Breitbart News sat down with former CIA Director James Woolsey at the National Security Action Summit to discuss the most prevalent threats we face as a nation today. Woolsey served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Clinton. Beforehand, he served as Undersecretary of the Navy from 1977-1979. The interview will be aired on Breitbart News’s SiriusXM 125 Patriot radio program this weekend.
Breitbart News: Do we have the intelligence to track the Iranian nuclear program at this point, or are we completely blind to what’s going on in Tehran?
Director James Woolsey: I think we can track it reasonably well from what we do know. What we know is pretty frightening, because of the President’s inclination to make concessions that would let the Iranians continue enrich uranium. Although they have been saying that they are going to enrich less, or not enrich it as much; I don’t think any of us should trust those who run the Iranian program. I think the possibility of the Iranians having nuclear weapons within a few months could well occur, especially if we sign treaties that let them continue to enrich uranium.
Breitbart News: So the President would be keenly aware every step of the way in letting Iran develop a nuclear weapon?
Director James Woolsey: He would be very well informed based on the nature of the technology, what we’ve been able to track, and the ability of our intelligence services to stay up to speed on something this important.
Breitbart News: It seems like we are seeing within America a clash between two different worldviews. What does the US have to do maintain a strong American national security policy that we have drifted away from under this president.
James Woolsey: We have to recognize that the jihadis are at war with us even if we are not at war with them. There are a lot of things that we do in wartime that we don’t do in peacetime, but to treat jihadi killings as if they are workplace violence, or to treat any of these manifestations of jihad as if they were nothing but random violence, is ridiculous. The beginning of understanding when someone thinks he is at war with you, is to be able to talk clearly and plainly about it, and our government is not doing that.
Breitbart News: How is the United States electric grid vulnerable and why should we be worried about it?
Director James Woolsey: Start with the proposition that the sun has been bombarding the earth with electromagnetic pulses for hundreds of millions of years, billions actually, and it didn’t have any effect on anything because there weren’t any electronics around. Even when humans started to arrive, the pulses didn’t blow anything up; they didn’t hurt anybody on the surface of the earth. Once we started having electronics, even the very primitive, we began to realize that these EMPs coming from the sun could be very devastating to electronics.
In the early 60s, just before the atmospheric test ban came into effect, the Soviet Union and the Americans tested nuclear weapons up in lower earth orbit several hundreds of miles above sea level. Both of us found that the electronics of the time, even though they were hard to damage due to their simplicity, could get knocked out even though they were thousands of miles away from a detonated nuclear weapon. Since the 60s, electronics have gotten about one million times more effective, but they’ve also gotten about a million times more vulnerable.
Today, if you launched a nuclear weapon on a satellite and put the satellite in orbit, and then decided to detonate that nuclear weapon before it fell to earth, that would take out what is within line of sight by way of computers. It could take up maybe one-tenth of the earth’s electronics. If 500 miles up, maybe a third. In addition to the line of sight, there is a long wavelength that is generated by a detonation in order. This pulse runs along the transmission lines, which can travel thousands of miles and destroy the transformers. What that means is total destruction of your electric grid’s heart and soul. The reality is that seventeen networks of our critical infrastructures all depend on electricity to function. If the electric grid goes down, we are back in the 1880s pre-electric grid, and very few of us have enough water pump handles or plow horses.
Breitbart News: If EMP is such a serious threat, why are we even needing to have this discussion? Shouldn’t prevention measures already be taken care of?
Director James Woolsey: It should have been taken care of some time ago, but it was highly classified for a number of years. It has only relatively recently become declassified. The electricity companies have also not wanted to spend the money to make the changes. The basic parts of the grid could be fixed for about $2 billion dollars, which is the amount of military aid we give to Pakistan every year.
If the food, water, and transportation networks go down, US government studies show that about two-thirds of the people will perish within a year. Other studies estimate that 90 percent would pass away.
Breitbart News: The most recent annual threats assessment presented by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Clapper announced that cyber terrorism was the chief threat to the United States. How susceptible is the grid to cyber terrorism?
Director James Woolsey: The Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and North Koreans all consider EMP to be part of cyber. The other aspect of this is if you, using cyber, take out several of the country’s’ key infrastructure, you can cause extraordinarily serious damage to our ability to survive. I would agree with General Clapper on the DNI assessment.
Breitbart News: We see the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East and also the proliferation of Islamic terrorism throughout the world. Where does this all come from?
Director James Woolsey: The only Islamic country that could pose an EMP threat is Pakistan, but what a lot of people are worried about is that the President will not drive a hard bargain with the Iranians in their negotiations about nuclear weapons. It won’t be too long before the Iranians have both the ballistic missile, which they already have, and nuclear weapons.
A history of deterrence of nuclear war is rather complex, but Bernard Lewis has said that during the Cold War, mutual assured destruction was a deterrent. But for some reasons, specifically Iran, it is not a deterrent but instead an inducement. If some of the Iranians who lead the state felt that they could destroy both Iran and the US by wiping us out, they would do it with the belief that they would be going to heaven and we would be going to hell.
Breitbart News: Are we going to continue to see more jihadi attacks happen in our homeland if our current administration and congress don’t address the problem?
James Woolsey: As long as we pretend that those are just random acts of violence and they have nothing to do with radical Islam, and commitment to jihad, we will not be effective in dealing with them. We can’t be effective when we’re pretending that a phenomenon doesn’t exist. Calling Major Hassan’s murdering of his 13 fellow soldiers three years ago at Ft. Hood, when he was shouting “Allahu Akbar,” and then have the US government write in its report nothing about Islam or jihad, is ridiculous and comparable to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. We are in danger of tilting in the direction of rigid political correctness.