EMP Terror: As Seen On TV

A Weapon From “The Matrix” Isn’t Just Science Fiction
June 15, 2010
Heritage Foundation

Abstract: In The Matrix, EMP (electromagnetic pulse) was used to stop the Machines during the Machine War.  Even Agent Smith used EMP to take out the Hovercrafts. It all sounds like the work of science fiction and Keanu Reeves, but the real threat of electromagnetic pulse isn’t fiction at all—but a growing threat that Congress and the Administration have failed to take seriously.

If used effectively by an adversary, a nuclear weapon detonated high in the Earth’s atmosphere could generate a radio frequency capable of destroying all of the electronic devices and the electric system within a 700 mile radius.  Enough countries currently have ballistic missile capabilities that such a “weapon of mass disruption” is well within the capabilities of many nations, including ones that do not like the United States very much.

Tomorrow night, the National Geographic Channel is exploring the EMP threat in its Explorer series.  Dubbed, “Electronic Armageddon,” the show will talk about the real threat of EMP, and how an effective EMP attack could set the United States back several hundred years.  Check it out: Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 10:00 p.m. EST.  In the meantime, check out The Heritage Foundation’s work on EMP (Heritage Foundation, 2012).

Title: 24: Season 4

Day 4 begins with the bombing of a commuter train which (unbeknownst to CTU at the time) enables the theft of a device known as the Dobsen-type Override which could be used to take control of (and meltdown) United States nuclear power plants. With Jack Bauer working for Secretary of Defense James Heller, his job brings him to CTU as a visitor on this very day.

Believing that something terrible is about to happen, Jack begs CTU director Erin Driscoll to reinstate him and begins to interrogate a suspect. The suspect reveals that James Heller and Audrey Raines are the primary targets just as they are kidnapped. When Jack saves a programmer who discovered evidence of a cyber-attack in progress (a friend of Chloe O'Brian), he allows one of the terrorists to escape and lead him to where Raines and Heller are being held. Even though Jack rescues them, the mass streaming of the planned execution video gives the terrorists the opportunity they need to launch a denial-of-service attack and begin using the override.

CTU finds out about the override with the help of Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida and identifies the man responsible for using it - Habib Marwan - an employee of the defense contractor that developed the override. Marwan is able to sabotage one plant, the San Gabriel Island reactor, before Jack's team puts him on the run. Seeking extra intelligence, Jack Bauer and Paul Raines (Audrey's ex-husband) travel to the headquarters of the defense contractor McLennan-Forrester. However, in an effort to cover-up their complicity and erase computer records, McLennan-Forrester activates an EMP causing a blackout over an 8-square-mile (21 km2) section of downtown Los Angeles.

McLennan-Forrester sends mercenaries after Jack and Paul. They critically injure Paul Raines just as agents arrive sent by Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler. The resulting turmoil allows a stealth fighter to be stolen from an Air Force base in Southern California. The pilot of the fighter shoots down Air Force One, which crashes into the Mojave Desert, almost killing President Keeler in the process. Vice-President Charles Logan takes over for Keeler and seeks the help of David Palmer when the role proves too much for him. Ultimately, Marwan's terror cells are able to steal the nuclear football from the Air Force One crash site and they attempt to use it to commandeer a nuclear missile in Iowa.

Chloe nearly loses her life finding a lead about the missile. It leads Jack to a complicit Chinese national, Lee Jong, hiding at his nation's consulate in Los Angeles. When negotiations break down, Jack leads a clandestine raid against the Chinese consulate and kidnaps Jong. Poorly placed shots by Chinese guards kill the Chinese consul and injure Jong. Paul Raines dies in surgery when Jack insists that saving Lee Jong is a priority. This destroys his relationship with Audrey Raines. The nuclear missile is subsequently launched and CTU begins a last ditch effort to discover its trajectory and intercept it. As Jack closes in on Marwan and the missile's location, Chinese agents find proof that Jack Bauer invaded their territory. To prevent American secrets from falling into Chinese hands, government officials propose that Jack be conveniently killed.

Reversing the events of Day 1, David Palmer warns Jack Bauer of the attempt on his life, shortly after the nuclear missile is shot out of the sky. In response, Jack fakes his own death with the help of Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler and Chloe O'Brian. When Jack is safely outside CTU, he says a final goodbye to his friend and president David Palmer. He then leaves his old life behind and disappears into the sunrise.

Episode 84
Jack and Paul try to find information about Marwan at McLennan-Forster, whose employees try to prevent any incriminating evidence from being found. They detonate an electromagnetic pulse bomb causing a blackout spanning several blocks. Paul finds evidence of their involvement and prints it out but is captured by McLennan-Forster. However Paul is able to hide the evidence beforehand as McLennan-Forster attempt to beat it out of him. Driscoll struggles with her leadership of CTU due to her daughter's suicide and steps down. Tony takes over provisionally while Heller contacts Division for a more permanent replacement, much to the dismay of Curtis. Later Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth), Tony's former wife arrives from Division to take over permanently. 

