EMP Attack Would Decimate America
Monday, 05 Apr 2010 08:58 AM
By: Ronald Kessler
America is totally unprepared for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would set civilization back to the 1800s, Dr. William Graham, who was chairman of the bipartisan congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack, tells Newsmax.
An EMP attack occurs when a nuclear bomb explodes in the atmosphere. The electromagnetic pulse generated by the blast would fry microchips, which are at the heart of electronic devices, throughout North America.
In a rare interview, Graham, who was Ronald Reagan’s science adviser, predicts the vast majority of Americans would die from starvation or disease or would freeze to death. Yet he says that while the military is largely protected from an EMP attack, the government has done virtually nothing to address the effects of such an attack on the civilian sector.
Without that infrastructure, the military would find it difficult to operate as well. Since microchips control vehicles, trains, and airplanes, most would become inoperable.
No one could get to work.
An EMP attack “could not only take down power grids, which are fragile anyway in this country, and telecommunications networks, and financial networks, and traffic controls and many other things, but in addition, there is a very close interrelationship among those national infrastructure capabilities,” Graham says.
“So, for example, we need telecommunications to re-establish the power network, and we need the power network to keep telecommunications going for more than a few hours. And we need the financial network to continue to operate to maintain the economy, we need the transportation system, roads, street lights, control systems, to operate just to get people to the failed power, telecommunication and other systems,” he adds.
Life after an EMP attack “would probably be something that you might imagine life to be like around the late 1800s but with several times the population we had in those days, and without the ability of the country to support and sustain all those people,” Graham says. “They wouldn’t have power. Food supplies would be greatly taken out by the lack of transportation, telecommunication, power for refrigeration and so on.”
Yet life would be far more primitive than even that because in the 1800s, Americans had food from their own farms and police who rode on horseback.
“We don’t have as many horses, and we tend to depend on radios for communication now, that again need power,” Graham notes. “Radios themselves tend to be vulnerable to this if they’re not designed with protection from EMP in mind, because they’re connected to antennas. Anything that looks like an antenna can pick up the EMP signal and conduct it to the electronics, causing it to fail.”
Most computers would become inoperable, Graham says.
“Most computers are connected to things that either are antennas or look like antennas,” he says. “Even a mouse cable looks like an antenna to an electromagnetic signal. Certainly power lines, telecommunication lines, all act as antennas to pick up EMP signals and check them in the computers. And we have done tests with computers, and EMP tends to burn out the computer circuits.”
Stock and banking transactions would also be wiped out.
“Most financial records are stored electronically. ATMs, which depend upon both power and telecommunications, would not be available; banks, which try to back up records but in general aren’t strongly aware of the EMP problem, would face the problem of unprotected storage and computer systems,” Graham says. “And so it’s very likely that financial and stock brokerage records would at a minimum not be accessible and might not be available at all.”
An EMP attack could be launched by a country such as North Korea or Iran or by terrorists, Graham says. A severe geomagnetic storm — which will definitely occur one day — could cause nearly as much damage.
“The intelligent way to address this is to look at all of these threats and to develop a protection against all of them, not just against one at a time,” Graham observes.
Unlike protection against a nuclear blast, shielding to protect against EMP is a relative bargain. As noted in the Newsmax story "EMP Attack Could Wipe Out U.S.," the 300 transformers that are critical to the power grid could be protected for $200 million to $400 million.
Yet so far, neither power companies nor banks, stock brokerage firms, nor other industries have seen fit to shield their facilities against an EMP strike.
“In talking to the various commercial organizations, they have said, "’Look, it’s not our job to protect the country against a nuclear attack,’” Graham says. “’It’s our job to have the country operate under normal conditions. It’s the military’s job to protect the country in a nuclear attack.’”
Just as the U.S. was unprepared for the 9/11 attack, so is it unprepared for an EMP attack that would be millions of times more devastating.
“Having been confirmed into three different government positions by the Senate, I have some experience in dealing with the bureaucracy,” Graham says. “Bureaucrats never like to deal with a problem before it happens the first time. It’s much easier to ignore a problem that might happen, until it happens.”
The blame rests with both Democrats and Republicans.
“It was a failure in the last administration; it’s a failure in this administration,” Graham notes. “No one has been given the job of marshaling our capabilities — governmental, private, and military — to prepare for this problem.”