Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 24, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 24, 2014

On this date in 2003 the Department of Homeland Security officially began operations. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…”

I looked for a picture of me at eleven-years-of-age.  They are all entirely too embarrassing to post here.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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22 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 2:47 am

Looks worth a read based on past work, Patrick S. Roberts “Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected”!

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 2:51 am

I understand FEMA’s Higher Ed Conference will be held this year for academics after the lapse of a year.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 2:55 am

Dr. William Anderson, PhD who long and successfully ran the NAS Disaster Roundtable series recently passed away.
Session notes from that series remain available from NAS.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 3:01 am

Apparently a long anticipated new ice breaker for the Coast Guard will be defunded.

Wondering how Arctic policy and issues are handled in DHS?

When will DHS hire its first Chief Climatologists?

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 3:02 am

Apparently privatization of TSA continues to be under consideration in Congress.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 3:04 am

Brian Moran now heads Public Safety in Virginia. Reorganized to include HS and EM?

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 3:10 am

This blog has now operated a little over 8 years. Will
it see 10?

Comment by john comiskey

January 24, 2014 @ 9:18 am

Super Homeland Security

As the readers of this blog are aware, I am exploring the meaning of HLS.

I sense that the 2014 Super Bowl offers many of the pieces of HLS. First, let’s take a brief look at the Executive Office of the President’s view of HLS. Second, let’s see if we can apply some of this to the Super Bowl.

The 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security defined homeland security as “a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.”

The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security maintained that the nation’s understanding of homeland security must adapt to new realities and threats. Hurricane Katrina was a reminder that threats came not only from terrorism, but also from nature. The strategy argued that the nation must improve its all-hazards response and recovery capabilities.

In 2008, DHS’ One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland: U.S. Homeland Security Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2008-2013 applied an all-hazards approach to homeland security predicated on a culture of preparedness and risk management. All-hazards events were incidents that ranged from accidents and natural disasters to actual or potential terrorist attacks.

In 2010, the National Security Strategy effectively subsumed HLS into National Security. The strategy presumed a whole of government approach to national security – an approach that balanced and integrated defense, diplomacy, economic, and homeland security policy. Homeland security was “a seamless coordination among federal, state, and local governments to prevent, protect against and respond to threats and natural disasters.” To improve national preparedness, the nation would integrate domestic all hazards planning at all levels of government and build key capabilities to respond to emergencies.

Also in 2010, Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness mandated a new national preparedness goal that addressed the threats that posed the greatest risk to the security of the nation including acts of terrorism, cyber-attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters. The national preparedness goal was required to reflect the policy direction outlined in the 2010 National Security Strategy.

On Sunday February 2, the NFL’s Super Bowl XLVIII will be played at Met Life Stadium.

Maybe. Current weather reports have left the NFL, CBS, and the host states New Jersey and New York concerned to say the least. See: http://www.nj.com/super-bowl/index.ssf/2014/01/super_bowl_sunday_a_paralyzing_storm_could_change_time_or_day.html

While the actual game will be played in East Rutherford, N.J., the vast majority of the non-game festivities will be held in NYC. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jesselawrence/2014/01/20/the-ultimate-new-york-city-super-bowl-weekend-guide-leave-your-budget-at-home/
Things to consider:
• Large High Profile Event: Seating Capacity 82,500
• Main event in NJ. Most secondary high profile events in NY = multiple jurisdictions
• Numerous dignitaries and VIPs to attend
• Estimated TV viewers 110 million
• Intricate interstate commuter rails and express bus service
• Interstate highway access
• High likelihood of adverse weather
• Crime opportunities: tourists, excessive alcohol use, extreme gambling
• Others TBD

How might all of this be HLS? What are the pieces that might make this event HLS?

Comment by Dan OConnor

January 24, 2014 @ 11:35 am

U.S. Cattle Herd is at a 61 Year Low; a HLS issue?

The U.S. cattle herd has contracted for six straight years to the smallest since 1952, government data shows. A record drought in 2011 destroyed pastures in Texas, the top producing state, followed the next year by a surge in feed-grain prices during the worst Midwest dry spell since the 1930s. Fewer cattle will mean production in the $85 billion beef industry drops to a 20- year low in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And meat consumption is increasing in the U.S. Combined with China and India’s need and/or desire for increased protein this makes for a unique competition. This is a parallel trend to the Hog turbulence in Iowa during drought conditions a short time ago. “Ranchers” and “farmers” have transitioned to feeding the livestock candy in lieu of grain.

