By Mikal Jakubal
Last Wednesday, as part of the Bureau Of Land Management’s Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program, authorities staged a mock terrorist attack on the Shasta Dam. According to an article in the Redding, California Record Searchlight, the exercise started with…
…two mock bomb blasts followed by the “Red Cell” terrorist group taking over the dam in an effort to free one of their fellow marijuana growers from prison. Holding three people hostage, they threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam. Those gates hold back the nearly full lake.
Wait, marijuana growers as terrorists threatening to flood the Sacramento Valley? Whoever thought that one up was smoking something, but it wasn’t pot.
The all-day exercise involved 250 people from 20 agencies, took 18 months of planning and cost the BLM alone half a million dollars. Multi-agency drills are fairly common. They allow agencies with different jurisdictions and different, possibly conflicting agendas—such as local and federal law enforcement, fire fighters and ambulance crews—to practice working together efficiently on large incidents. All emergency response agencies, from local volunteer fire departments to FEMA, do these sorts of drills regularly.
Many commenters on various blogs have mistakenly assumed that the whole purpose of the training was driven by the highly-likely scenario of pot-grower terrorists, making it therefore a gross waste of resources. They’re mistakenly seeing the tail wagging the dog. Such training is necessary and valuable, with the specific mock disaster being irrelevant to the utility of the drill for the personnel involved.
Still, while this particular scenario is laughable on the face of it, you have to wonder why they picked pot growers. Imagine the (appropriate) outcry about racial stereotyping if the hypothetical attack had involved Muslim terrorists? Imagine the storms of protest if the mock terrorists had been modeled as Christian anti-abortion crusaders threatening to flood the valley to stop abortion clinics. How about Tea Partiers mad about…something or other? Don’t want to slap that hive! Native Americans mad about loss of their salmon and traditional lands? Nope, better to just keep that subject out of sight, out of mind. Communist terrorists? So last-century.
What surprises me most is that they didn’t use “ecoterrorists” as the boogeyman. It is especially odd, since Eric McDavid is now spending 20 years in prison for a bogus scheme after an FBI informant set him and a couple friends up in a conspiracy to blow up the Nimbus Dam on the American River near Sacramento. So, again, why pot growers?
All I can think of is that it is part of a Prop 19 backlash or a last-gasp of reefer-madness designed to further marginalize and demonize a group unlikely to garner any sympathy when portrayed in a ridiculously negative light. Or, maybe it was just a snap choice a couple planners thought up over beers one night. Opinions?