Osama Bin Laden Oil Tanker Terror Plot Hits Close to Home

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that among the materials Navy SEALS found in Osama Bin Laden's Pakistan hideout were al-Qaida plans to hijack and detonate oil tankers last summer to provoke an "extreme economic crisis" in the West.

Officials disclosed no specific U.S. targets.


But a 2004 report for Congress showed Long Beach could be ground zero for such an attack.

Here's a passage from the Dec. 7, 2004, Congressional Research Service report to Congress titled, "Port and Maritime Security: Potential for Terrorist Nuclear Attack Using Oil Tankers":

Crude oil and other petroleum products account for almost all export earnings of many Middle Eastern nations. In turn, 25.6% of net U.S. crude oil imports in July 2004 came from the Middle East. Crude oil from the Middle East went to 30 U.S. ports in 2003. Those handling the most oil were Blaine, WA; El Segundo, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Richmond, CA; Corpus Christi, Freeport, Galveston, Houston, Port Arthur, and Texas City, TX; Baton Rouge, Gramercy, Lake Charles, Morgan City, and New Orleans, LA; Pascagoula, MS; Mobile, AL; Wilmington, DE; and Paulsboro, NJ.

The report notes much of that oil reaches American shores in supertankers, and that the Navy, Coast Guard nor any other U.S. forces have authority over those flying foreign flags or in foreign ports. A so-called "suitcase bomb" would be easy to hide on such vast vessels, states the report.

Preventing a terrorist from getting aboard to place a bomb on, say, the inside of a tank hull could hinge "on the reliability of security personnel in oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria," finds the analysts, who note a bomb could be detonated remotely with a cell phone when the tanker reaches its intended target.

Under the heading "Potential Targets" comes this sobering passage:

Terrorists could be expected to target a port that handled a large volume of oil and other goods and that had a densely-populated area that tankers passed on their way through a harbor to an unloading terminal. Various cities worldwide meet these criteria.

Sound like anyplace you know? Or may work at?


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >