The Electronic Pearl Harbor

Posted: 09/21/2010 by Lynn Dartez in 2011

Posted by Ryan Mauro on Sep 20th, 2010 and filed under FrontPage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Ryan Mauro is the founder of, National Security Advisor to the Christian Action Network, and an intelligence analyst with the Asymmetric Warfare and Intelligence Center.

Presages about the defeat or even the destruction of the U.S. by terrorists and rogue leaders are usually dismissed as bombastic rhetoric or self-induced illusions. The West’s enemies, however, are working towards the means to make their prophecies come true. Electro-Magnetic Pulse attacks with nuclear weapons detonated at high altitude and cyber warfare can enable ostensibly weak adversaries to deliver a crippling blow far greater than 9/11.

The discussion about nuclear terrorism generally focuses on the potential for a bomb to be set off on the ground or at low-altitude with a ballistic missile. Such an event would kill hundreds of thousands of people and cause trillions in damage, but would not paralyze the country. However, detonating a nuclear weapon at high-altitude can do much greater damage. The explosion at a high-altitude sets off what is called an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that can fry all electronic devices for hundreds or thousands of miles depending upon where it happens.

The Congressional EMP Threat Commission, chaired by Dr. William Graham, the former science advisor to President Reagan, concluded that the threat is not fantasy. “I’d have to say that 70 to 90 percent of the population would not be sustainable after this kind of attack,” Graham said. He describes post-EMP life as “something 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.”

One of the most appealing aspects of an EMP is that it limits America’s retaliatory capacity and can be done with relatively little fingerprints. A missile carrying a nuclear warhead can be launched from one of the thousands of vessels that come to America’s shores every day. This gives the U.S. minimal time to detect and respond and minimizes the traces that can be used to identify the attacker’s identity, especially if terrorists are used as a cover. As more countries develop nuclear weapons capabilities, it becomes even more difficult to pinpoint the culprit. The marketing of the Russian Club-K missile system that enables missiles to be transported on almost any mobile platform makes this threat all the more pressing.

It should not be surprising that Iran is actively rehearsing how to carry out an EMP attack given these advantages. An Iranian military journal reviews how vulnerable the West is to such an attack, stating that “If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults then they will disintegrate within a few years. American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.”

The Iranian military appears to be simulating EMP attacks. They are test-launching Scud missiles from ships and setting off Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missiles in the air. Normal tests are considered “successful” when they hit a specific target, but the mid-air test was said to have achieved its goal. Dr. Graham says that the only explanation for this is that Iran’s goal was to practice an EMP attack.

The catastrophic potential of such an attack is not capturing the attention of America’s elected officials. Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) said that “No one seems to be concerned about it,” noticing that very few members of the House Armed Service Committee had bothered to even attend the hearing in July 2008.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, who also sat on the EMP Threat Commission and is a top nuclear expert, says that the 300 transformers that are most vital to sustaining the power grid can be secured from an EMP attack for $200-400 million.  If an attack happens and those units are destroyed, he believes it will take at least one year to get the grid operational again. With an investment of about $20 billion, the entire grid could be secured, he says.

Another method that can be used to cripple the U.S. is a cyber attack. Richard Clarke, a senior counter-terrorism advisor under the Clinton and Bush Administrations, has written a book that warns that an “electronic Pearl Harbor” could bring the country to its knees in 15 minutes. He says that adversaries of the U.S. are already inserting “logic bombs” into critical systems that can allow them to hijacked or disabled in the future.

Cyber security expert Andrew Colarik, a lecturer on Information Systems at the University of Auckland, says that our vulnerabilities mean we could be “transformed periodically into a third-world country by means of digital attacks.”

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  2. ESQ says:



    By way of background, the U.S. House unanimously passed legislation that would be a huge step toward protecting America’s electric grids on an ‘all hazards’ basis, including from man-made and nuclear EMP. Unfortunately, prior to going on summer break, the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ignored the unanimous bipartisan* endorsement of the U.S. House, two Congressional Commissions and the National Academy of Sciences, and threw out the House’s protection from electromagnetic pulse (EMP) in HR 5026 for the Senate version of the bill (S.1462). BTW – When is the last time you saw the words “unanimous” and “bipartisan” when referring to a bill like this?

    The House’s bill expressly protects the grid from nuclear and other physical attacks and great geomagnetic storms. The Senate committee deleted provisions re: EMP and those protecting the grid’s large transformers and requiring adequate backup inventory.

    The grid is most vulnerable to an EMP attack due to its age, a growing reliance on computer control systems (SCADA), and various methods of attack/damage, including from EMPs generated from hand-held weapons, high-altitude denotation of a nuclear bomb, and the sun.

    Please use EMPact America’s automated e-campaign to contact your Senators now using the following link, and ask them to adopt in S.1462 (or in a stand alone bill) the House’s protection from EMP:

    To learn more about EMP, and what you can do about it, please visit

    EMPact America is a non-partisan, non-profit organization for citizens dedicated to protecting America from a man-made or natural EMP catastrophe.

  3. ESQ says:


    EMPact America, the foremost electromagnetic pulse (EMP) education and advocacy organization in the world, has an entire website and radio network dedicated to EMP and national security –

    If you read nothing else on EMP, at least read the Abstract, Overview, and summary information in the 2008 Congressional EMP Commission Report (

    On EMPact America’s website, you can read reliable source materials and watch exclusive videos about nuclear and solar EMP. There’s also a forum with blogs, comments, and discussion on this critical topic.

    You may also want to check out EMPact Radio with Dr. Peter Vincent Pry ( Some of the recent and upcoming guests on EMP include: Lord Kelvin Winner, Dr. William Radasky; Bronius Cikotas (father of GWEN); Best Selling Author Dr. William R. Forstchen; Vice Admiral Robert Monroe; Congressman Roscoe Bartlett; former CIA Director Ambassador James Woolsey; former Chairman of National Intelligence Council, Fritz Ermarth; Dr. William Graham (Chair of the US Congressional EMP Commission for eight years and widely considered to be the free world’s foremost expert on electromagnetic pulse – also a member of the Rumsfeld Commission on Space and served as Science Advisor to President Reagan and Chairman of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament, and Chairman of the SDI Advisory Committee and Deputy Administrator of NASA); and many others.

    Based in NY (USA), EMPact America is a non-partisan, non-profit organization for citizens dedicated to protecting America from a man-made or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe.

    For more information, visit:

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