By Scott Englund
Shortly after sunset on Saturday, December 3, 2022, two electric transformers in Moore County, North Carolina were repeatedly shot, leaving nearly 40,000 people without power. The local utility estimated that several thousand customers would remain in the dark for days, as nighttime temperatures fell below freezing. In a similar attack on April 16, 2013, the Metcalf Pacific Gas and Electric substation in Coyote, California was disabled when unidentified snipers fired more than 100 rounds at transformers and a container storing oil used to cool equipment, cutting power to thousands of people and causing an estimated $15 million in damage.
A motive for the December 2022 attack has not yet been established. Yet, it offers important lessons about the persistence of domestic terrorism, the vulnerability of U.S. infrastructure to attacks, and the need for imaginative counterterror efforts against a diversifying threat that includes new perpetrators and targets. The new 2021 National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism has been a promising development.
The logic of terrorism
The concept of “terrorism” seems straightforward, yet a precise definition is the subject of debate. It is widely accepted…