- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

U.S. intelligence agencies have detected surveillance by terror suspects at three oil facilities in the United States, raising fears that plans are under way to attack oil-shipping terminals and refineries, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Three oil-shipping facilities at Philadelphia; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Valdez, Alaska, were reported to be under surveillance by Islamist terrorists during the past several months, the officials said.
Surveillance of the facilities was detected on four or five occasions for each of the three facilities, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The United States has 57 oil terminals located on its coasts. It is not known why the Pennsylvania, Texas and Alaska terminals were cased.
U.S. security officials said all U.S. oil refineries and oil-loading port terminals are vulnerable to attack by terrorists, despite efforts to increase security since the September 11 attacks.
The threat to oil ports was outlined in a classified intelligence report sent to senior U.S. officials last week. Surveillance of potential targets is one of the only indicators that reveal to intelligence officials that terrorists are planning attacks.
The intelligence on the surveillance was not specific enough to identify the individuals involved, nor was it clear from the intelligence why authorities did not arrest the terror suspects. But the intelligence is being taken seriously by counterterrorism law-enforcement and intelligence officials.
Philadelphia has two oil ports, Hog Island and Marcus Hook terminals. Both are operated by Sun Oil, and both have oil refineries.
The port of Corpus Christi operates 25 public and private oil docks that can handle oil tankers up to 100,000 tons in size. It does not have a refinery nearby.
The Valdez Marine Terminal in Alaska is owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. and fills oil tankers from the Alaska pipeline. There is no refinery at the terminal.
Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security, said he was not familiar with the intelligence about terrorist surveillance of the three sites.
However, Mr. Johndroe said that the FBI warning last month noted that "al Qaeda would like to attack the petroleum industry, including oil facilities and nuclear power plants."
"We wouldn't have put out a warning or begun working with industry if we weren't concerned about an al Qaeda attack on these facilities," he said.
Mr. Johndroe said security officials have been working with oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and Conoco Philips, to increase security at oil facilities.
The threat to oil terminals comes amid increased warnings by the FBI that terrorists are planning attacks.
The FBI stated in an alert issued Oct. 23 that the attack on a French oil tanker near the coast of Yemen last month and other information from al Qaeda prisoners "suggest plans exist to continue attacks against the global petroleum sector," the FBI stated.
"According to this information, al Qaeda plans to weaken the petroleum industry by conducting additional sea-based attacks against large oil tankers and that such attacks may be a part of more extensive operations against port facilities and other energy-related targets, including oil facilities and nuclear-power plants," the FBI stated.
U.S. intelligence agencies also have gathered "general threat reporting" that indicates terrorists have targeted the airline and shipping industries, the financial sector and government facilities and installations, the FBI said.
Law-enforcement agencies have stepped up security for the railway system and other sectors, the FBI stated. The increased security includes adding law-enforcement officers, increased surveillance of critical targets and improved physical protection of facilities.
An official of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center referred questions about the oil-terminal targeting to FBI press spokesmen, who could not be reached for comment.
On Oct. 9, the FBI issued a warning to law-enforcement officials nationwide that al Qaeda was threatening to attack U.S. economic interests.
The warning was based on an audiotape by al Qaeda leaders that was broadcast last month by Al Jazeera satellite television.

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