Feeds

Electropulse weapon fear spreads to UK politicos

Civilisation threatened by bombs over the Atlantic

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A campaign by US right wingers, designed to raise fears of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack they allege could cripple Western nations and lead to chaos, is targeting British politicians, with some success.

James Arbuthnot, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Select Committee, recently questioned the government's preparedness against the supposed threat, which critics dismiss as scaremongering and say is promoted to lobby for defence spending.

Following the publication of the UK's updated National Security Strategy earlier this month, he asked the Home Secretary Alan Johnson "what recent discussions he has had on electromagnetic pulses".

Arbuthnot's office told The Register the question was prompted by a material received from EMPACT America Inc, an EMP lobby group that runs an annual conference, open to members of the public for $50 per ticket.

Avi Schnurr, the group's president - and also executive director of the Israel Missile Defence Association, another hawkish lobbying organisation - gave a presentation at a meeting of parliamentarians on July 6.

According to Labour lord Toby Harris, Arbuthnot, who chaired the meeting, introduced it as "the most important meeting you will ever go to".

In a blog posting entitled "Be afraid. Be very afraid.", Harris told how a terrorist group or rogue state detonating a small nuclear bomb in the upper atmosphere could destroy power infrastructure, take down the internet and stop food distribution. "Social structures would break down very rapidly," he warned.

"And as if the threat from a rogue state or terrorists was not enough, electromagnetic pulses can occur naturally as part of solar activity," Harris added.

In the US the campaign to raise fears in the political classes about EMP threats is well established. This week Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican Congressman from Maryland, told the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology that an attack would be "a giant time machine that would move us back in technology a century". Bartlett is on EMPACT's board.

Outside the Republican Party, the campaign in the US to get EMP on the defence agenda is viewed through lenses of bemusement and suspicion. Quoted in the June edition of The New Republic, Joe Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert at pro-disarmament think tank, argued calls for disaster preparations were dramatised.

"It's horror theatre," he said. "Trying to scare Americans into doing something which a rational analysis would stop them from doing."

The most frequently imagined delivery mechanism for an EMP attack is a missile, which would carry a nuke high into the atmosphere before detonating. It's perhaps worth noting that Avi Schnurr's Israeli lobby group's stated aim is to promote the US' proposed missile defence system. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.