Diminished yields have made grain too expensive and the contraction in grain spikes prices…supply and demand! This contraction is in response to the growing drought seen across the Midwest and west coast.

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

The past several years have seen drastically reduced rainfall, triple-digit temperatures, and now the polar vortex I and II. This in turn has damaged corn and other crops, which will have significant impacts on supplies and prices for animal feed, livestock, meat and dairy products, and processed grain products, including ethanol. The drought has also disrupted the transportation of some commodities, such as petroleum and coal that are delivered by barges on the Mississippi River.

This will have an impact both in summer and winter energy creation and transmission when large amounts of energy are called upon to cool and head spaces.
The impact of drought is felt in a variety of ways. All this does drive food prices up and consumers “feel” it in a variety of ways.

How much water does it take to grow approximately a pound of hamburger? About 1,300 gallons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Others estimate as high as 2500 gallons and the extreme low, a study produced by the cattleman’s association says its only 441. That takes into account irrigation for the vegetation the cow eats, water for the cow to drink, for processing, and other factors.

And it is estimated that a typical American uses approximately 80 to 100 gallons of water a day. The entire country consumes about 323 billion gallons per day of surface water and another 84.5 billion gallons of ground water. This is significant. The drought in California is also significant because it feeds the nation a variety of foods.

California produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. California also produces 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach. California also grow a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes. It also produces 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums, 86% of the lemons 25%of the oranges consumed by Americans.

So the combination of beef, pork, grains, fruits, and vegetables are all directly and negatively impacted by the drought. Does this increase NAFTA JIT logistic and fuel requirements? Does it impact increases of herbicide, fungicide, and industrial chemical fertilizer use? Is this the centralized, monoculture failure some speak about? Its an interesting discussion, to me anyway.

Combined this series of events with the estimated 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations added to the federal register and I wonder if this is what Chris Bellavita deems a meta hazard? Surely this is a wicked problem and stitched together with complexity. These confluences of issues could be an emerging crisis. So is it a HLS issue? Yesterday Phil said HLS was not a “top ten” issue. One has to wonder if HLS and other constituents, those that provide physiological and security needs (lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy) are not considered critical than what is? The economic impact is significant, the necessity is obvious, and with a discussion always swirling around resilience, sustainability is an issue. So that’s what’s on my mind today for the HLSW Friday forum.

Comment by john comiskey

January 24, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

Dan,

HLS nexus to Water Security (meta hazard TBD)

See: DNI Water Security Global Water Security. http://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/96-press-releases-2012/529-odni-releases-global-water-security-ica

and

There’s a Pattern Here: The Case To Integrate Environmental Security into Homeland Security http://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=737776

Will QHSR integrate environmental security into HLS?

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 24, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

Thanks John and Dan! Great comments! Water crisis here since by buried waterline well serves water to the cottage and that line frozen now! Plenty of stored water for drinking and cooking.

John! In the 70′s book and movie entitled “BLACK SUNDAY” appeared and many blimps will be over Superbowl area.

Dan! Many in cattle industry have told me their greatest fear is MAD COW DISEASE! N.B, Anyone visiting Britain from USA in 80′s under lifetime ban for blood donation. Some countries test each cow at slaughter, but USA does not. Threat?

Comment by Dan O'Connor

January 24, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

Bill;

Not sure about MCD… the argument does ebb and flow. Associates in the pork industry are very concerned with hoof and mouth…Iowa spends a lot of time concerned with that.

John; have read the DNI water report…will read the other. Thanks

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 24, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

Friday Free Forum:

By the end of the Peloponnesian war, Sparta was the acknowledged hegemon of Greece. But though for a while she tried to play the part of an imperialist, she soon lost Persian aid, which was then for a time given to Thebes, previously a relatively unimportant city. Thebes, indeed, had lost all title to respect in Greece by collaborating with the Persians during the Persian Wars. Now however, she developed a new military tactic, and under the leadership of two great generals established herself temporarily as the leading power in Greece. By defeating the Spartans in open warfare she freed the helots, thereby reducing Sparta forever to the rank of a second- or third-rate power. But away in the north from 359 B.C. onward, a new power was rising in Greece. This was Macedon, ruled by a shrewd and crafty semi-barbarian named Philip. Philip perceived very clearly that if he could keep the Greeks disunited he could pick them off one by one.

