D.B. Cooper hijacked the Northwest Airlines flight 305 from Portland to Seattle on November 24th, 1971. I flew home from California to visit my parents for Thanksgiving on that same day, arriving at their home in Renton in time to see the 727 Boeing jet flying just above the hills of the Kent-Auburn Valley.
After bailing out, Cooper was never captured, nor put on trial, nor punished for his crime. As a result, his hijacking gave terrorists the idea that hijacking commercial passenger jets and holding them and their passengers for ransom was a way to bring political and/or economic rewards. On 9/11/2001 four passenger jets were hijacked. Two crashed into New York’s Twin Towers, with the third smashing into the Pentagon, and the fourth hitting the ground in central Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.
Because of these hijackings, billions of dollars have been spent to have TSA check airline passengers worldwide for weapons or explosives to prevent hijackings from occurring again. These security measures have been hugely successful, if not also burdensome and expensive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has resorted to attacking Ukrainian substations to wage war against Ukrainian civilians by making them suffer from the lack of electricity for warmth.
Just a few weeks ago, on December 5th, two electrical substations were attacked and knocked offline in North Carolina by terrorists using rifles, causing 100,000 residents to lose power.
In the last few weeks, terrorists attacked four substations, knocking out power for about 14,000 South Pierce County residents. A new moral barrier has been violated where terrorists now target civilians solely for political reasons.
What will occur as a result? If we can learn anything from D.B. Cooper’s example, attacks on electrical substations will continue to occur with increasing frequency. These substations will have to be hardened and shielded, and cameras will have to be mounted to catch the perpetrators. Security upgrades will have to be enacted, and electrical bills will rise as a result.
It’s likely that other poorly defended targets will then be chosen for destruction. What will it be? I hesitate to guess lest I give some terrorist an idea to cause even more destruction to our nation’s infrastructure.
Why are these attacks occurring? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that violence in America has risen recently. The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, and disappointment with the 2022 midterm results are likely major causes. Some in the media have suggested that these attacks are occurring because some sections of our population have been frustrated by unsubstantiated belief that our governmental system of voting has been rigged. Sowing chaos to overthrow the government is viewed as the only solution to reverse the rapid changes that have occurred both culturally and politically over the past decades.
Are these attacks on electrical substations rational? Not if someone thinks in terms of the common good. If the goal of these attacks is to begin a covert insurgency or civil war, then weakening America’s electrical grid is a highly effective step to bring about the end of our representative democracy.
As post-January 6th public servants and political pundits have observed, our democracy is under attack mainly by right-wing, neo-fascists. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We can thank D.B. Cooper and Vladimir Putin for giving extremists new ideas to create chaos upon nations, especially the United States.
Hanging tough and supporting our democracy in the midst of vicious attacks on our populace and our infrastructure will require perseverance and courage. Terrorism is no longer “over there” and far away. It’s now in our own state and in our neighborhoods.
Rich Elfers is a columnist with the Enumclaw Courier-Herald,and a former city council member with the City of Enumclaw. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.