Jeffrey LewisBeaten With A POGO Stick

I was reading Bill Gertz’s article on the EMP threat, thinking “I wish someone else would point out that the article is a steaming pile of horseapples.”

Nick Schwellenbach from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has done just that, drawing on his excellent article for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists entitled EMPty Threat and another called The Next Fake Threat.

Gertz is promoting War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World, by Frank Gaffney. Gaffney is tight with the EMP Commission, which Schwellenbach points out was … well just read this section from EMPty Threat:

[In Congressional testimony, EMP Commission Staff Member Peter] Pry also quoted a passage from an Iranian political-military journal as supporting evidence that Tehran believes the key to defeating the United States is an EMP attack:

“Advanced information technology equipment exists which has a very high degree of efficiency in warfare. Among these we can refer to communication and information gathering satellites, pilotless planes, and the digital system. … Once you confuse the enemy communication network you can also disrupt the work of the enemy command and decision-making center. Even worse, today when you disable a country’s military high command through disruption of communications you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that country. … 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 EMP Commission, as it turns out, has squeezed much mileage out of this quote. In a PowerPoint presentation delivered in October 2004 at James Madison University, EMP Commission Chairman William Graham also cited the Iranian article to argue that “Potential Adversaries Know About EMP.” Ditto Bartlett, who included a variation of the same quote on a chart that he presented before the House of Representatives in June.

Just one small problem—the article never mentions EMP, or for that matter nuclear weapons. Titled “Electronics to Determine Fate of Future Wars,” the author offers a brief overview of contemporary Western thinking on information warfare, focusing on such issues as internet hacking, computer viruses, and disrupting communications. The article does indeed envision American soldiers unable to find food or fire a single shot—but this is not due to an EMP attack, but rather the result of enemy infiltration of information networks. As it turns out, the EMP Commission didn’t need to look all the way to Iran to quote this material. The Iranian author credits the information to the Washington Post.

The blog Bouphonia did the leg work on how the EMP Commission misused this quote, after I sent along the FBIS translation of the source (read it for yourself).

Crossposted at Defense Tech.

Damn, I could have sworn that Gaffney was a member of the EMP Commission. I can’t believe someone would carry that much water just for the hell of it


  1. John Field (History)

    This has always seemed to me like a rather advanced topic in relativistic electrodynamics for the meticulous mujahadeen engineers.

    In any event, aside from all the modelling work on the subject, there seems just not to be enough gamma ray energy to put down a destructive EMP pulse over a huge US sized footprint unless the bomb is up in the MT range.

    I say this with a little bit of hesitation, however. The published work focuses on gamma induced compton electrons. It is not inconceivable that the X-ray energy(which is far greater in magnitude) could at least in principle do work on the electromagnetic field – provided the correct structures were created in the vicinity of the explosion. I’m sure that very bright people in the US have thought carefully about this.

    Obviously off limits to Osama and Zawahiri, even as silly as it is, I hesitate to dismiss the entire EMP subject out of hand in light of the at least theoretical possibilities though.

  2. J. (History)

    Kudos, sir! I also have grown very weary over Gertz and others trumpeting the “EMP threat.” I mean, come on. If someone’s going to hit us with a major nuke, there’s going to be a major payback, whether or not it’s limited to an EMP effect. Then there’s all their exaggerations. Just a stupid story in all.

  3. Paddy Cakes

    A bit OT, but on the NMD front, there is some information on its origins in the third/bottom post found here.

    Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham made a request to the conservative movement’s savior – he asked their savior to get behind selling the Reagan administration and the nation on the idea of the fraud we know as Star Wars. The conservative’s messiah, the one who has outspent Scaife molding and guiding the right’s takeover of our government, was once again at the tipping point in our nation’s history. The conservative’s needed him to BS the nation – they asked and he “delivered.”