Friday, July 11, 2008

Iran's EMP Attack: America's Achilles' Heel?

Cross posted from World Net Daily:

Congress examines EMP threat
Iran believed to test missiles for attack on U.S.
Posted: July 07, 2008

WASHINGTON – More than four years after a stunning report about America's vulnerability to a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack was released to Congress, the House Armed Services Committee will hear testimony from the scientist who issued the warning and who believes Iran is pursuing such an option.

William R. Graham, President Reagan's top science adviser and the chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, will update the committee Thursday morning.

Graham warned in 2005 that Iran was not only covertly developing nuclear weapons, but was already testing ballistic missiles specifically designed to destroy America's technical infrastructure with the aim of neutralizing the world's lone superpower.

The radical Shiite regime has conducted successful tests to determine if its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, can be detonated by a remote-control device while still in high-altitude flight, Graham said in his report.
Graham said then there was no other plausible explanation for such tests than preparation for the deployment of electromagnetic pulse weapons – even one of which could knock out America's critical electrical and technological infrastructure, effectively sending the continental U.S. back to the 19th century with a recovery time of months or years.

Iran would have that capability – at least theoretically – as soon as it has one nuclear bomb ready to arm such a missile.

The stunning report was first published in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND's founder.

Iran surprised intelligence analysts by describing the mid-flight detonations of missiles fired from ships on the Caspian Sea as "successful" tests. Even primitive Scud missiles could be used for this purpose. And top U.S. intelligence officials reminded members of Congress that there is a glut of these missiles on the world market. They are currently being bought and sold for about $100,000 apiece.
Others agree with Graham's sobering assessment.

"A terrorist organization might have trouble putting a nuclear warhead 'on target' with a Scud, but it would be much easier to simply launch and detonate in the atmosphere," wrote Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., in the Washington Post in 2005 after reading Graham's report. "No need for the risk and difficulty of trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon over the border or hit a particular city. Just launch a cheap missile from a freighter in international waters – al-Qaida is believed to own about 80 such vessels – and make sure to get it a few miles in the air."

The Iranian missile tests were more sophisticated and capable of detonation at higher elevations – making them more dangerous.

Detonated at a height of 60 to 500 kilometers above the continental U.S., one nuclear warhead could cripple the country – knocking out electrical power and circuit boards and rendering the U.S. domestic communications impotent.

In 2005, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security chaired by Kyl, held a hearing on the electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, threat.
"An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland, said one of the distinguished scientists who testified at the hearing, is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies – terrorist or otherwise," wrote Kyl "And it is probably the easiest. A single Scud missile, carrying a single nuclear weapon, detonated at the appropriate altitude, would interact with the Earth's atmosphere, producing an electromagnetic pulse radiating down to the surface at the speed of light. Depending on the location and size of the blast, the effect would be to knock out already stressed power grids and other electrical systems across much or even all of the continental United States, for months if not years."
The purpose of an EMP attack, unlike a nuclear attack on land, is not to kill people, but "to kill electrons," as Graham explained. He serves as chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack and was director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Graham told WND he could think of no other reason for Iran to be experimenting with mid-air detonation of missiles than for the planning of an EMP-style attack.

"EMP offers a bigger bang for the buck," he said. He also suggested such an attack makes a U.S. nuclear response against a suspected enemy less likely than would the detonation of a nuclear bomb in a major U.S. city.

A 2004 report by the commission found "several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapons-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication."

"EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences," the report said. "EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of U.S. society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power."

The major impact of EMP weapons is on electronics, "so pervasive in all aspects of our society and military, coupled through critical infrastructures," explained the report.

"Their effects on systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to qualify as catastrophic to the nation," Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission, told members of Congress.
The commission report went so far as to suggest, in its opening sentence, that an EMP attack "might result in the defeat of our military forces."

"Briefly, a single nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude above the United States will interact with the Earth's atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) radiation down to the Earth and additionally create electrical currents in the Earth," said the report. "EMP effects are both direct and indirect. The former are due to electrical systems, and the latter arise from the damage that 'shocked' – upset, damaged and destroyed – electronics controls then inflict on the systems in which they are embedded. The indirect effects can be even more severe than the direct effects."

The EMP threat is not a new one considered by U.S. defense planners. The Soviet Union had experimented with the idea as a kind of super-weapon against the U.S.
"What is different now is that some potential sources of EMP threats are difficult to deter – they can be terrorist groups that have no state identity, have only one or a few weapons and are motivated to attack the U.S. without regard for their own safety," explains the commission report. "Rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, may also be developing the capability to pose an EMP threat to the United States and may also be unpredictable and difficult to deter."

Graham describes the potential "cascading effect" of an EMP attack. If electrical power is knocked out and circuit boards fried, telecommunications are disrupted, energy deliveries are impeded, the financial system breaks down, food, water and gasoline become scarce.

As Kyl put it: "Few if any people would die right away. But the loss of power would have a cascading effect on all aspects of U.S. society. Communication would be largely impossible. Lack of refrigeration would leave food rotting in warehouses, exacerbated by a lack of transportation as those vehicles still working simply ran out of gas (which is pumped with electricity). The inability to sanitize and distribute water would quickly threaten public health, not to mention the safety of anyone in the path of the inevitable fires, which would rage unchecked. And as we have seen in areas of natural and other disasters, such circumstances often result in a fairly rapid breakdown of social order."

