Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by top national experts, EMPact Chairman Henry Schwartz, and Fox News’s Judge Jeanine Pirro in warning of the dire consequences to the United States of a form of terrorist attack that could kill countless millions of Americans and cripple the nation.
They spoke on Mar. 6 at Uninvited II, describing the dangers of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
Nuclear detonations are known for the tremendous heat and shock wave that they generate. However, if detonated far above the earth’s surface, the most damaging aspect of a nuclear blast is an EMP, as the detonation creates a wave of energy that travel hundreds of miles, overloading the limits of electronic systems, permanently ruining those devices. (Think of a computer or TV if lightning should strike but there were no circuit breaker or surge protector.)
Franks – who serves on the House Armed Services Committee – regards a worst-case form of an EMP attack as possibly the single worst short-term national security threat to America. Noting that the question of national security “is the most important one that is ever deliberated by the national government,” he said addressing such major threats are of highest importance for our society and our economy.
He noted that America had spent billions on hardening military assets to withstand an EMP attack, which is done through shielding electronic systems so that the invisible electromagnetic wave generated by a nuclear blast would not reach vulnerable electronics hardware.
An EMP event can also be caused by solar activity. The last one occurred in 1859 right before the Civil War, and scientists say we are past due for another event. So addressing this issue is essential, since with or without terrorists, an EMP event is a question of “when,” not “if.”
“The best defensive minds not only recognize this problem but also the need to be impervious to it,” Franks explained. However, “there is a major disconnect, because our civilian grid is unprotected.” Congress has not mustered the political will to address the issue.
Franks has introduced a bill, the Shield Act, which would fund and implement a program that would insulate America’s critical infrastructure components. It is currently pending in the U.S. House. “I just want to do the right thing so that my children and yours can walk in safety,” Franks concluded.
He was followed by Bartlett, who recently retired after 20 years in Congress. Bartlett said that, simply put, an EMP would “fry all of our exposed electronics.” The North American power grid would be down for a year or more, he said, and 80% of Americans – over 200 million people – would die. Later speakers noted that estimates vary wildly, but under any scenario the deaths would at minimum reach into the tens of millions.
Bartlett added that various nations on earth have explored how to carry out such an attack in such a way that America might not know whom to blame. “These people may be evil, but they are not idiots.” They would not launch a missile from their soil when we could trace it and respond with devastating force.
Instead, they could launch from a nondescript ship in international waters that could never be definitively traced. Ambassador Henry Cooper spoke afterward, noting that Iran tested launching short-range missiles off ships years ago, which would be an ideal way to carry out an EMP attack.
Dr. Peter Pry is one of the foremost experts on this subject, from years of service on Capitol Hill, at the CIA, and chairing a commission that studies EMPs. Pry explained how with only five separate weapons, it is possible to neutralize five bases that collectively control two thirds of America’s nuclear deterrent: three bases that house our U.S. bombers and two where we base our submarines.
He added that President Obama is also threatening the viability of the final third of the nuclear triad, America’s long-range missiles. This final item is being jeopardized by Obama’s EPA requiring these strategic missile silos to comply with environmental regulations.
Earlier in the day, Henry Schwartz – who chairs an organization focused on this threat, EMPact – spoke of the unprecedented damage that an EMP could inflict on the nation. Just “one crude nuclear warhead detonated high above the continental United States,” Schwartz explained, would cripple the American power grid. Citing a study that it could cause the deaths of two thirds of our population in one year, Schwartz added that the services needed to repair the damage would likewise be crippled, requiring many months to restore power, which has become essential to modern life.
Smith added that Iran is moving at “breakneck speed” to develop a nuclear bomb, Pakistan is working on two-stage missiles that can deliver a nuclear payload, and Russia is now openly aggressive and belligerent, any of which could be behind some future EMP event. “The possibility of an EMP is horrifying and a direct danger to every American.”
The technology exists to “harden” electronics against EMPs. Other speakers later explained that the cost of protecting the critical components of the American power grid is less than $2 billion.
The last speaker on this topic was Jeanine Pirro, who gave an animated speech about the nature of the threat America faces. Those devoted to radical terrorism cannot be negotiated with or dissuaded from carrying out attacks. “They live to do it,” Pirro said. “They die to do it.”
“The first order of government is the protection of its citizens,” Pirro said, criticizing the worldview and policy priorities of Washington politicians who are not treating this as a serious threat. “It is naïve. It is simplistic.”
Nor was Pirro’s ire reserved for Democrats. She called out by name one Republican, Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy Committee. Pirro told the crowd that Upton had actually sponsored a bill to harden the power grid several years ago, but since becoming chairman of that powerful committee has buried a more recent version of the bill and prevented it from passing his committee. “We called him nine times,” Pirro said, but Upton has not returned any of the calls. She then noted that 60% of Fred Upton’s campaign contributions come from energy companies who would have to pay for these protective measures.
These congressman, politicians, and security experts offered a broad array of perspectives on this issue, one that most Americans have never seriously examined. However, all agreed that the issue is vitally important, that the cost to prevent a disaster would be manageable, and that the American people need to take action on it before an attack far worse than 9/11 occurs. Whether caused by solar activity or by terrorists, these speakers painted a picture of a scenario no one wants to experience.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.