largely above ground, exposed and close to a highway.
A Livengood man was sentenced to 16 years in state prison after his conviction for oil pollution, criminal mischief, handling a firearm while drunk and other charges. Authorities say he shot the pipeline with a .338-caliber hunting rifle.
Pipeline operators have found numerous other bullet strikes over the years that did not puncture the pipeline's steel wall.
Security for the pipeline and Valdez tanker dock was heightened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. One of the biggest changes was creation of a security zone the U.S. Coast Guard enforces around the dock. The zone is still in effect, though recently it was slightly downsized.
The author of the Web posting suggests attackers hit the pipeline with "piercing bullets," or better yet, place explosives alongside it, especially in rural and wooded places to slow response and create fires.
Mujahedeen should detonate the hidden explosives "from time to time until they can receive news of the American devils' defeat," the posting says.
It also suggests attacks on the pipeline's pump stations, the oil tankers that carry the oil to the West Coast, and the storage tanks at the Valdez tanker dock, which are "considered an ideal target."
The posting includes links to an eclectic collection of Web sites, including Alyeska and U.S. Department of Energy sites and that of fringe presidential candidate and political radical Lyndon LaRouche.
It also includes numerous errors, including a sentence saying the pipeline starts at the North Pole and ends at Valdez "on the Atlantic Ocean."
Katz, the SITE director, said her organization has analyzed and translated many terrorism-related Web postings for its clients, including oil companies, and this one stood out.
"When I saw this message, I was shocked," Katz said. It was much longer, more thoughtful and more fully researched than the normal posting, she said.
The posting might have come from anyone, she said, an individual or even from within the bin Laden camp. What's more important than the source is the influence it might have as it likely spreads through the Internet from forum to forum.
"Once there's an idea there, then you don't know who saw that idea and might take the initiative and go forward," she said.
"We take all of these matters quite seriously," said John Madden, state Homeland Security director. However, the posting was "not any great, analytical document," but rather a collection of information available from open sources.
Last month, federal pipeline regulators ordered Alyeska to develop new spill cleanup drills with "terrorist attack scenarios" in mind.
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