Episode 85
Jack and Paul hide in a gun shop as McLennen-Forster commandos try to kill them. There, they enlist the help of the owners of the shop — two US-born Muslim brothers who decide to help after Jack explains their situation them. CTU continue to struggle to locate Jack and Paul in the aftermath of the EMP strike even as they spot a hostile helicopter entering the airspace. Sarah Gavin is dismissed by Michelle for not being focused on her job as Sarah attempts to bargain for a higher pay raise as compensation for being falsely accused. Michelle and Tony struggle to work together again as she deploys field teams to cover the entire blacked out area, contrary to Tony's suggestion. As Jack initiates a firefight, CTU moves in to assist. Jack, Paul and the two brothers survive. Afterward one hostile, thought to be dead, attempts to shoot Jack, prompting Paul to push him out of the way and is seriously wounded when the bullet strikes him
(Wikipedia, 2012).

Title: NBC’s “Revolution” Shows Life After An Electromagnetic Pulse Attack
May 17, 2012
The Foundry

What would the life in the United States look like if the continent were hit by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP)? The new TV show Revolution from producer J.J. Abrams, launching on NBC in the fall, is seeking to answer the question.

The show portrays life in the United States 15 years after an EMP disables all electronics. Life as we know it changes forever; militias and warlords rule the society, which has to provide for itself without the help of all the electronic devices we know today. Such a scenario is not as unlikely as it might appear. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission Report stated that an EMP “has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power.”

An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. It is created during solar storms or by nuclear and radio-frequency weapons detonations. A nuclear weapon detonated at a high altitude would send the United States back to the 18th century. An EMP’s effects would include the destruction of electrical circuits, rendering cell phones, computers, vehicles, airplanes, power grids, and all other electrical equipment useless. In the case of an EMP—from “space weather” or a high-altitude nuclear detonation—transportation systems would be halted, communications would be rendered useless, and grocery stores would be unable to preserve or restore food supplies.

The United States must take steps to protect its infrastructure. The public and private sectors should harden vital infrastructure to make it more resilient and resistant to solar storms or an EMP’s effects. In addition to hardening its electrical grid, the U.S. should also develop a national plan to respond to EMP emergencies. This would involve educating federal, state, and local officials along with the public about the risks and response options.

Moreover, short-range and long-range ballistic missiles are the best means of delivery for a high-altitude nuclear weapon detonation. That is why the United States must continue to build up its missile defenses. The system would ideally be composed of Aegis ballistic missile capable ships; Aegis Ashore, the land-based ballistic missile component; and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle capabilities. These would offer a degree of protection against such an attack (The Foundry, 2012).

Title: NBC Shows U.S. Life After EMP Blast
September 17, 2012

  A new network television drama is presenting the cataclysmic consequences of an EMP attack, but the United States government is still ignoring the threat.

The new NBC television show “Revolution” portrays life in the former United States 15 years after an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, disables all electronics. Society collapses almost instantly, and the country devolves into a collection of mutually hostile self-styled militias, private armies and warring tribes.

Former members of the Marine Corps become warlords. Google executives become rifle-toting soldiers. Insurance salesmen transform into militia members.

Basic necessities that Americans take for granted, such as widely available food and clean water, become inaccessible as millions die from starvation, disease or widespread violence.

The premise of the show sounds fantastic. However, as national security expert F. Michael Maloof points out in his upcoming book, “A Nation Forsaken,” the show may actually downplay the threat.

An EMP is caused by an explosion of charged particles, such as the detonation of a nuclear weapon in high altitude. The resulting wave wipes out electronics throughout the affected area.

Because of American society’s reliance on computers and electronic equipment, this would mean that financial, medical, security and logistical systems would fail simultaneously. The result could be a wholesale breakdown of civil society.

Prominent political leaders, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., have warned for years about the danger posed by EMP.

But media outlets such as the New York Times have disparaged these views and downplayed the EMP threat, characterizing it as improbable science fiction. As Maloof writes in “A Nation Forsaken,” media attention to the threat is downplayed only when preparation efforts are advocated by conservatives.

In contrast, the producers of “Revolution” seem to take the threat seriously, noting, “We did our homework and came up with something that’s actually plausible.”

An EMP attack does not require an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, to be effective. A short-range rocket launched from a ship would be sufficient to knock out the electric grid of most of the United States.

Maloof points out that North Korea already has this capability and Iran is developing it. Countries such as Russia and China already could make such an event happen.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “The result of a massive EMP event could be devastating. Communications would collapse, transportation would halt, and electrical power would simply be nonexistent. Not even a global humanitarian effort would be enough to keep hundreds of millions of Americans from death by starvation, exposure, or lack of medicine.”

Despite the threat, Maloof writes that the federal government is ignoring the necessary steps needed to defend against such an attack.

Critical infrastructure can be hardened to defend against the effects of an EMP attack. The investment needed is relatively modest, especially when compared to the incalculable human and financial costs of a successful EMP attack against the United States. However, attempts to mandate protection for critical infrastructure have failed.

“Revolution” may just be a television show but the effects of an EMP attack are very real, Maloof warned. Even more concerning is the possibility of a “natural” EMP caused by increased solar activity. Massive solar flares can disrupt electronic systems in the same way as an EMP – and there are predictions for increased solar activity in 2013.

In an exclusive interview with WND, Maloof said, “One of the takeaways from ‘Revolution’ is how the existing security and political systems all failed. People were left completely on their own. I’m afraid that’s what is happening today in regards to what is an absolutely critical security issue.”

“A Nation Forsaken,” coming out in a few months, doesn’t merely describe the effects of an EMP attack. It also provides a checklist for how individual families can prepare themselves for the day when the lights go out for good.

Maloof observes, “The characters of ‘Revolution’ would have had an easier time of it if they had just read my book!” (WND, 2012).