Wednesday, December 05, 2007
On July 9, 1962, a high-altitude nuclear test named Starfish Prime was conducted by the United States military above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. Its unexpected electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects caused disruptions in electrical systems and equipment in Honolulu 700 miles away.
The EMP shut down long-distance telephone calls and disabled three satellites in low earth orbit. Radiation resulting from the test later destroyed a total of seven satellites by knocking out their solar arrays or electronics.
A massive current of EMP could be unleashed with catastrophic effect on the United States if a nuclear weapon were detonated high above the earth. The energy of this pulse would disable and possibly destroy any electronic device and power grid in line-of-sight of the detonation.
Any vehicle with an electronic ignition or engine control system could be rendered useless.
The lifeblood of America -- food, energy, goods and services -- would be gridlocked.
The power grid: knocked out.
The phone system: gone.
Several years ago, an Iranian military journal publicly considered the idea of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack as the key to defeating the world's lone superpower.
Yet, Copperhead Democrats call the threat of Iran "hype" and "fear".
Frank Gaffney, author of Warfooting, states "If [EMP] hits the electrical grids of the United States... if it hits electronic devices, computers, chips of various kinds--the things, in other words, that power our society--they're likely to be severely damaged, if not destroyed."
This would wreak havoc on the country's electronic systems, and plunge much--if not all--of the continental U.S. into a pre-industrial state. A blue-ribbon commission created by Congress confirmed this danger in a report submitted in August 2004.
At a height of 300 miles, the entire continental United States would be exposed to EMP attack, along with parts of Canada and Mexico. Congress was warned of Iran's plans by Peter Pry, a senior staffer with the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack in a hearing of the subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security.
Pry pointed out the Iranians have been testing mid-air detonations of their Shahab-3 medium-range missile over the Caspian Sea. The missiles were fired from ships.
"A nuclear missile concealed in the hold of a freighter would give Iran or terrorists the capability to perform an EMP attack against the United States homeland without developing an ICBM and with some prospect of remaining anonymous," said Pry. "Iran's Shahab-3 medium range missile mentioned earlier is a mobile missile and small enough to be transported in the hold of a freighter. We cannot rule out that Iran, the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism might provide terrorists with the means to execute an EMP attack against the United States."
Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission, said yesterday that such an attack – by Iran or some other actor – could cripple the U.S. by knocking out electrical power, computers, circuit boards controlling most automobiles and trucks, banking systems, communications and food and water supplies.
"No one can say just how long systems would be down," he said. "It could be weeks, months or even years." Wood said he could think of no other reason Iran would be experimenting with high-altitude detonations of missiles besides planning for an EMP attack.
One nuclear weapon. One missile. One motivated maniac.
Those are the realities of the situation, no matter how the Copperhead Democrats try to spin the NIE.
Sources: Warfooting: Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack and Joseph Farah