STATEMENT OF BRONIUS
THE PROGRESSION OF TERRORISM AND THE USE OF NUCLEAR AND NON NUCLEAR
ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE (EMP)
While terrorism, whether against individuals, groups,
nation-states, has been around since the beginning of history, the
tools of terrorism were generally limited in their ability to inflict
injury or death. In
the past it required an army, a state of anarchy, or a group of
citizens acting in unison to cause significant death or injury to
a segment of the population and to cause a state of fear or panic
to prevail. Inhuman acts of terrorism can and do occur today, using
knives/swords/machetes, supplemented by explosives, automatic rifles
and grenades as happened in Communist Cambodia where millions were
slaughtered and hundreds of thousands died in Rhwanda.
It took a state-supported army and an insurrection to successfully
perpetrate these acts of terror.
issue today is that with development of new technology, tools of
warfare and terrorism are merging and their effectiveness is improving
dramatically. In the
past the primary targets of terrorism were direct attacks on people
and while that is still true today, the new technologies of nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons which in some cases are available
to terrorists today, allow a few individuals to achieve levels of
destruction that even armies could not inflict in the past.
the terrorist group is not an entity that can be negotiated with
or be held accountable and often is anonymous,
there are potentially no limits to acts of terrorism.
Today the limiting factors to terrorism appear to be self
preservation, (i.e. the risk factor associated with acts of terrorism),
any self imposed moral or political constraints, which may be non
existent and are generally not visible to outside observers and
the ability of terrorist groups to obtain, understand and know how
to use the most destructive tools of terrorism
(nuclear, biological and chemical) which fall into the Weapons
of Mass Destruction category.
would contend that today, the “Threshold of Use” has not been successfully
crossed by terrorists into the area of weapons of mass destruction.
Whatever we may say about terrorists, they are most likely
motivated by mission success and self preservation.
They would like to be assured that whatever tools they use
will lead to a successful achievement of their goals and
to their survival, unless it's a suicidal mission such as often
perpetrated by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. To succeed at their
goal terrorists want to stay in familiar territory, use tools they
understand, i.e. explosives and that they know will work. This premise
sets up a line which has to be crossed when attempting to use new
techniques, tools or to cross into the area of
Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The potential of massive damage and large psychological impact,
may tempt them to move across the threshold into the Weapons of
Mass Destruction area.
Because it may be difficult to obtain a nuclear weapon or
to build their own and
to deal with the complexity
of use, these first attempts to cross the threshold are likely to
be made by well financed and well organized, state sponsored terrorist
groups that have the resources to acquire and use nuclear devices. Although biological and chemical agents are easier to obtain,
the same issues apply in dealing with the complexity of effective
use and avoidance of self- contamination.
Then there is the issue of traceability
Even Osama bin Laden might think twice about the risks of
a nuclear, biological, or chemical
attack where potentially the rewards for capture or efforts
to destroy his organization
may reach astronomical levels and that there might not be
a place on the earth to hide.
After all, his attacks against the U.S. embassies in Tanzania
and Kenya were effective using conventional means.
For a terrorist group, the prospect of massive destruction
and death may be enticing, but the threshold to use Weapons of Mass
Destruction is high. The problem with these assumptions is that they sound
rational and while they may apply to many terrorists, there are
exceptions, they are real and they are dangerous.
plan to cross that threshold using chemical warfare agents was being
prepared by the Aum Shinrikyo Cult in Japan.
It had the resources, scientific talent and an organization
that could carry out an extensive attack that would kill tens to
hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world.
Simply stated, their plan was to shake up the world, start
insurrections, wars and conflicts so they could rise to the top.
Their plan might have succeeded in killing large numbers
of people, had it not been for their attempt to rush into the attack
mode by staging the Tokyo subway attack, using sarin gas, a nerve
agent, which killed 12 people and injured some 5000.
It also blew the cover off their organization, caused widespread
arrests and seizure of some of their assets.
In effect, Aum Shinrikyo hurriedly crossed the threshold
into chemical warfare area against a civilian population without
achieving its objectives for a dispersed well coordinated attack.
Aum Shinrikyo, in terms of its financial backing, resources,
organization and scientific talent today could be equated to the
resources available to a narco cartel, crime syndicate or other
transnational or state sponsored organization. It is important to
consider that if Aum Shinrikyo was
planning to kill a hundred thousand people, why not a million
or ten million given the opportunity .
Aum Shinrikyo took the world and terrorism watchers by surprise
with its great potential for causing massive deaths and injuries.
It was a wake-up call to the world.
