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WASHINGTON – Joining Sen. John Kyl, who earlier warned of how an electromagnetic pulse attack threatens U.S. survival, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, chairman of the House Projection Forces Subcommittee, says an EMP attack – even by an underfunded, unsophisticated terrorist group – has the potential to cripple U.S. society and kill millions.
“Today we are very much concerned … about asymmetric weapons,” Bartlett told his colleagues. “We are a big, powerful country. Nobody can contend with us shoulder-to-shoulder, face-to-face. So all of our potential adversaries are looking for what we refer to as asymmetric weapons. That is a weapon that overcomes our superior capabilities. There is no asymmetric weapon that has anywhere near the potential of EMP.”
EMP attacks are generated when a nuclear weapon is detonated at altitudes above a few dozen kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The explosion, of even a small nuclear warhead, would produce a set of electromagnetic pulses that interact with the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field.
Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin first reported the shocking findings of the U.S. EMP commission that rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea, have the capability of launching an undetected, catastrophic EMP attack on the U.S. – and are actively developing plans.
“These electromagnetic pulses propagate from the burst point of the nuclear weapon to the line of sight on the Earth’s horizon, potentially covering a vast geographic region in doing so simultaneously, moreover, at the speed of light,” said Dr. Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission appointed by Congress to study the threat. “For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover, with its primary electromagnetic pulse, the entire continent of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.”
The commission, in its work over a period of several years, found that EMP is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold American society seriously at risk and that might also result in the defeat of U.S. military forces.
“The electromagnetic field pulses produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics and information systems upon which any reasonably advanced society, most specifically including our own, depend vitally,” Wood said. “Their effects on systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to qualify as catastrophic to the American nation.”
The commission concluded in its report to Congress earlier this year: “EMP is one of a small number of threats that may hold at risk the continued existence of today’s U.S. civil society.”
“The number of U.S. adversaries capable of EMP attack is greater than during the Cold War,” said Bartlett. “We may look back with some fondness on the Cold War. We then had only one potential adversary. We knew him quite well.”
Bartlett pointed out that Iran has tested launching of a Scud missile from a surface vessel, “a launch mode that could support a national or transnational EMP attack against the United States.”
“Iran has conducted tests with its Shahab-3 missile that have been described as failures by the Western media because the missiles did not complete their ballistic trajectories, but were deliberately exploded at high altitude,” he said. “This, of course, would be exactly what you would want to do if you were going to use an EMP weapon. Iran described these tests as successful. We said they were a failure because they blew up in flight. They described them as successful. Of course, they would be, if Iran’s intent was practicing for an EMP attack.”
Bartlett added: “Potential adversaries are aware of the EMP’s strategic attack option. Ninety-nine percent of Americans may not know very much about EMP, but I will assure you … that 100 percent of our potential enemies know all about EMP. I think that the American people need to know about EMP because they need to demand that their government do the prudent thing so that we will be less and less susceptible, less and less at risk to an EMP attack year by year. The threat is not adequately addressed in U.S. national and homeland security programs. Not only is it not adequately addressed; it is usually ignored, not even mentioned, and it certainly needs to be considered.”
“Terrorists could steal, purchase, or be provided a nuclear weapon and perform an EMP attack against the United States simply by launching a primitive Scud missile off a freighter near our shores,” he said. “We do not need to be thinking about missiles coming over the pole. There are thousands of ships out there, particularly in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, and any one of them could have a Scud missile on board. If you put a canvas over it, we cannot see through the thinnest canvas. We would not know whether it was bailed hay or bananas or a Scud launcher. You cannot see through any cover on ship. Scud missiles can be purchased on the world market today for less than $100,000. Al-Qaida is estimated to own about 80 freighters, so all they need, … is $100,000, which I am sure they can get, for the missile and a crude nuclear weapon.”
Bartlett revealed Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani scientists are working in North Korea and could enable that country to develop an EMP weapon in the near future.
The congressman also raised the question of retaliation – and how an EMP sneak attack could not only go undetected, but that it might be impossible to find out who was responsible after the fact.
“If it were launched from the ocean, we would not know who launched it,” he said. “So against whom would we retaliate? Even if we knew who launched it …if all they have done is to disable our computers, do we respond in kind, or do you incinerate their grandmothers and their babies? This would be a really tough call. Responding in kind might do very little good. There is no other country in the world that has anything like our sophistication in electronic equipment, and no other country in the world is so dependent as we are on our national infrastructure.”
Yet, over time, an EMP attack would likely result in much more death than a nuclear attack on a major city, he said.
“Can you imagine our country …with 285 million people, no electricity, and there will be no electricity, no transportation, no communication?” he asked. “The only way you can go anywhere is to walk, and the only person you can talk to is the person next to you. What would we do? How many of our people might not survive the transition from that situation to where you had established a sort of infrastructure that could support civil society as we know it today.”
An EMP attack is far more dangerous to the West than it is to other less technologically developed countries, he said.
Russian officers have told U.S. officials, Bartlett said, that the knowledge and technology to develop what they called super-EMP weapons had been transferred to North Korea and that the rogue state could probably develop these weapons in the near future, within a few years.
EMP, he warned, can cause catastrophic damage to the nation by destroying the electric power infrastructure, causing cascading failures in the infrastructure for everything: telecommunications, energy, transportation, finance, food, and water.
Bartlett is urging a major national commitment to preparing for such an attack, which, he said, would not be nearly as costly as might be expected.
“Every new water system we put in, every new sewage system we put in, every new power line we run, every new distribution system we put in needs to be hardened,” he explained. “It is not all that expensive to do. You just need to do it.”
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