Reporter finds lax security at Mexican oil installations

Published 12 April 2007

Enterprising writer manages to get close to an off-shore platform and a tanker; al-Qaeda has threatened oil-producing countries that supply the United States

As the United States congress moves forward on a chemical plant protection bill, infrastructure protection south of the border appears as weak as ever. Just three months ago a group claiming to be al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia exhorted its members to attack oil producing that supply the United States, including Mexico and Venezuela. Yet earlier this month, despite these heightened threats, a reporter from McClatchey Newspaper Service managed to approach two Mexican off-shore oil installations without being stopped or asked for identification. In one case the reporter reached an oil platform servicing Cantarell, Mexico’s gigantic undersea oil field. In the other, he floated alongside a double-hulled oil tanker and even managed a conversation about port and infrastructure security with the captain. In neither case did employees investigate their visitor’s credentials.

In what we think is a misguided effort to avoid helping would-be terrorists, McClatchey would not explain how they managed these feats. Nevertheless, terrorism experts say that the al-Qaeda threat is probably an empty one. “It hasn’t been within their recent modus operandi,” said Georgetown University’s resident homeland security guru Bruce Hoffman. “They’re opportunistic, but it’s impossible to say. They’ve generally operated where they have some kind of infrastructure. That would be a determining factor.”