WASHINGTON – U.S. national security experts have renewed their warning that the purpose of North Korea’s recent missile launch was to test its ability to put a satellite into orbit that could carry a nuclear weapon capable of causing a devastating electromagnetic pulse above the United States.
In an article in the National Review, the experts warned that the development constitutes an “existential threat” to the United States, demonstrating “an ability to kill most Americans with an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack.”
The article was authored by former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey; former Strategic Defense Initiative Director Henry F. Cooper; William R. Graham, President Reagan’s science adviser and acting director of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration and former chairman of the congressionally-mandated EMP Commission; Fritz Ermarth, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council; and Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and a former CIA analyst.
Former Defense Department analyst Michael Maloof’s “A Nation Forsaken – EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe” is available at the WND Superstore
“The White House has not recognized that a nuclear-armed North Korea has demonstrated an ability to kill most Americans with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack,” they wrote. “And White House spokesmen and the media have misled the public with unjustified assurances that North Korea has not yet miniaturized nuclear warheads for missile or satellite delivery,” they wrote.
The experts previously warned that North Korea’s Unha-3 space launch vehicle could carry a small nuclear warhead and detonate it about 100 miles above the United States to create an EMP that would cause a protracted nationwide blackout.
“The resulting societal chaos could kill millions,” they said.
In addition to affecting the already vulnerable U.S. grid system, all grid-dependent systems could suffer from an EMP, including food-and water-supply chains, fuel-supply systems, communications, banking and finance.
“Indeed, the trajectory and altitude of North Korea’s last satellite orbited three years ago, the KSM-3, could have evaded detection by U.S. missile-tracking radars in its initial orbit and evaded interception by our National Missile Defense, exposing the 48 contiguous United States to an existential EMP attack,” they said.
They pointed out that Adm. William Gortney, commander of North American Aerospace Defense, or NORAD, has acknowledged North Korea’s nuclear missile threat.
Last year, Gortney warned that North Korea has mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, called the KN-08, armed with nuclear warheads, that can strike the U.S. mainland.
Because of this concern, he said that NORAD has hardened its own critical assets against an EMP by moving back into an underground command post inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado at a cost so far of $700 million.
“I agree with the intelligence community that we assess that the North Koreans have the ability to miniaturize those weapons, and they have the ability to put them on a rocket that can range the U.S. homeland,” Gortney told the Atlantic Council last year.
Years of deception
The experts noted North Korea’s nuclear and missile development capabilities didn’t happened overnight.
“Apparently forgotten are North Korea’s equally dramatic gestures to deceive President Bill Clinton while cheating on his ‘nuclear deal’ called the Agreed Framework,” they said.
While North Korea developed long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, they said, Clinton and the press preferred to believe otherwise.
“North Korea stopped its Yongbyon plutonium reactor, allowed the United Nations to install cameras and seals to monitor nuclear activities, and acceded to virtual occupation of Yongbyon by U.N. inspectors,” they said. “All the while, North Korea’s clandestine underground nuclear-weapons programs continued unimpeded – indeed, its nuclear weapons existed before the Agreed Framework was signed.”
The experts didn’t limit their concern to North Korea, pointing out Iran “probably” has nuclear warheads for the Shahab-III medium-range missile, which they tested for making EMP attacks.
“At a time of its choosing, Iran could launch a surprise EMP attack against the United States by satellite, as they have apparently practiced with help from North Korea,” they said.
Despite the nuclear agreement recently reached with Western countries, they said Iran continues to “brazenly” develop and test its nuclear-capable missiles despite recent U.N. agreements to the contrary.
“We live in a very dangerous time, and we urge that the Senate immediately pass the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (already passed by the House) to safeguard U.S. life-sustaining critical infrastructures against EMP attack,” they said. “We also recommend that a Congressional Iran Advisory Group be formed to objectively assess the Iran deal.”
The concern echoes comments Cooper and Pry recently gave to G2 Bulletin following North Korea’s successful missile and satellite orbit.
Cooper said the U.S. lacks sufficient anti-ballistic missile defenses in the southern part of the U.S., especially if the satellite turns out to be a nuclear device that could orbit above the U.S. and explode above an altitude of 150 miles.
