FBI warns energy companies of possible threat to gas pipelines

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has warned energy companies that Osama bin Laden may have approved plans to attack North American natural gas pipelines and facilities if he's captured or killed, a warning that prompted a tightening of security.

Natural gas producers and pipeline companies continued to be on a high state of alert, industry executives said Monday, although they declined to discuss the latest warning, which was sent in a memo to industry security officials last week.

Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed the warning, though he expressed some doubt that attacks would be conditioned on bin Laden's capture or death.

"It didn't take anything specific to trigger the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon," said Ashcroft when asked about the alert at a news conference. Even so, "those are the kinds of reports which we take seriously."

The alert did not single out a specific target, but referred to natural gas supplies including the more than 260,000 miles of gas pipelines and hundreds of pumping stations and other facilities.

The FBI alert said the information came "from a source of undetermined reliability" and that "no additional details on how such an attack would be carried out, or which facilities would be targeted" could be learned.

While a rupture of a pipe-line could cause significant problems, industry experts said that most lines are relatively isolated and even a major break can normally be repaired fairly quickly.

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