"American society has grown so dependent on computer and other electrical systems that we have created our own Achilles' heel of vulnerability, ironically much greater than those of other, less developed nations," the senator wrote. "When deprived of power, we are in many ways helpless, as the New York City blackout made clear. In that case, power was restored quickly because adjacent areas could provide help. But a large-scale burnout caused by a broad EMP attack would create a much more difficult situation. Not only would there be nobody nearby to help, it could take years to replace destroyed equipment."

The commission said hardening key infrastructure systems and procuring vital backup equipment such as transformers is both feasible and – compared with the threat – relatively inexpensive.

"But it will take leadership by the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and other federal agencies, along with support from Congress, all of which have yet to materialize," wrote Kyl, so far the only elected official blowing the whistle this alarming development.

Kyl concluded in his report: "The Sept. 11 commission report stated that our biggest failure was one of 'imagination.' No one imagined that terrorists would do what they did on Sept. 11. Today few Americans can conceive of the possibility that terrorists could bring our society to its knees by destroying everything we rely on that runs on electricity. But this time we've been warned, and we'd better be prepared to respond."

A note from Radarsite: Are all of our precious eggs in one vulnerable basket? According to Sen.John Kyl, the disturbing answer is, Yes. Ironically, the source of our greatest potential threat is the source of our greatest power -- our technologically advanced society. Every time we experience a power outage we are quickly reminded of just how vulnerable and helpless we are without this vast, yet largely unseen electronic infrastructure which we have come to depend upon.

What if this power outage was on a massive scale? Could we cope? Could we sustain ourselves without it? Could we retaliate against our attackers? Could we defend ourselves against further attacks?

Evidently, according to the findings of Graham and Kyl, the answers to these existential questions are somewhat problematic.

One by one, as the evidence piles up, our options are becoming more and more limited. With each new theoretical threat from a bellicose and fanatical Iran the call to action becomes more urgent.

We simply cannot sit back and pretend that we are safe. Not any longer. The dangerous repercussions inherent in attacking Iran pale in comparison to the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Time is running out.

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  1. I'm not so worried about an EMP attack as you might think. First of all to knock out the whole us they have to detonate high above the middle of the nation, they don't have that capability. They cannot even launch a satellite into space. I am more concerned with Iran placing a missile and launcher aboard a civilian freighter, then launching the missile at an US city. NY or Washington would be good targets. That would do more damage.

    One thing about an EMP attack is that it wouldn't knock out our military networks. They are well shielded from such an attack (a by-product of the Cold War). An EMP attack would be followed by a massive retaliation by the US Military. A couple of our subs could do the job in an hour.

  2. A successful EMP attack would wipe out the entire power & communications grid.

    The medical, chemical, financial & industrial control systems would also be severely impacted. All are dependent on reliable electricity.

    We need to be able & willing to retaliate with 100% death. We can not identify an individual nation as the source. The source is likely to be Islam.

    Those unfamiliar with the Koran need to become familiar. Jihad is mandatory, not optional: 2:216 "fighting is ordained for you". 8:39 mandates fighting pagans until only Allah is worshiped "altogether and everywhere", "fight them until". 9:29 mandates fighting Christians until we are subjugated and pay extortion. Those mandates never expire. Jihad continues until the last day. To comprehend this fatal fact, one must become familiar with the hadith as well as the Koran. Read Abu Dawud Book 14, Number 2526, Muslim Book 041, Number 6985 and Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 387.

    If you hope that Islam is an innocuous religion of peace, that it will be reformed, or that it will terminate its aggression short of total world conquest, you are a damned fool with your head up your butt, part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Total, complete & permanent elimination of Islam is the only solution, there is no alternative! In war, the rule is do unto others before they do it to you.

    Islam has expressed its intentions. What are we waiting for?

  3. I don't believe the West has the stomach to do what's necessary.
    We've been undermined to the point where we simply don't have the cultural/civilizational confidence to defend ourselves effectively, instead we rely on diplomacy and bribes and blind, stupid hope.
    The bill for that is about to be presented to us.

  4. If the goal of IRAN was to eliminate anyone who is does not follow the Islam faith, why would they plan to attack the United States? IF their goal was to do that, wouldn't they focus on China or India?

    China has a total of 1.3 billion people who don't follow Islam.

    India has almost a billion. (~980 million)

    United States has a TOTAL of 300 million people. 2 billion less than the non-Islamic people in China or India.

    By no means do I think that what you are saying is true, but these numbers show that even if it was, they wouldn't be targeting the USA.

  5. Yer blowin a false tune, Fyffe. Islam's strategic objective is total world domination, beginning with its region and expanding outward until their dominion is global.

    Islam, like all large predators, selects the weakest target, looking for signs of injury, illness or inattention.

    By cutting & running in Korea, Vietnam, Beirut & Mogadishu, we displayed weakness and Islam is exploiting it.

    America is perceived as the main support of Israel, the one obstacle to the final genocide & policide against the living proof that Allah is an impotent idol.

    The current conflict is not about nationalism, its about ideology. The main idea is that their 'god' owns the world and everything on it, that it is their divine duty and mandate to collect it for him; to compel the entire population of the world to worship Allah in the manner they prescribe.

    No compromise is possible with the devotees of that idea. Its all or nothing. Either we liberate them from slavery to Allah or we usher them into Hell. Otherwise, we will be tormented, defeated and enslaved.