Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman . . . Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . Reagan’s Vision Lives
E-Mail Message 140225
Proliferation Cacophony Crescendo?
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
February 25, 2014
We understand the electric power grid vulnerabilities and how to fix them—if the powers that be would take the needed initiatives. Yet they dither while the growing nuclear proliferation threat presents a serious concern that we may experience a devastating attack before necessary countermeasures are enacted. Our failing diplomacy and lethargic defense programs are sapping our strength, leaving us with friends who don’t trust us and enemies who don’t fear us. Time is running out for us to rectify this situation. And our enemies know it.
An Important Overview of the Grid’s Vulnerability—Should Go Viral!
Click here for last Saturday night’s introductory comments by Judge Jeanine and her interview with a former Navy SEAL (12 minutes total) on the April 16, 2013 terrorist attack on an important power station serving Silicon Valley—provided within hours after the broadcast by the Massachusetts Tea Party. This excerpt is a good overview summary of her complete hour show (40-minutes without commercials, including the 12 minutes above) that is devoted to the vulnerability of the electric power grid and the failure of the powers that be to deal with this existential threat.
This excellent presentation was 99-percent absolutely on target. I’d suggest only minor corrections, like clarifying that the former SEAL’s criticism of the FERC is not quite correct. He should have pointed his finger at the dysfunctional FERC-NERC oversight creation of congress that is supposed to be regulating the electric power grid on behalf of the public, but is demonstrably failing.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) actually has a good understanding of the problems and wants to deal with them, but does not have the authority and resources to do so. That executing arm resides with the North American Regulatory Corporation (NERC) that is little more than a lobbying group for the power companies, which do not wish to acknowledge the most serious problems and deal with them—for whatever their reasons.
As several interviewed by the Judge noted, congress should move the Shield Act out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (where it has been deliberately stalled for years) and vote to replace their dysfunctional creation by fully empowering the FERC with needed authority and resources.
But Judge Jeanine’s bottom line point was absolutely correct: The Washington powers that be, including both the executive and legislative branches, are failing in their sworn duty to provide for our common defense.
I’d emphasize that some (at least in the Departments of Defense and Energy) have known how to do this quite affordable job for decades, further illustrating this failure in Washington. We employed these protective measures for over forty years to assure our critical military systems would survive and operate after exposure to nuclear EMP—but not the nation’s critical civil infrastructure.
Judge Jeanine et al also provided an excellent overview of the entire panoply of growing threats to the grid that need to be addressed—and in particular emphasized that the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a high altitude nuclear explosion is the most stressful of the many possibilities that terrorists may seek to employ.
Discussing “how that threat came to be and its current status,” especially from the Middle East, is my main objective in the remainder of this message.
Brief History of Nuclear Proliferation.
In their excellent book, The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation, Tom Reed (former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory nuclear weapon designer and Air Force Secretary) and Danny Stillman (former Intelligence analyst at Los Alamos National Laboratory) trace the advance of the 1938 discovery of nuclear fission to the U.S. super-secret (at least to Americans) Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear weapon and beyond up to publication of their book in 2008. For a very informative 53-minute summary by Tom Reed, click here for his 2009 C-SPAN presentation.
These authors, who are highly qualified to speak to these issues—from technical, political-military and intelligence perspectives, elaborate the political “to and fro” that led to and from President Kennedy’s 1963 projection of 25 nuclear states by the mid-1970s, and how most of these states of concern reversed course—including some after developing nuclear bombs, in large measure because of U.S.-led international diplomacy and in providing a credible nuclear umbrella for allies throughout the Cold War. (Sadly, that vital credibility is atrophying under the stewardship of the current administration, which has created a world in which our friends do not trust us and our enemies do not fear us.)
These examples include A.Q. Khan’s development of Pakistan’s “Islamic bomb” and its role in subsequent proliferation including to North Korea and growing concerns about Iranian nukes, which Reed and Stillman apparently considered to be a fait accompli—consistent with the subsequent apparent policies of the Obama administration.
I do not share their suggested conclusion that the Cold War’s “balance of terror” nuclear deterrent between East and West will work in holding off the Mullahs of Iran from attacking not only Israel (the “Little Satan”) but also America (the “Great Satan”).
