WASHINGTON—A former member of American military special operations forces who worked on the project to kill Osama bin Laden is now working on the project to kill the Keystone XL pipeline.
Dave Cooper, a former member of the Navy SEAL squad known informally as SEAL Team Six, supervised and helped train the soldiers who killed bin Laden in 2011.
The now-retired military man was hired by opponents of Keystone XL to conduct a threat assessment against the possible pipeline.
The group that commissioned his report is headed by anti-pipeline billionaire Tom Steyer.
Cooper’s 13-page report says Keystone XL would be a prime terrorist target and difficult to protect given the project’s size and visibility.
A handful of terrorists could trigger a catastrophic explosion with just four pounds of readily available material and cause a spill of more than 27 million litres of toxic diluted bitumen, known as dilbit, he concluded.
When asked whether the same conclusion could be reached about virtually every piece of energy infrastructure, Cooper said it is Keystone XL’s notoriety that could ultimately lead to an attack.
Terrorists crave easy targets with a big-name impact and, because Keystone XL is so famous and so easy to hit, it fits the bill, he said.
“An enterprising terrorist is going to prey on that,” Cooper said. “That is the kind of impact that, if I were a terrorist, I would want to achieve.”
He also rebutted a question about the circularity of the logic—namely, aligning himself with a group that raises opposition to the project, then warning that because of all this opposition it could be ripe for a terrorist attack.
Parts of Cooper’s report were redacted.
He said he’d spent a quarter-century in the military fighting terrorists and didn’t want to give them any guidance.
The Keystone XL report is the first security-threat assessment Cooper has done as a civilian, but he said it closely resembled some of the work he did in the special forces.
A former United States ambassador to Canada described the report as irresponsible, and unworthy of public discussion.
“I think the appropriate response is to ignore it,” said Gordon Giffin, whose law firm’s clients include the company behind Keystone, TransCanada Corp.
“There are … hundreds of pipelines in this country. Is this guy suggesting that we should never build a pipeline because some screwball might try and blow it up?”
The State Department, which is leading the review of Keystone XL, has been provided a copy of the report, although efforts to secure a meeting were rebuffed.