LAX Heads State List of Attack Targets

Times Staff Writer

Using a method devised in the wake of World War II to identify enemy bombing targets, the California attorney general’s office has developed a list ranking the 624 locations in the state most susceptible to terrorist attack.

The list, distributed to law enforcement agencies in the last two weeks, ranks Los Angeles International Airport as the No. 1 target, followed by the Port of Oakland, Port of Long Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland.

Although ports and airports have long been considered possible terrorist targets, the list also includes less obvious places, such as soda and water bottling plants, the Ernest & Julio Gallo winery in Modesto and several large churches.


Neither the Santa Monica Pier nor the nearby Third Street Promenade are on the list, even though they attract thousands of visitors daily.

The document is one of several compilations of possible targets created by authorities since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have similar lists in their jurisdictions but have declined to share them with the public. The state list was obtained by The Times this week.

The attorney general’s breakdown was prepared by the California National Guard and the state’s Anti-Terrorism Information Center. The report wasn’t based on direct threats but rather a process developed in the 1940s by the Office of Strategic Services, which evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency.

It used a series of computations to determine targets that were most likely to cripple an enemy’s infrastructure and cause great fear.

Beginning last March, officials examined thousands of potential targets and then assigned rankings based on several criteria.

Officials would not reveal the precise criteria, but the locations selected were then analyzed and the list whittled to 624 potential targets.

“The reason we create lists like this is so we could deploy limited resources in the best manner possible to protect our infrastructure in California,” said Patrick Lunney, director of the law enforcement division of the California Department of Justice.

“We can’t protect everything, but we can give the law enforcement responsible for local protection all the information that is available.”

Refining the Rankings

The next round of work, Lunney said, will further refine the list, correcting oversights and changing the rankings as security is increased at potential targets.

The technique used by the state was devised because Allied forces in World War II were unsatisfied with the impact of bombing raids on Germany, according to Arthur “Mick” Donahue, who revived the method for Cold War applications during his career with the CIA between the 1950s and late 1980s.

The technique is complicated, but asks one basic question: Which targets are most likely to cripple the enemy and prevent it from recovering for the longest period of time?

According to Donahue, the method is one of several still in use in the military and intelligence communities.

John Miller, the LAPD’s chief of homeland security, said his agency’s list includes 500 potential targets -- many of which are included in the Justice Department’s rankings.

“Their list seems pretty reasonable, and to some degree tracks our list and to some degree there are differences,” said Miller.

The U.S. Defense Department has compiled its own list of possible targets at federal facilities.

That list prompted the federal Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday to announce that it would soon close a two-lane road across the top of the 350-foot Folsom Dam on the American River, 20 miles east of Sacramento, according to bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken.

Officials at LAX were hardly surprised at their No. 1 ranking. A plan to bomb the airport was foiled Dec. 14, 1999, when Ahmed Ressam was stopped by U.S. Customs officials at a ferry station in Port Angeles, Wash., and arrested after bomb-making materials were found in his car.

He was convicted in 2001 of nine criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism.

“When I make remarks to the public, I usually start out with my risk assessment, and I remind people this airport was targeted at the millennium,” said David Stone, LAX federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration.

The airport began random searches of cars heading into the facility last week and has increased the number of officers patrolling terminals -- although Stone declined to give the number of officers on duty.

Increased Patrols

He added that patrols of the airport’s perimeter were stepped up after a shoulder-launched missile narrowly missed an Israeli jet in Africa late last year.

Barry Fager, executive pastor of Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, chuckled when he learned the 3,500-member congregation was 463 on the list.

But, he said, “It does make me want to take the next step and get prepared. Which means I want to call the attorney general’s office and find out why” the church is on the list and how it best can thwart an attack.

The state list includes familiar landmarks: Staples Center, the Rose Bowl, the Queen Mary and Dodger Stadium, the interchange between the Pomona and Orange freeways, the Exxon-Mobil refinery in Torrance and the U.S. Postal Service’s processing plant in Long Beach.

Lunney, who helped oversee the state’s list, said the goal is to be prepared.

“We know that terrorists are very patient with their targets,” he said.

“It’s obvious that’s going on in certain places in the U.S. If we limit ourselves to the obvious targets, we might miss some things.”



Potential targets

Places in California that are most susceptible to terrorist attacks, as ranked by the state attorney general’s office:


1. L.A. International Airport

2. Port of Oakland

3. Port of Long Beach

4. Golden Gate Bridge

5. Disneyland Resort

6. Port of Los Angeles

7. Bay Area Rapid Transit

8. S.F. International Airport

9. S.F./Oakland Bay Bridge

10. Port of San Diego


Source: State attorney general’s office



Orange County rankings

Places in Orange County that are most susceptible to terrorist attacks, as ranked by the state attorney general’s office:


5. Disneyland Resort

64. Arrowhead Pond

65. Edison Field

104. UC Irvine

114. Boeing headqtrs., Anaheim

118. Cal State Fullerton

173. Hoag Mem. Hospital, Newport

184. AES Generating Station, H.B.

197. Post office, P&D;, Santa Ana

198. Post office, P&D;, Anaheim

211. Saddleback Valley Church

212. South Coast Plaza

213. John Wayne Airport

215. Knott’s Berry Farm

241. Crystal Cathedral

279. First Evang. Free Church, Ful.

335. Calvary Chapel, Capistrano

346. UCI Medical Center, Orange

359. Sa-Rang Church, Anaheim

390. St. Joseph Hospital, Orange

407. Conexant Systems Inc. N.B.

412. Mitsubishi Elec. Am., Cypress

426. San Onofre Nuclear Gen. Stn.

463. Coast Hills Comm. Church

489. B. Braun Medical, Irvine

506. AMC 30 at the Block, Orange

526. AMC Fullerton 20

528. Edwards Irvine 21

531. Dept. of Justice, Narc., Orange

535. SBC-Pacific Bell, Buena Park

537. Anaheim Police Dept.

548. Century 25 Stadium, Orange

559. Santa Ana Police Dept.

563. Los Alamitos Jnt. Trng. Base

568. Court of Appeal, Santa Ana

579. Fashion Island, Newport

591. Main Place Mall, Santa Ana

612. Niagara Drinking Waters, Irvine


Source: State attorney general’s office


Times staff writer Stanley Allison contributed to this report.