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Project on Government Oversight


POGO in the News

Letter to the Editor: The EMP(ty) threat
November 27, 2005 

EMPty Threat?
October 1, 2005 

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Electromagnetic Pulse Boogey Man

September 9, 2005 


Financial interests rather than science appear to be driving the frenzied appeals for more funding to protect against Electromagnetic Pulse Attacks (EMP), according to an article by POGO investigator Nick Schwellenbach in the September/October edition of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on the newsstands this week. To receive an electronic copy of the article, contact the Bulletin's press office and ask for "EMPty Threat" in the September/October 2005 edition.

POGO's Schwellenbach found that the Commission established to evaluate the threat was stacked with financial interests and pro-missile groups, who see an opportunity to promote the agenda of missile defense and funding for government contractors. For example, Commission Chairman William R. Graham is also the Chairman and President of National Security Research, Inc., a private company that has already won government contracts to protect the nation's critical infrastructure.

The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (EMP Commission) issued its report on July 22, 2004. The EMP Commission recommends that tens of billions of dollars be spent to "harden" America's power grid, telecommunications system and other critical infrastructure to protect them from an EMP attack among other means of protection such as missile defense. While EMP can wreak havoc on electrical systems, the scope and ease of such an attack for a terrorist group or even most nations are vastly overstated by the Commission.

The EMP Commission made much of an Iranian journal article translated by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service to build its case. Although it may be possible that Iran is contemplating EMP, the article provides no evidence of this. The article mentions neither EMP nor nuclear weapons. Instead, it mostly discusses cyber-warfare. Translation of the article is posted by blog. 

Schwellenbach recommends that an independent scientific assessment of EMP take place by an entity such as the National Academies of Science. Furthermore, Congress should seek to reestablish the Office of Technology Assessment to have trusted, apolitical analysis of difficult scientific and technical questions of national interest. 


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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