Cyberwarfare doesn’t quite make the front page, but inside …

North Korea at night with South Korea below, China to the left and Japan to the right.

The news items were pages apart and totally unrelated. Or were they?

On the cover of the morning newspaper is an AP account of North Korea successfully testing a nuclear-capable missile. The Seoul-datelined story opens: “North Korea on Monday boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of ‘medium long-range’ ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.” The rocket flew 490 miles

Inside the Nevada section there is an interview with the  commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base. In it he talks about the role of Nellis, which includes discussion of the base’s cyberwarfare role. The “bird” colonel commented that an example of cyberwarfare would be “figuring out how, if our nation decided, we would take down the electrical grid in North Korea.”

The irony is that North Korea doesn’t have much of an electric grid to take down, but we do.

In fact a story at Townhall today talks about what could be used to take down our grid — electromagnetic pulse or EMP, which could be delivered by a solar flare or a high-altitude nuclear detonation, which could delivered from a ship or submarine less than 490 miles off either coast.

As we noted three years ago, Dr. Peter Pry testified before Congress  that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse,” he said.

There was a bill in the House, H.R. 3410, at the time that was intended to start the relatively inexpensive process of hardening the nation’s grid against such an attack. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck was a co-sponsor. It passed the House in December 2014 and has since languished, apparently for a lack of urgency in the Senate and White House.

I have been writing about this topic since 1980 to no avail.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October 2013, said three years ago “every single facet of modern human life” would be “crippled” by an EMP event. “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation,” he said. “In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.

The headline on that Townhall story reads: “Tick, Tock: EMP War Looms.”

Here is an excerpt from that story by Katie Kieffer:

A unique menace in that it can occur naturally (via a geomagnetic storm) or by man (via the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon), EMP is a rapid acceleration of particles that creates a high-power burst of electromagnetic energy.

55 years ago, during the Cold War, the United States experienced an accidental EMP blast when the JFK administration tested a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead 250 miles above Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test, Operation Starfish Prime, malfunctioned. Traffic lights 850 miles away in Hawaii immediately went out, six satellites above the Pacific died, and radio networks were disrupted in Alaska, Hawaii and California.

Starfish Prime was a powerful warning — had we listened. Unfortunately, today our country is virtually defenseless against an EMP attack. Furthermore, the ramifications of an EMP attack in 2017 are far greater than in 1962 due to the proliferation of grid-dependent smartphones, computers, cars, medical facilities, financial institutions and food distribution channels. Even our military is far more electricity-dependent.

“Electricity could be out for months or years because the grid would need to be assembled completely anew since its components would melt,” EMP expert Avi Schurr told NATO. Hospitals, banks, and grocery stores would be unable to function for months — and possibly permanently. Without power or communications systems, chaos would erupt and tens of millions of Americans would die.

The good news? We know how to prevent an EMP attack—and with a relatively modest monetary investment.

The bad news? More than any president in U.S. history, Barack Obama had unique congressional studies at his fingertips alerting him to the danger of an EMP attack, plus manifold prevention recommendations from the congressional EMP Commission. Yet Obama only took steps to weaken America’s already-anemic defenses.

Col. Paul J. Murray, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, discusses cyberwarfare (R-J photo by Keith Rogers)

 

Clinton is focused on the wrong threat

Hillary Clinton speaks in Des Moines about solar panels. (AP photo)

Hillary Clinton is in a corral with a charging bull but worries there might be a mouse on the loose.

In a speech in Des Moines, the text of which was emailed to supporters, Clinton called climate change “one of the most urgent threats of our time, and we have no choice but to rise and meet it.” To do this she proposed putting solar panels on every house in the country. “Not some homes. Not most homes. Every home in America.”

This trillion-dollar expenditure of our money is intended to stop the planet from warming 1 or 2 degrees over the next century.

Meanwhile, there is a little issue that has not been recognized by any presidential candidate and darned few lawmakers — the threat of electromagnetic pulse or EMP, which could be caused by a solar flare or a high-altitude nuclear detonation.

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey recently testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, warning that EMP is “a clear and present danger and that something must be done to protect the electric grid and other life sustaining critical infrastructures — immediately.”

While Clinton’s solar panels would cost trillions, hardening the grid to protect against EMP would cost only a couple of billion.

Woolsey, now the chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified:

“Continued inaction by Washington will make inevitable a natural or manmade EMP catastrophe that, as the Congressional EMP Commission warned, could kill up to 90 percent of the national population through starvation, disease, and societal collapse. Indeed, some actions taken by the Congress, the White House and the federal bureaucracy are impeding solutions, making the nation more vulnerable, and helping the arrival of an EMP catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is prattling on about how she will: “Transform our grid to give Americans more control over the energy they produce and consume.”

If there is a grid to transform, she would make it far more difficult to maintain, because solar power is intermittent and fluctuates with every passing cloud, much less nightfall.

