Former Counterterror Adviser: Attack on Grid Could Leave Part of U.S. in Dark for Months
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who is on the Armed Services Committee, said there was a study done by the Idaho National Laboratory that showed through a Systems Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) attack, a generator – or a number of generators - could be blown up, leaving “a whole sector of the country without electricity for a period of not just days or weeks, but potentially months.”
That’s because the generators are large, Langevin said. “They're not just like batteries that are sitting on a shelf that you can, you know, take one out and plug another one in. These generators take months to build, ship and install.”
“What can be done to prevent that?” Stephanopolous asked Clarke.
“Well, very little,” Clarke said. “The thing here to really bear in mind is this is not about to happen. We have nuclear weapons. We haven't used them. We have cyber weapons and we've seldom used them. The United States did do a cyber attack on Iran and destroyed some nuclear centrifuges. But this is a contingency and it's very unlikely that it will be used by nation states.
“The real worry is that eventually, non-state actors, maybe even terrorist groups, will gain this capability,” he added.
“Is that the real threat, Congressman?” Stephanopolous asked Langevin.
“Yes, it is the real threat, and Richard hit it right on the point right now. Right now, these -- these worst weapons and cyber weapons are in the hands of nation states who have the capability but not necessarily the will to use them, but then you have groups like ISIL or al Qaeda, that certainly would have the intent, but not the weapons,” Langevin said.
“And that gap, that divide, if you will, seems to be becoming much more narrow and eventually the worst actors will have the worst weapons and they potentially will use them against us,” he said.
Langevin has been “trying to raise the alarm on this,” and he pointed to an information sharing bill that cleared the House but is waiting for Senate action that would pass along classified threat information to the private sector and relay information about attacks experienced by the private sector “back to the government so that information could be more widely shared.”
“This is not a problem that we're ever going to be -- that we're ever going to solve. It's one that we need to manage. We need to close the aperture of vulnerability to something that is much more manageable,” he said.
“So what we need to do in Congress is pass an information sharing bill. That bill passed and was unanimous out of the House Intelligence Committee, on which I sit. It passed the House with strong bipartisan support. And now we're waiting for the Senate to take it up,” Langevin added.