Thebes never did come to realize the dangerous nature of Philip, nor the threat that he presented to Greece. The Athenians were divided in their opinions, one party thinking it best to collaborate and “appease” Philip; the other, led by Demosthenes, believing that the only safe policy was to stop Philip before he became too strong. Philip himself did his best to win support in both cities, spending lavishly of the gold which he had won in northeastern Greece, while at the same time building himself a small but strong and effective army, with new military formations hitherto unknown in Greece Though Demosthenes was able to persuade the Athenians to send an expedition to Olynthus, which Philip was threatening, the expedition was too small and arrived too late to be of any great assistance. Philip, after capturing Olynthus, destroyed it completely, thereby providing an example to the rest of the Greeks which he hoped would prove salutary.

Philip’s barbarity incensed Demosthenes but cowed most of the Athenian statesmen. Indeed, a writer of speeches named Isocrates even urged Philip to unite the Greeks and engage in a great expedition against Persia. Philip in fact intended to make such an expedition, but the means by which he proposed to unite Greece were not calculated to please any Athenian democrats. In fact Philip’s diplomacy paid off handsomely. Although he was not himself regarded as a Greek by the other Greeks, who thought they could use him for their own ends, he was made head of a Greek religious league and invited to chastise some Greek cities which had been accused of sacrilege. Philip, nothing loath, came down into Greece, and suddenly confronted Thebes, which realized at last that there was nothing to hinder him if he wished to turn upon Thebes itself. Demosthenes hastily organized an alliance between Athens and Thebes, but it was too late. Philip defeated the united armies at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C, and thereafter was the undisputed leader of Greece.

The question which scratches at logic, given the obvious dangers poised by Tehran and western failed leadership so engrossed in self-serving political rivalries, it is rather obvious that when we talk of Homeland Security and these thugs now telling us that they will be sailing in the Atlantic shortly that those with binoculars standing as Lifeguards peering out into the Atlantic looking for sharks might begin to also look for Iranians!

Washington DC and its partisanship mannerisms so weakened and so much like Athens ripe for defeat in so many ways….

Homeland Security requires a strong arsenal and Barry Obama has assured us through his many failed ways that unless We stand with pride and commitment to our Constitution and to demand smaller government and a transparent government, we are destined to go to War once again and this time as it WWII, Germany will lead the charge globally, filling the void of a weakened America and poised to again be our arch enemy once again….

Comment by Christopher Lambiase

January 24, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

Mr. Comiskey
I see how when you were talking about Homeland Security you pointed out that it is one team, one mission, protect the homeland. I believe that Homeland Security is a group effort. Even though the Super Bowl will be in New Jersey it does affect surrounding areas because people will have plans in neighboring places such as New York city and other popular sites. Besides the usual social gathering surrounding sports, people may want to spend some time with family in the local area perhaps. Neighboring states will definitely be on point with security. Any place that has an increased population creates a risk for attack. There are many targets such as subways, trains, busses, any means of transportation need increased security.
The weather also has an impact on Homeland Security because it can create a risk to the Homeland. We look at what Hurricane Sandy did to the states, some parts were in chaos where people resorted to violence over gasoline. Anything that jeopardizes the security, the infrastructure, or the tranquility of the nation is a matter of Homeland Security.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 25, 2014 @ 6:11 am

CL! IMO we could not have created a more fragile culture if we had set out to do! Human society is complex but do we really need addiction to cell phones to stay connected?

Are cell phones a mass psychosis?

Comment by John Comiskey

January 25, 2014 @ 6:35 am

Fecklessness and theoretical environmentalism

Dan,

For more on current HLS-environmental security & critical infrastructure. See Krauthammer http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-stop-kicking-canada-around/2014/01/23/0398b8fa-846a-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html

Mr. Lambiase,

The Super Bowl exemplifies the homeland security is hometown security mantra. See: https://www.dhs.gov/blog/2010/08/03/homeland-security-begins-hometown-security

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 25, 2014 @ 7:45 am

Matthew 24:21-22

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 25, 2014 @ 10:12 am

Friday Free Forum: A Pathetic American Presidency and A Most Shameful Phone Call: Barry Obama

When we truly talk of Homeland Security and how US foreign policy or the lack thereof affects Homeland Security and the devoted and dangerous work of so so many domestically and globally who daily commit their efforts to protecting our nation, our beloved United States of America, the job is even more daunting when the White House and its failed leadership and its warped and narrow perspective cause real concern, genuine real concern for its actions which I have often referred to as a breach of trust, treason, especially at Benghazi when both Barry Obama and Hillary Clinton, “entrusted” and under oath to the Constitution which they both have dismissed so readily in favor of their own self-serving politicizing and indeed a breach of faith, treason! Even this ongoing IRS pursuit of those contrary to the insiders? What a real threat to the fabric of our beloved Republic or is it in fact the Republic we believe it to be?