But it would certainly line the pockets of some here biggest supporters. According to the Washington Examiner, some of the largest solar contractors in the country — First Solar, NRG Energy and SolarCity, to name a few — have financial ties to the Clintons.

Clinton also pointed out one of the biggest problems with her solar panel proposal, and that is other countries are not cutting their carbon outputs and are in fact increasing the use of cheaper coal.

“We also have to mobilize an unprecedented global commitment to reduce carbon emissions around the world,” she said. “And I know firsthand from my time as Secretary of State that America’s ability to lead the world on this issue hinges on our commitment to act ourselves. No country will fall in line just because we tell them to. They need to see us taking significant steps of our own.”

That’ll bring them on board.

Priorities, priorities.

EMP illustration

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Our politicians are focused on fixing the wrong problem

“Climate change is the worst problem facing the world today. We have no more important issue in the world than this issue, period,” Nevada senior Sen. Harry Reid once said on the floor of the Senate.

At one of Reid’s clean energy confabs, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton opined on climate change, “This is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.”

During a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy this past week President Obama said “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. So we need to act and we need to act now.”

Stopping climate change is urgent. Protecting the nation’s power grid? Not so much.

What if the power grid melted down? The water would stop flowing. Fuel pumps at the corner gas station would not work. Banks would close. Communications would be interrupted. No refrigeration.

If the power remained off for months, it is estimated as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S. might die from starvation, disease and social tumult.

There are a number of things that could actually cause such a scenario — terrorism, solar flare or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by the detonation of a relatively small nuclear bomb in the atmosphere.

A year ago the House of Representatives passed by unanimous voice vote H.R. 3410, which would begin the process of hardening the nation’s grid against both solar flares and mad-man-caused EMP. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck was a sponsor. It languished untouched, unnoticed, ignored by the then-Reid-run Senate.

The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 said, “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation. In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

Writing in The Wall Street Journal recently, Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and Peter Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, pointed out the megalomaniacs who run North Korea and Iran are both probably capable of and likely willing to order such a devastating strike.

They report that the headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command is being moved back into Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, because of the EMP threat.

Also, the nation’s defenses are still pointed toward a Cold War enemy only capable of striking from the north, while our southern flank is completely exposed. Pry and Cooper report that both North Korea and Iran have put satellites into orbit over the South Pole — trajectories “that appear to practice evading U.S. missile defenses, and at optimum altitudes to make a surprise EMP attack.”

Secretary of State John Kerry recently called the North Korean government “one of the most egregious examples of reckless disregard for human rights and human beings anywhere on the planet.” This was shortly after Kim Jong Un reportedly had his defense minister executed by an anti-aircraft gun after he fell asleep during a meeting.

According to Pry a recently translated Iranian military textbook endorses the concept of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S.

While U.S. senators sit on their collective arses and twiddle their thumbs, several states are looking into ways to harden their intrastate grids, say Cooper and Pry. These include Maine,Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.

Not Nevada.

Perhaps the Nevada Public Utilities Commission could pick up the slack. After all, one of its duties by law is to “provide for the safe, economic, efficient, prudent and reliable operation and service of public utilities.” All it would have to do is tell Warren Buffett and the other utility owners to spend the money to harden the grid and then reap a 10 percent return on equity from ratepayers.

Perhaps someone will look into this once the urgent problem of climate change is addressed.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

What are we doing to deter the catastrophe that would be caused by an EMP attack?

Do you live in an all-electric home? Dependent on electricity for heating and cooling, cooking, refrigeration, lighting, hot water, communications, security, to open the garage door?

What if the grid melted down for say a week? The water would stop flowing. Fuel pumps at the corner gas station would not work. Even if you had natural gas that would eventually cease to flow. The banks would be closed. Sewage would back up in the streets.

If the power remained off for months, as much as 90 percent of the population might die from starvation, disease and social tumult.

WSJ illustration

There are a number of things that could cause such a scenario — terrorism, solar flare or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by the detonation of a relatively small nuclear bomb in the atmosphere.

I’ve been writing about the potential for the latter event since 1980. A year ago I discussed a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3410, that would begin the process of hardening the nation’s grid against both solar flares and mad-man-caused EMP. Rep. Joe Heck was a sponsor. It passed the House on a unanimous voice vote, but languished untouched, unnoticed, ignored by the Harry Reid-run Senate.

The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October, said, “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation. In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

Harry Reid was unmoved, unconcerned, unavailable.

Today, Henry Cooper and Peter Pry again are warning of the threat of EMP and just how near it is. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Cooper, the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, point out the megalomaniacs who run both North Korea and Iran are both probably capable of and likely willing to order such a devastating strike.

They report that the headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command is being moved back into Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. The site was largely abandoned a decade ago, but is being reactivated precisely because of the threat of EMP. Cheyenne Mountain is hardened against both blast and EMP.

In addition, the nation’s defenses are still pointed toward a Cold War enemy only capable of striking from the north, while our southern flank is completely exposed. Pry and Cooper report that both North Korea and Iran put satellites into south-polar trajectories “that appear to practice evading U.S. missile defenses, and at optimum altitudes to make a surprise EMP attack.

