Beaten With A POGO Stick

I was reading Bill Gertz's article on the EMP threat [that'd be the worry that a king-size nuke would trigger an electro-magnetic pulse, frying every electronic for miles around -- ed.], 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 was a member is tight with many of the members of the EMP Commission, which Schwellenbach points out was … well just read this section from EMPty Threat: [sub. req'd]

[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 countrys military high command through disruption of communications you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that country. ... If the worlds 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 [Rep. Roscoe] 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 didnt 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).

-- Jeffrey Lewis, Crossposted at Arms Control Wonk.comTHERE'S MORE: In this 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." Show Full Article

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