I'm somewhat bemused by the kerfuffle over the apparent 'sniper attack' (it wasn't - true 'snipers' weren't involved) on an electricity sub-station in California last year. I won't repeat all the details, but these three articles provide the background and some of the speculation, in case you've missed it:
Snipers Coordinated an Attack on the Power Grid, but Why?
Power Station Sniper
The problem is, none of the articles (or the bureaucrats and politicians pontificating over the issue) have identified the real problem. That problem can be simply summed up by asking; what route does water take when it flows? The answer is easy - it chooses the route that offers the greatest speed of progress for the least effort (normally downhill). Terrorists do the same thing. If you erect a monumental security theater performance (a.k.a. the TSA), and invest billions - even trillions - of dollars in allegedly 'safeguarding' high-profile potential targets, terrorists will simply look for easier, more accessible targets, ones that will still cause disruption and inconvenience at best, real economic and political damage at worst.
This power sub-station attack is a classic example. The perpetrators obviously knew exactly what they were doing. They selected a target that was insecure and undefended. They checked it out in advance, identifying the location of all important elements. They cut the communications lines that would have allowed anyone (or any automated alarms) inside to call for help, then fired over a hundred relatively low-powered rounds of freely-available ammunition at targets that were susceptible to damage from such bullets (ignoring others that weren't). Finally, they made a clean getaway before responders could arrive. The weapons used in the attack were probably disposed of shortly after the incident, if the attackers had any sense. That'll leave very little physical evidence to tie them to the crime.
Much US infrastructure is very vulnerable to such attacks. Fellow blogger Bob Owens pointed out last year ago how easy it would be for internal dissidents to take out such targets. I'm not blaming him in the least for doing so - it was already obvious to anyone (including yours truly) with even a modicum of training and/or experience in counter-terrorist operations. Nevertheless, the authorities and electrical utilities have been glacially slow in moving to counter such threats. It's probably not economically feasible or cost-effective to implement drastic measures, even now. They would simply cost too much to be affordable.
If water flowing downhill meets an obstacle, it either erodes it away, or fills it up, or finds a way around it, and continues on its merry way. Even if you build a dam to hold it back, in due course it'll either bring down enough silt to fill the dam, or erode its wall and its foundations. The same principle applies to terrorists. They aren't like armies, tied to lines of supply and extensive infrastructure. As Mao said, "The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea". The sea is water. Terrorists, like fish, go with the flow. Fish don't rely on a logistics chain; they get what they need from their environment. Terrorists don't need huge stockpiles of weaponry; they may bring a few basic items with them or rely on local acquisition and/or resupply - even improvise weapons from available materials, if necessary. In the USA firearms are relatively easy to come by, either by buying them locally, or by smuggling them across our unbelievably porous border with Mexico (follow those four links to get an idea of the scale of that problem). Other supplies, including the ingredients to make explosives, are freely available. (For example, see terrorist bombings involving home-brewed PETN explosive.)
My greatest fear for American internal security is that a group of hardened, fanatical terrorists might infiltrate this country, then mount a Beslan-style assault on an elementary or middle school. The odds of success are frighteningly high. Even in schools with allegedly 'good' security, that's likely to consist of one or two cops with handguns and an access-controlled entryway. Any halfway competent terrorist group could deal with that sort of 'security' with one hand tied behind their individual and collective backs. By the time responders arrived in sufficient numbers, and with sufficient weapons, to intervene, the attackers would have taken hundreds of hostages. Any assault would produce the same results as Beslan. Such an outcome would shock this country to its core.
Read in full this horrifying account of the Beslan school siege. It's worth your time and trouble. Watch some of the video reports about it on YouTube. When you've done that, ask yourself how Americans would react to something similar happening in their midst. If anything could lead to a wholesale assault by the 'nanny state' and liberal and progressive forces on our constitutional rights, freedoms and privileges, that would do it. Many, including myself, would never accept such an outcome, no matter what excuses were used to justify it. It would mean that whether they lived or died, the terrorists had ultimately won. They would have succeeded in overthrowing 'truth, justice and the American way'.
That's the true threat of incidents such as the sub-station attack. It's the thin edge of the wedge, a probing of our perimeter. We have the internal, modern-day equivalent of what Vietnam veterans used to call 'gooks in the wire'. We'd better start paying attention . . . or else.