And there are growing instabilities in that part of the world.
A Boiling Caldron in the Middle East.
Sadly, the Obama administration’s bumbling foreign policy is unraveling the past confidence of America’s friends and foes in the reliability of America’s nuclear umbrella—leading them to reconsider their national security requirements for their own nuclear weapons.
Some—e.g., Saudi Arabia—who fear a nuclear armed Iran are considering building or buying their own nuclear weapons because of their perceptions of growing instabilities due to the divisions within the Islamic world. And there are reports that our erstwhile NATO ally, Turkey, is considering a need for its own nuclear weapons. Once such proliferation begins, where and when will it stop?
Even The Washington Post editorial page, usually an apologist for Obama’s policies, published last Sunday stinging criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts with Syria. Kerry turned over leadership to Russian President Vladimir Putin nine months ago, hoping he would work to rid Syria of chemical weapons after President Obama’s ridiculous “red line” threat. Obviously, that has not worked out.
Is it surprising that Putin’s friend, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, continues in power thumbing his nose at us?
Meanwhile, there have so far been over 140,000 Syrian fatalities in the continuing civil war. And Syria retains its chemical weapons—having missed agreed reduction timetables and now promising a new schedule.
Given this experience with Syria, why should we expect help from Putin in our diplomatic efforts to stop Russia’s long-time ally, Iran, from processing enough uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons?
We preemptively gave away our leverage with Iran by abandoning the sanctions that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table while getting nothing in return. And Iran is at most months away from their goal. Dr. Peter Pry recently made an impressive case that Iran may already have the bomb.
It will be interesting to follow how Putin deals with the political uprising in Ukraine, now that his pre-occupation with the Sochi Olympics are over. Little help was the President’s most recent “red line” threat, last Wednesday when he commented on the horrific killings of protesters in Kiev: “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
Really? From Whom?
A more pertinent question might be: How will these efforts in Russia’s “near abroad” distract Putin from helping us deal with Middle East instabilities, including a potentially nuclear armed Iran?
Not that we should expect much of anything from Iran which has played us as anticipated with the arrival of the alleged “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani, replacing the bombastic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013. The fundamentals of the Iranian state remained unchanged under the control of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who recently observed that the current talks “will not lead anywhere.”
America’s across the board global retreat is not a pretty site—that is for sure. See Niell Ferguson’s interesting analysis in the February 21st Wall Street Journal.
And will Israel stand still for all this—especially since the Obama administration has largely turned its back on its only real ally in the Middle East?
In short, President Kennedy’s projection could shortly turn out to be right—just 40 or so years too pessimistic. Or before then, we could face annihilation from undeterred, nuclear-armed Iranian Mullahs intent on hastening the return of the Mahdi.
And how does the “Cacophony of Proliferation” end?
It has transferred the “know how” for building nuclear weapons from the U.S. to, among others, the Soviet Union/Russia, to China, to North Korea to Pakistan and Iran. And this relationship still exits and is operating.
North Korea and Iran have closely collaborated on the development and testing of nuclear weapons. North Korea already has the bomb—and its partner Iran is at least close.
Seems we should be prepared in case it does not end well.
What to do?
As previously noted, we need to prepare to counter four threat scenarios if/when Iran gets nuclear weapons and can mate them to ballistic missiles:
- Nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attacks over the North Pole—we need to strengthen our current defenses especially for the Eastern Seaboard; congress has directed the Pentagon to address this problem.
- Nuclear-armed satellite attacks over the South Pole—we are vulnerable to this mode of attack today; and it appears to be being ignored.
- Nuclear-armed short, medium, or intermediate range missiles launched from vessels off our coasts—we are vulnerable to this mode of attack, but could employ Aegis ships normally near or on our coasts to provide limited defenses if we trained their crews to do so. Aegis Ashore sites, like those to be built in Romania and Poland, also could help address this problem.
- Nuclear-armed short, medium or intermediate range missiles launched from the south—from the vessels in the Gulf of Mexico or from Latin America—and we are totally vulnerable and will require the deployment of effective defenses to counter such attacks. Aegis Ashore sites could provide this defense.
