Ex-FBI Agent: Attack on PG&E's Metcalf Substation Not an Act of Terrorism

A former FBI agent says a major sniper attack at an electrical substation near South San Jose was not an act of terrorism.

Rick Smith, who previously served as an FBI agent, agrees with a report quoting the FBI’s top counterterrorism official for the San Francisco Bay Area saying last year's attack on PG&E's Metcalf substation does not meet the bureau's definition of terrorism.

"The whole purpose in doing it is to send a message -- there's no message here, evidently," Smith said. "There usually is a claim of responsibility or some intelligence from somewhere that there was an organization involved and some political cause for it. If none of those things happened, they can't call it terrorism."

The attack destroyed 17 transformers and caused $15 million worth of damage. Some have said it may have been a trial run for a terrorist attack on the country's electrical grid.

Even though the damage was significant, Smith believes the shooter was not that sophisticated.

"Is it one kid out there drinking a six-pack, firing off a gun? Probably not," Smith says. "But I don't think it's the other way either."

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) disagrees with the FBI's assessment of the attack. He authored a bill, demanding the Public Utilities Commission establish security standards to make sure the electric grid is safe.

"It's all a matter of semantics and definition, but I think the public looks at something like that as terrorism," Hill said. "I hope, because the FBI has not identified and defined this as a terrorist attack, that people will not look at it as not serious."

Hill also points to another security breach a the Metcalf station two weeks ago, where construction equipment was stolen from the facility, as another reason he wants to make sure that security is a top priority.

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