He said it would be difficult to distinguish a test from an actual attack, and the best way to counter such a threat to the U.S. homeland would be to knock out the missile at the time it begins its trajectory over a southern polar route. But he acknowledged such an action would be politically unpalatable.
“It’s long past time to counter this threat,” Cooper told G2 Bulletin.
The North Koreans have been continuously upgrading the Sohae launch complex to handle larger, longer-range rockets with heavier payloads, Cooper pointed out.
He disputes the contention of most experts that Pyongyang is still years away from a credible intercontinental ballistic missile capability that could threaten the U.S. mainland.
He said “these experts usually ignore the threat from a nuclear weapon carried on a satellite – a capability demonstrated more than three years ago,” when North Korea first succeeded in launching an ICBM in December 2012.
At that launch, Pyongyang successfully orbited a satellite assessed to be large enough to contain a nuclear weapon.
Cooper said the Japanese Ministry of Defense already has ordered its military to be prepared to destroy any missile fired by North Korea that poses a threat to Japan.
He said U.S. leaders could do the same to protect Americans from an “already demonstrated de facto North Korean Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) first developed by the Soviets during the early days of the Cold War.”
“The resulting attack from the south could create an EMP that would shut down the electric grid indefinitely – potentially leading to the death of most Americans with a year,” Cooper said.
Upon further review …
North Korean preparations to conduct an ICBM test come three weeks after Pyongyang announced it had conducted an underground hydrogen bomb test.
Most nuclear weapons experts downplayed the event, concluding it had an insufficient kiloton yield and a relatively small seismic wave. Even the Pentagon initially disputed the North Korean claim.
But after further analysis, the Pentagon said that, given the depth of the detonation, it may have been a test of a component of a hydrogen bomb.
As WND recently reported, Pry, an expert on electromagnetic pulse weapons, said the explosion indeed was consistent with a device designed for low yield while emitting an enhanced amount of gamma rays – the type of electromagnetic energy that can destroy unprotected electronics.
Pry said the test, which followed three others each in the range of 10 kilotons or less, was “another kind of H-bomb,” a neutron bomb or an enhanced radiation weapon, which he termed a “super-EMP weapon.”
He said such weapons constitute essentially a “very low-yield H-bomb that typically has yields of one to 10 kilotons, just like the North Korean device.”
Pry has warned that Pyongyang was working on a low-yield radiation bomb with very high emissions of gamma rays.
A year ago, Pry told WND that North Korea was working on such a device but that the Obama administration denied Pyongyang had developed miniaturized nuclear warheads and missiles to deliver them.
To underscore the Obama administration’s lack of concern about the potential of an EMP, especially from a satellite that can detonate a nuclear weapon at a high altitude over the U.S., Cooper and Pry were among 31 influential Americans who wrote to President Obama, asking that he issue a directive to end the existential EMP threat to the U.S.
The letter was sent May 14, 2015, but there has been no reply, according to Pry.
However, Pry told G2 Bulletin that the Obama administration might argue that its National Space Weather Action Plan addresses the threat.
But the plan responds only to a natural EMP threat and only calls for more studies, Pry argued.
“(Former CIA Director James) Woolsey and I blasted their plan as having very little ‘action’ and being mostly about conducting further studies,” Pry said. “And it does nothing to address manmade EMP from nuclear threats and non-nuclear RF (radio frequency) weapons.”
The 2015 letter called for Obama’s “personal intervention” to protect the American people against an EMP.
“The consequent failure of critical infrastructures that sustain our lives is a major national security threat and would be catastrophic to our people and our nation,” the letter said.
In addition to 31 influential Americans signing the letter, copies also were sent to Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Neither the White House nor any of the Cabinet members charged with the national security of the United States responded to the letter.
SOURCE:VICE February 9, 2016
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented what he described as a “litany of doom” at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, detailing the various national security threats currently faced by the United States.
“Unpredictable instability is the new normal,” Clapper said. “It’s a cliche but it’s true — in my 50-plus years in the intelligence business, I cannot recall [facing] a more diverse array of challenges and crises than we do today.”
One of the main topics during the hearing was North Korea, which launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it claimed was a satellite. The launch, which violated an international ban on North Korea developing ballistic missile technology, came just weeks after the country’s fourth test of a nuclear bomb.