There are predictions that attempts to cross the threshold
will be made against the United States and the issue appears to
be not if but when. Even
Secretary of Defense William Cohen talked about how simply an anthrax
attacks could be carried out against U.S. cities, causing massive
casualties. Justifiably there are major efforts under way to prevent,
mitigate and prepare for these types of attack.
Because of the high threshold and associated risks
to move into the WMD area, I believe many individual terrorists,
terrorist groups and even state-sponsored terrorism is looking for
easier and less direct ways to attack the U.S. and its interests.
Recently Chinese military writers proposed the use of strategic
indirect warfare against
powers like the U.S. rather than direct confrontation.
This can take the form of political and economic manipulation,
disruption of infrastructures, intimidation, various forms of economic
warfare, etc. This
is an area, where knowledge and tools are expanding rapidly through
the internet and where the internet has become the main means for
launching the attacks. It
is also an area where it is possible to have unwitting surrogates
do your work by proliferating powerful tools that on the surface
may appear as innocent pranks or play things. In addition, Indian
Brigadier Nair wrote a book (1992) on lessons learned from the Gulf
War in which he details U.S. military vulnerabilities, with much
emphasis on electronic warfare.
His audience is third world nations that may confront the
of our growing dependency on computers, there is a new target set
for terrorists that includes our infrastructures which are vulnerable
to cyber, radio frequency and other forms of attack.
Some of our cyber experts testified to Congress almost a
year ago, that through a cyber attack they could bring the U.S.
power grid down and keep it down.
If that can be done these types of cyber attacks would have
to be classified as weapons of mass destruction attacks.
It could be argued that we have deep and extensive infrastructures
that could not be attacked in any significant way.
The problem is that if you take the power grid down, the
rest of them crumble because of interdependencies.
Our almost total dependence on our infrastructures for power,
food, water, fuel, telecommunications, transportation, etc. and
a general lack of reserves brought about by just in time manufacturing,
makes us particularly vulnerable to infrastructure disruption.
The cities typically have a three
day supply of food on supermarket shelves, the rest is on
trains and trucks from the processing plants.
the internet cyber attacks are starting to play a significant role
in what could be considered indirect economic warfare.
It is a form of warfare that is economically attractive,
where a simple virus like the love bug or new love can cause 10
billion dollars worth of damage throughout the world.
The new emerging area of radio frequency weapons, or non
nuclear EMP, which is proliferating, will also play a significant
role in this type of warfare.
POTENTIAL TERRORIST USE OF NUCLEAR
AND NON NUCLEAR EMP
EMP, which is generated by high altitude nuclear detonations (typically
30 to 300 km. ) produces a fast-rising, high-amplitude, short- duration
electromagnetic pulse amplitude, (few to tens of thousands of volts
per meter) followed
by a much lower amplitude, gradually decreasing long duration pulse
that lasts for minutes. EMP
couples to all conductors including power lines, telephone lines,
pipelines, conductors within buildings down to direct interaction
with electronic circuits and chips.
It can couple enough electrical energy to cause upset and
burn out in electronic
circuits on a wide scale.
It was considered
a serious cold war threat that potentially could disable our weapons
systems, communications, power grid and other electronically dependent
infra structures. The Department of Defense conducted major programs to
harden military systems against EMP effects and in some cases built
their own EMP hardened infrastructures to insure that their capability
to respond to a nuclear attack would be affected minimally by the
potential failure of the power grid or other critical infrastructures.
With the end of
the Cold War many consider that the EMP threat has gone away and
that the intent to use it is no longer there.
Some even imply that the hardening of our military systems
is no longer necessary. Given
this assumption, at least in the case of Russia
there are three areas
of concern. The capability to use this type of attack against our infrastructure
by nuclear-capable nations has not changed and other nations are
likely to gain that capability in the future.
As long as nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them
exist, the EMP threat still exists!
Intent to use can change in a week or a month, and it takes
us years of effort to harden our systems to EMP.
This possibility for change of intent was implied in a meeting
in Vienna between our Congressional delegation, which included Congressmen
Curt Weldon and Roscoe Bartlett and their counterparts from the
Russian Duma over tensions between U.S. and Russia with regard to
our conflict in Kosovo. In
summary, the message was – do not push Russia around, we have a
responsible government now, but there are factions that could surface
and push for an EMP attack against the U.S. that would shut your
country down without directly causing physical damage or death.
The vulnerability of our infrastructure and our society has
increased with the increased use and dependence on electronics. When people consider that at the end of the Cold War the intent
to use EMP has gone away, what they tend to ignore is that the purpose
and use of EMP outside the
context of the Cold War may have changed.
