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New Worries About Apocalyptic EMP Attacks Give Congressional Committee Fresh Life


The North Korean government has said it has test launched an intermediate range missile, but it is difficult to assess the claim. Independent journalists are not given access to cover the events depicted in images distributed by the Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Travis J. Tritten reports: An obscure congressional committee was set to disband this fall after issuing apocalyptic warnings since 2001 about an attack it claimed could kill most of the U.S. population.

An electromagnetic pulse attack, or EMP, from a nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere could leave only about 30 million Americans alive and a “basically rural economy” where survivors would be forced to produce their own food and other goods, William Graham, chairman of the aptly named Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack, told a House committee in 2008.

The Defense Department was set to let Graham’s long-standing commission expire in September, but Congress has just granted it a second life.

A new EMP commission with 12 lifetime appointees will be created by the House and Senate under the National Defense Authorization Act, a massive annual policy bill the lawmakers sent to President Trump’s desk last week. The president is expected to sign the NDAA.

The move to renew the commission’s work comes just as interest in EMP has spiked due to threats from North Korea. The regime, which is aggressively developing long-range nuclear weapons, claimed in September to have developed an H-bomb capable of a “super powerful EMP attack” on the U.S.

The new EMP commission will be tasked with looking into the “nature, magnitude and likelihood” of such threats, including military vulnerabilities.

Graham and the old commission recommended a new Cabinet secretary to deal with the threat and that the president declare an EMP attack justifies a preemptive or retaliatory nuclear strike.

The years of work and dire warnings have been met with skepticism and sometimes ridicule from experts. Graham has blamed “uninformed persons posturing as experts” for criticisms that the commission had overblown a theoretical and unrealistic threat.

“Just six months ago, some academics dismissed EMP Commission warnings and even literally laughed on National Public Radio at the idea North Korea could make an EMP attack,” Graham told a House Homeland Security subcommittee in October.

The academic was Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear arms expert of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who was asked during an NPR interview in April about the possibility of North Korea EMP attack.

Lewis answered with a long, deep laugh. “Take that as a ‘no,’” the NPR reporter said.

“This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people,” Lewis told the radio program … (read more)


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