FBI: California substation attack wasn’t terrorism

A top regional FBI official said last year’s sniper attack on a power substation in northern California doesn’t fit the agency’s definition of terrorism.

The assertion by John Lightfoot, the FBI’s top counterterrorism official for the San Francisco Bay Area, differs with popular conceptions of the April 2013 attack on the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation near San Jose.


“We don’t think this was a sophisticated attack,” Lightfoot said this week at an industry conference, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It doesn’t take a very high degree of training or access to technology to carry out this attack.”

The sniper attack at the Metcalf substation didn’t cause any customers to lose power, but it cost $15 million, strained the electric grid and showed some vulnerabilities in grid security. No suspects have been arrested for the attack.

Lightfoot said the attack was relatively easy to carry out, could have been completed by one person and that the shooter was not a very good shot, the Chronicle reported.

The FBI defines terrorism as the use or threat of force that violates federal law for a political or social agenda.

“At this point in the investigation, based on the information we have so far, we are not aware of any political or social agenda that has been advocated (here), or that this act was carried out to further,” Lightfoot said.

PG&E has not formally declared whether to call it terrorism.