DailySA: DHS warns of ‘credible threats’ to power grid – Forward Observer

DailySA: DHS warns of ‘credible threats’ to power grid

Good morning. Here’s your Daily Situational Awareness for Wednesday, 26 January 2022. You can receive this daily briefing by signing up at https://forwardobserver.com/daily-sa

TODAY’S BRIEFING:

  • DHS warns of ‘credible threats’ to power grid
  • Commerce Dept’s chip shortage review
  • UK’s MI-5 outs Chinese spy
  • U.S. prepares to surge natural gas to Europe
  • Hazards Warning

UPGRADE TO EARLY WARNING AND GET THESE BRIEFINGS:

  • Russia-NATO SITREP: TENSIONS BUILD IN EUROPE, UK SAYS RUSSIA ALREADY ON THE GROUND IN UKRAINE
  • Indo-Pacific SITREP: CHINA FOCUSED ON PRIMARY CONFLICT ZONE; EAST CHINA SEA
  • Future Impacts and Recommendations 
  • LIC Summary/ INTSUM

SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

DHS WARNS OF ‘CREDIBLE THREATS’ TO GRID: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is concerned with the potential for extremist groups to attack the domestic power grid. According to a report by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, domestic extremists “have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020”. Studies on electrical grid vulnerabilities outline how independent groups have the capability to destroy power generation in local areas, as seen in the Metcalf incident and drone attack using commercial off-the-shelf tools on an electrical substation. (Analyst Comment: DHS’s top areas of concern are domestic terrorism and cyber threats. Both are seen as critical vulnerabilities that independent and state actors can exploit. Extremist actors influenced by foreign actors are a pressing threat as well as cyber-attacks from developing geopolitical conflicts. Local and regional power grids will continue to be vulnerable from either civil conflict or external threat. – D.F.)

COMMERCE DEPT CHIP SHORTAGE REVIEW: An industry information request from the Commerce Department found that 25 large semiconductor users have extremely limited supply. The average chip supply is only five days, down from 40 days in 2019. The report said, “a disruption overseas, which might shut down a semiconductor plant for 2-3 weeks, has the potential to disable a manufacturing facility and furlough workers in the United States if that facility only has 3-5 days of inventory.” The greatest shortages are in broadband equipment, medical devices, and vehicle manufacturing. The Commerce Department said no relief is in sight for at least six months as new facilities are under construction. (AC: Notably, the report doesn’t mention China’s recent rounds of lockdowns, but clearly their impact on the semiconductor market is felt by businesses and consumers. The strategic closure of overseas or Chinese-controlled facilities could cripple production and business in the U.S. very quickly. Consider sourcing existing digital equipment for repair and reuse as an alternative to new purchases. – D.M.)

UK MI-5 OUTS CHINESE SPY: Counterintelligence officials with Britain’s MI-5 went to the media to call out a Chinese spy who was caught making payments to British politicians. The public warning about Christine Ching Kui Lee, a solicitor who runs a law firm in London, was accompanied by her photograph, which ensured that her face appeared prominently across websites and social media, even though she was not arrested nor charged with any crime. ​​​​Authorities allege Lee paid 420,000 British pounds ($572,000) to a senior Labor Minister of Parliament, Barry Gardiner, who also employed Lee’s son on his parliament staff. MP Gardiner stated he was guilty of no crimes and planned to use the money for research projects. (AC: Western security services are at a loss on how to control Chinese espionage against political figures who seemingly flock to Chinese money. The difficulty in prosecuting such sensitive cases has driven them to use public exposure to curb the practice and make the Chinese agents pariahs. The U.S. has seen several incidents of undue Chinese influence in members of Congress and may have employed similar tactics. – M.M.)

US PREPARES TO SURGE NATURAL GAS TO EUROPE: In response to natural gas flow manipulation by Russia’s Gazprom and potential war in Eastern Europe, the U.S. is in talks with producers to increase deliveries to Europe. U.S. gas exports will be insufficient to meet power demands across Europe, despite annual increases. An unnamed U.S. official said, “We’ve been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from various areas of the world; from North Africa and the Middle East to Asia and the United States.” Qatari representatives said they would be unable to meet demands from Europe due to existing capacity limits and long-term agreements with China. (AC: The ongoing “quiet diplomacy” from U.S. officials indicates an increased potential for conflict in Europe. China’s acquisition of Middle Eastern gas supplies is unlikely the result of long-term geopolitical coordination with Russia but remains a disadvantage for the West. Gazprom’s recent statements about European gas stores will continue to negatively impact unity across NATO members, with Germany being the greatest target for energy manipulation. Read more about those impacts in the Russia-NATO SITREP. – D.M.)

HAZARDS/WX

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