“The U.S. has no ballistic-missile early-warning radars or ground-based interceptors facing south and would be blind to a nuclear warhead orbited as a satellite from a southern trajectory.”

While U.S. senators sit on their collective arses and twiddle their thumbs while humming an oblivious happy tune, several states are pushing ahead with hardening their intrastate grids against EMP, Cooper and Pry tell us. These include Maine and Virginia, which have enacted legislation. Florida’s governor is considering executive action. Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York are looking into ways to deal with this threat.

But not Nevada. Our lawmakers are too busy squabbling and quibbling.

But perhaps the Nevada Public Utilities Commission could pick up the slack. After all, one of its duties by law is to “provide for the safe, economic, efficient, prudent and reliable operation and service of public utilities.” All it would have to do is tell Warren Buffett to spend the money to harden the grid and then reap a 10 percent return on equity from ratepayers.

Spending a little now to put locks on the house is cheaper than paying the price for the eventual break in.

Of course, this threat is nothing compared to climate change. Just ask Hillary Clinton. Or Barack Obama. Or John Kerry.

So, if you see a flash of light in the sky, followed by a loud boom, thank God you bought a Prius and the latest edition of the book on the caveman diet.

 

 

 

 

Obama dallies with digital delivery details and ignores serious threat to the nation

The problem with Obama isn’t just that he can’t solve problems, but that he can’t figure out what the real problems are.

Like when he called ISIS the JV team.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Obama is attacking government problems with a U.S. Digital Service — a sort of SWAT team of “our country’s brightest digital talent”— who will now roam the electronic passages of government spreading “best practices” and “customer-focused government” with “exceptional service delivery.”

Never mind that the problem isn’t corrupt data, but corrupt bureaucrats who created those phony VA waiting lists and lost Lois Lerner’s emails and botched the ObamaCare rollout.

But nearby that WSJ editorial is a column that points out how, while Obama is focusing on a gnat, he is ignoring an anvil that could fall at any time — electromagnetic pulse.

James Woolsey, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former director of the CIA, and Peter Pry,  author of “Electric Armageddon,” point out the damage EMP could cause and how easy and cheap it would be to avoid the problem.

Pry previously testified before Congress that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population by interrupting the electronics on which we depend for food, water, power, hospitals and transportation.

All it would take is for some lunatic rogue nation or even a terrorist to detonate a relatively small nuclear device in the atmosphere over the heartland of America. It would release an electromagnetic pulse that would virtually shut down all technology. Or it could be from a natural event such as a solar flare like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm.

What to do, Woolsey and Pry ask? And answer:

Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion — roughly what the U.S. gives each year in foreign aid to Pakistan.

Obama has signed an executive order to guard “critical infrastructure” against cyberattacks, but has expressed no concern about the rest of our vulnerable infrastructure.

But a year ago, Rep. Trent Franks, R., Ariz., and Rep. Yvette Clark, D., N.Y., introduced the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage — the Shield Act, of course. But the bill is stalled in committee.

Obama blathers about digital delivery but ignores a serious threat that could be so cheaply eliminated.

“What is lacking in Washington is a sense of urgency,” the article concludes. “Lawmakers and the administration need to move rapidly to build resilience into our electric grid and defend against an EMP attack that could deliver a devastating blow to the U.S. economy and the American people.”

Radius of EMP effect from a nuclear weapon detonated 300 miles above Nebraska.

 

Would you be willing to spend $500 million to save 90 percent of the American population from death?

What if someone turned off all the electronics?

No electricity to power your computer, your phone, your television, your lights, your radio, your refrigerator, your freezer, your stove, your air conditioning. Few if any functioning cars or trucks. No civilian airplanes. No fuel pumps. No banks. No fresh water. No sewage system.

Do you have enough dried beans and rice to survive?

All it would take is for some lunatic rogue nation or even a terrorist to detonate a relatively small nuclear device in the atmosphere over the heartland of America. It would release an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would virtually shut down all technology.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Dr. Peter Pry testified before Congress this week  that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse,” he said.

There is a bill in the House, H.R. 3410, that would start the relatively inexpensive process of hardening the nation’s grid against such an attack, but it is languishing. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck is a co-sponsor.

Is this some startling new revelation? Hardly, I first wrote about it in February 1980 and it was old hat then.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October, said “every single facet of modern human life” would be “crippled” by an EMP event. “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation,” he said. “In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

Most military equipment is hardened against such an attack but the populace is naked.

You may have read that North Korea’s state-run news agency called Obama a monkey, but you’ve probably not read about the real threat to your life that nation poses. There was almost no coverage of Pry’s testimony outside of the Free Beacon and an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily. The Apocalypse is such a downer.

First in a series of articles on the impact of nuclear attack on a Louisiana Air Force Base.

First in a series of articles on the impact of nuclear attack on a Louisiana Air Force Base.