Bin Laden raid intel shows al Qaeda mulled hitting US oil tankers

Al Qaeda mulled plans to target oil tankers last year as part of an effort by the terrorist organization to hobble the United States’s oil and gas infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security said Friday.

DHS alerted its federal and state partners to the information in an intelligence note based on information found in the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The DHS note is meant “to provide greater insights into [al Qaeda’s] interest in targeting oil and natural gas infrastructure,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said.

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Chandler stressed that DHS is not aware of “any specific or imminent terrorist attack plotting against the oil and natural-gas sector overseas or in the United States.” 

“However, in 2010 there was continuing interest by members of [al Qaeda] in targeting oil tankers and commercial oil infrastructure at sea,” he said.

In its notice, DHS stressed the importance of screenings, briefings on any potential threat and being on the lookout for suspicious behavior, Chandler said, noting that such recommendations are routine.

“Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond,” Chandler said.

The information came to light in the aftermath of this month’s raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which uncovered a cache of data, a DHS official said.

The official stressed that the information does not indicate the presence of an “imminent threat.” Intelligence gathered by American officials suggests that the 2010 plans to target marine oil infrastructure were not fully formed. 

Officials have not identified a specific means by which any 2010 attack would have been undertaken, and have not uncovered a specific planned date of any attack, the DHS official said.

—Jordy Yager contributed to this story.