A former U.S. special-forces soldier who helped oversee the project to kill Osama bin Laden has now been enlisted in the project to kill a Canadian oil pipeline.
Dave Cooper was a senior member of the Navy SEALs squad, known informally as SEAL Team Six, and helped train and supervise the soldiers who killed bin Laden in 2011.
Now retired, Cooper was hired by a group opposed to the Keystone XL project, headed by anti-pipeline billionaire Tom Steyer, to conduct a threat assessment of the controversial pipeline plan. He released his findings Wednesday.
In conducting his research, Cooper said, he approached the existing leg of the Keystone pipeline at various spots throughout the U.S. Midwest and snapped pictures of different pump stations without being accosted.
A handful of terrorists could trigger a catastrophic explosion with just four pounds of readily available material and cause a spill of up to 7.24 million gallons of toxic diluted bitumen, known as dilbit, he concluded.
At a news conference Wednesday, Cooper was asked: Wouldn't that be true of virtually every piece of energy infrastructure — not just the one opposed by his patron?
There's one big difference with Keystone, he replied: notoriety. 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 Keystone, 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.
His most famous mission came in May 2011. He said he helped train the special forces who killed bin Laden in his Pakistani compound, and supervised the operation from a base in Afghanistan.