Clapper said US intelligence indicated that North Korea was following through with its 2013 plan to expand, refurbish and reboot its nuclear programs, including a uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon and a plutonium reactor that has been dormant since 2007. Clapper told lawmakers that Pyongyang was “committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight tested.”
Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, added that North Korea’s space launch “highlights Pyongyang’s commitment to diversify its missile forces and nuclear delivery options.”
For the second consecutive year, space wars were high on the agenda during Clapper’s presentation to the senators. There are about 1,300 active satellites currently jostling for orbit around the globe, providing communications, weather forecasts, planetary surveillance, and GPS navigation. But some militaries also use those satellites for defense purposes. Last year, the administration of President Barack Obama budgeted $5 billion to enhance America’s defensive satellite operations, while Congress has urged more spending on “offensive” space operations.
‘We must be prepared for a so-called cyber armageddon. But the reality is that we have been living with this threat for some time.’
Clapper said US intelligence indicates that 80 countries are currently “engaged in the space domain,” and some nations have a firm grasp on the US defense strategy in space. “Russia and China understand how our military fights and how heavily we rely on space,” Clapper said. “They are both pursuing disruptive and destructive satellite systems.”
Clapper stressed that cybersecurity continues to be the number one security concern for the US. The intelligence chief said he anticipates tech innovation to have “an even more significant impact on our way of life” in the coming years, and that “innovation is central to our economic prosperity, but it will bring new security vulnerabilities.”
Intelligence agencies are watching for “ideologically motivated hackers,” Clapper said, particularly from North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran. “If they choose, they can do great harm, and their methods are expanding in diversity on a daily basis.”
His remarks on Tuesday coincided with the release of the Obama administration’s proposed budget for 2017. The budget includes a $19 billion increase in cybersecurity funding, up 35 percent from last year. As part of what’s been dubbed “The Cybersecurity National Action Plan,” the president will designate a high-level federal official to coordinate cybersecurity measures across government and civilian agencies.
Clapper referred to two notable hacks in the last year: The Iranian hack into the Sands Casino Corporation, and later the attack on Sony, which the US blamed on North Korea, but he said Russia and China continue to have the most “sophisticated” cyber intelligence programs in the world.
Clapper also noted that Moscow is keen to flaunt its military might, as demonstrated by its venture into Ukraine and other “aggressive” military actions. He said Putin is the first leader “since Stalin” to expand Russia’s territory. The spy chief warned of getting caught up in another “Cold War-like spiral” with Russia.
“I think the Russians are fundamentally paranoid about NATO,” Clapper said. “They’re greatly concerned about being contained and are of course very, very concerned about missile defense, which would serve to neuter what is the essence their claim to great power status, which is their nuclear arsenal.”
Online activity by the Islamic State (IS) also continues to be a concern, Clapper said, noting that the group has demonstrated “unprecedented online proficiency,” not just in terms of recruitment and propaganda, but in its ability to hack and release sensitive information about American military personnel. The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, generally remains “a formidable threat” to American security and the “preeminent global terrorist threat,” Clapper said.
“ISIL’s leaders are determined to strike the US homeland,” he said.
Although intelligence indicates that IS will make “incremental gains” this coming spring in Iraq, Clapper said the group’s manpower and territory are shrinking, and it’s generally on the defensive. He added, however, that the rate of foreign fighters going to join the ranks of IS and other extremist groups continues to be “without precedent.” He also noted that IS was the first extremist group to use chemical weapons — specifically mustard gas — since Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway in 1995.
Clapper said there’s “no evidence thus far” that Iran is moving toward any violation of the nuclear arms agreement it signed with the US last year.
A low grumbling over the curtailing of US intelligence programs in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations underpinned the hearing. Senator John McCain, who presided over the hearings, said in his introductory remarks that “we cannot afford to believe that our intelligence agencies are omniscient and omnipresent, especially after years of sequestration and arbitrary budget caps.” Clapper said that the scaling back of US intelligence amounted to “hubris” that was “dangerously misleading.”
“Intelligence is not like in the movies,” Clapper said. “Not every phone call will be intercepted.”