All of these attack modes can be used to detonate a nuclear weapon above the United States to create an EMP that could cause irreparable damage to the key large Extremely High Voltage (EHV) transformers of the electric power grid—and that under certain well known conditions could cause a complete failure of the electric power grid for an indefinite period. The ultimate result anticipated by credible experts could be that the consequent chaos would lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year.
It is very important to harden the electric power grid so that if an attacking missile gets through the defense and detonates its nuclear weapon high above the United States, we will not lose our electric power indefinitely. If we can accomplish this hardening of the electric power grid, then we will have a good chance of reinstating other critical infrastructure upon which our survival depends.
And don’t forget that in its current state the electric power grid can be destroyed by a natural condition, which will be produced one day by a major solar storm. The only question is “Will we be prepared when it occurs?”
Missile defenses won’t help us counter this natural EMP threat—it is essential to protect the electric power grid in this case. However, if the grid is hardened against the more stressful EMP from a high altitude nuclear explosion, it will also be hardened against solar storms. The converse is not true.
In addressing these concerns, it should be emphasized that the federal government’s first duty is to provide for the common defense. Providing effective missile defenses and hardening the electric power grid as quickly as possible should be a national priority.
The U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Backdrop.
Given the setbacks from the role the U.S. ceded to Vladimir Putin in moderating our diplomatic activities in the Middle East, perhaps we should consider how our overall diplomatic approach in dealing with Russia is working out.
You no doubt recall the “reset” from the early days of President Obama’s first term that, among other things, led to a flurry of arms control talks? So what did we get?
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) recently got it right in his Investor’s Business Daily OpEd that there is little to celebrate on the third anniversary of the Obama administration mislabeled “New START” Treaty.
(START was about reducing nuclear arms on both sides—New START is about reducing U.S. nuclear arms while Russia builds-up theirs. It should have been called New SALT after the pre-Reagan era that focused only on limits rather than reductions that legitimized the Soviet build-up of the 1970s. Then Defense Secretary Harold Brown once noted: “We build, they build; we stop, they build. But I digress.)
The Obama administration has not lived up to commitments it made, during the 2010 Lame Duck session of Congress, to buy needed votes from Republican senators who went along with ratifying this Treaty—you should remember their names because this broken promise should not have been a surprise to them.
Of course, as should have been anticipated, the Obama administration is delinquent in its promise to modernize U.S. strategic systems, while the Russians modernize theirs—and the Chinese also modernize theirs. And the administration is seeking what amounts to further unilateral U.S. reductions.
Senator Barrasso is also right to be concerned about President Obama making unilateral constraints by “Executive Agreements”—given the President’s promise in late 2012 to the Russians to show, after his re-election, “more flexibility.”
The President is showing little regard for abiding by the U.S. Constitution in some of his “Executive Orders”—so why not also with regard to treaties, which are supposed to be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent?
This U.S. restraint, of course, fits with President Obama’s nuclear abolition dreams that won him a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything and which informs his international Nuclear Security Summits that grew out of his 2009 Prague Speech—the third of which is scheduled for March 24-25 in The Hague.
While their advertised concern about nuclear terrorism is valid, these summits provide international fora that could be used to press the President’s objectives in the strategic arena in ways that could undercut U.S. strategic interests.
Stay tuned—and remember to read the fine print.
Near Term Plans.
We will continue working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to this serious threat. We will expand this effort to neighboring and other states.
We are informing SC state legislators and senators about the threat and what can be done to deal with it—and hopefully they will follow Maine and Virginia in seeking to harden the SC electric power grid. We also expect support from Cong. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) whose district includes my SC farm—who is a member of the Congressional EMP Caucus seeking passage of the Shield Act and the Infrastructure Protection Act, as well as other SC representatives.
We will be working with members of the EMP Coalition and others who are seeking to take our message across the country—especially with Bob Newman, a former Adjutant General of Virginia to help us link our SC plans more broadly and especially into the National Capital region.
And we will continue to support Virginia State Senator Bryce Reeves to help with his initiative where we can—it unanimously passed both the Senate and the House Science and Technology Committee and is headed for the floor of the House of Delegates.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Get involved— in particular, let your electric power company know of your concern and urge them to harden the electric power grid.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!
And support us with your tax deductible gifts to help enable our continuing efforts.
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