During the Cold War the EMP attack was considered a precursor
to a nuclear attack. Today
it could be considered as an intimidating threat, show of intent,
coercion or a form of economic warfare.
capability to launch this type of attack against the U.S. or a region
of the U.S. rests primarily with Russia and to a lesser extent other
major nuclear powers that design, produce, and test their nuclear
weapons. It is not
enough to have a nuclear weapon, you need a delivery system that
will detonate it at high altitude over or in close vicinity of the
question is -- what
about a terrorist group using
a SCUD or a similar missile from a
ship off the East coast of the U.S. to launch an EMP attack?
EMP is a sophisticated form of attack.. The adversary needs to determine
the EMP output of a bomb to match it to a delivery vehicle,
in order to figure out how best to use it.
If a terrorist group built its own nuclear weapon, or got
hold of a Former Soviet Union (FSU) tactical nuclear weapon,
put it on a SCUD or a similar missile, launched it and detonated
it at altitude, it is unlikely that they would be able to know whether
the EMP output would be comparable in terms of damage as compared
with explosive power of a small bomb, a grenade or a firecracker.
That is a lot of effort for an outcome that is uncertain,
particularly since understanding the
effects of EMP on the infrastructure is a complex task.
The possibilities of inflicting damage improve when you consider
rogue states or a well financed organized state sponsored terrorist
organization, particularly if it acquires
the support of FSU
scientists who have worked in this area.
Today the real capability and threat of EMP is posed by the
established nuclear powers and it diminishes quickly both in capability
and EMP output as you move down the scale to terrorist groups, rogue
states, narco cartel,
crime syndicate and transnational organizations.
It is a job for our
intelligence community and the terrorist watchers to continuously
assess not only the capability, but also the intent of use of nuclear
EMP as a threat against the U.S.
It is not an easy task considering that in 1992 Alexander
Lebed, national security adviser to Boris Yeltsin, told a U.S. congressional
delegation that 84 out of 132 Russian suitcase nuclear bombs are
missing. In my opinion,
these bombs are too small for effective EMP generation.
are our options to deal with this threat?
There are no fast or easy solutions, but the following approaches
should help. Continue
with the National Missile Defense Program and include the EMP attacks from close in SCUD like launches as a threat to the U.S. This
should also cover potential nuclear, chemical, biological and other
similar attacks against our cities. The other area that needs to
be addressed is the vulnerability and the interdependencies of our
are certain key infrastructures which we either need to harden or
back up to some extent. The hardening would have to include EMP, cyber, radio frequency
weapons , etc. If
the Power Grid fails other key infrastructures likely would
crumble. I do not know
if anyone has addressed hardening the power grid to cyber attacks.
EMP assessment of
the power grid vulnerability has not been completed and assessment
to damage caused by radio frequency weapons or devices has not been
its size and complexity, hardening the power grid is not a simple
option. Building even a limited backup to the power grid
is also a very costly
commercialization of fuel cell generating plants, not as
back up, but as primary power sources, is going to happen.
There are predictions that in the near future new homes,
and businesses will
be powered by fuel cells which produce
electricity and heat and they will not be connected to the
power grid. The government
should consider using
this trend might as a means to build a
limited backup to the power grid to meet critical national
needs in case of power grid failure.
The main difference when considering the effects of
nuclear and non nuclear EMP is that effects from a nuclear EMP can
be induced hundreds to a few thousand kilometers
from the detonation.
Radio frequency weapons have ranges from tens of meters to
tens of kilometers. The
advantage of radio frequency weapons is that they can be hidden
in an attache case, suitcase, van or aircraft.
The attack can result in computer upsets or burnouts,
but generally the computer users would attribute the failures
to internal problems. Basically
radio frequency weapons require a larger investment in hardware
than cyber and attacks
are limited to local area effects rather than world wide as in the
case of Cyber attacks.
I indicated that nuclear generated EMP is not something I expected
terrorist groups to start using, that is not the case with radio
frequency weapons. Both the U.S., FSU as well as other nations have
been working in this area for tens of years and with the fall of
the FSU, the technology is proliferating and being
commercialization is occurring because there are legitimate uses
of this technology like stopping cars at ranges up to 3000 feet
as the Swedes have demonstrated. These devices can also be useful
in direct and indirect warfare, antiterrorism, terrorism, economic
competition, etc. Today
Russia, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Japan, U.S.
and, I am sure, others have
radio frequency weapons programs.