On this Friday open forum, in looking at recent events which have a direct relationship to Homeland Security and the dire consequences Hillary Clinton, now John Kerry and certainly Barry Obama and his mentor, Rev Wright from the pulpit some twenty years being so attentive to such talk in ’08 that Tehran has every right to WMD as long as Tel Aviv has same….how pathetic the USA has become and how dangerous the world has really become since this Chicago city street organizer and having nothing on his CV to depict one who could lead the free world, but the ignorance and bias from both white and black voter chose to look at color of skin rather than an empty resume and NOW, much consternation and certain calamity to follow much like 1939 and Chamberlain versus Churchill as history teaches us lessons, though the dysfunctional and weak are so apathetic that again, the world will become immersed in World War and depravity, billions slain and enslaved by those who seek our demise. How unfortunate!

The monumental and I emphasize the monumental failure of handling of US foreign policy in Afghanistan and Syria prompts my reaching again into Biblical verse when seeing a media/press so reluctant to criticize the leadership on the hill because of a man’s skin color when our nation and its security and youth are being so compromised that it is evident that verse from Leviticus 26:19 explains why this is all now occurring.

While I have stated that a ramp up in Executive Orders shortly by the White House will become even more a pronounced threat to our American way of Life and our beloved Constitution….

….and how pathetic in what we saw on a recent visit to New York and the UN when Barry Obama stated, “I do believe that there is basis for a resolution because Iran’s Supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons” – com’on give us a break…while You may have the media/press and Hollywood in the bag Barry, you can’t fool the People as you and your cronies really think you can much longer…

In fact, in this recent visit to the UN by Rouhani, yes, the same Rouhani who headed up Iran’s Security Council from 1989 – 2003…you recall that in Berlin during his leadership, Rouhani’s henchmen murdered opposition leaders and they murdered 85 people at the Jewish community center in Argentina and hey, let’s not forget the 19 American youth, our brave soldiers blown up at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the ongoing bragging to his fellow peers as to how he has deceived the west so and how gullible even the media is and as an example, Rouhani sent tweets on the 4th, tweeting by the way against the law in Iran, tweeting, “As the sun is about to set here in Tehran I wish all Jews , especially Iranians Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah” – what a bunch of real BS and Rouhani and his henchmen see how weak American media is and just how ignorant at least some of the American populace really is including this tainted Barry Obama and his Muslim leaning so evident when his White House reaches out to this thug in September when Rouhani was here at the UN offering to have a photo-op with Rouhani which he quickly dismissed and later in the week, Barry Obama making an offer that he would be available to receive a phone call from Rouhani and Rouhani having nothing to do with and calling up an American President and then in the most shameful call ever made by the White House and Barry Obama, chasing after Rouhani on 27th September in picking up the phone and calling Rouhani in his car on the way to his leaving for Tehran and talking for fifteen minutes and announcing that negotiation and peace were in the offerings…How shameful a White House so intentionally snubbing Israel’s Prime Minister, yet chasing Rouhani and believing in some fatwa and is anyone home, Ayatollah Khamanei is Iran’s supreme leader, not Rouhani, his puppet! wake up!

Give us all a break here on “Main Street USA” and when we talk candidly about our nation and this White House and the partisanship on both side of the aisle, the deceitful way of Hillary Clinton and Barry Obama so willing to place self-serving politicizing above the best interests of these United States and to date, neither they nor the terrorist perpetrators at Benghazi held accountable and Ms. Hillary, ya know, Ms. What Difference Does It make” Clinton nor the illustrious Barry Obama held by – House arrest – for suspicion in breach of trust, treason….

….well, folks, coupled with Johnny Kerry, another self-impressed and unworthy individual who could give a damn like the others as to his oath to the Constitution and to our beloved Republic, really not a Republic some actually say and a question posed, are we truly a Republic or a washington, DC corporation which would explain John Kerry and his wealthy pals and the Federal Reserve and all very much related to Homeland Security?

The question now being tossed around, posed, “Is the US the beloved Republic We believe or is it really a US corporation?” Let’s really begin by understanding who we are and then deal with all else that is very much related to Homeland Security and by the way and off the record, thank God for the Patriots at the NSA who hopefully kept close tabs on exactly what Barry Obama stated to Rouhani in his moment of desperation chasing Rouhani to the airport after Rouhani dismissed the office of the Presidency of the United States intentionally and Rouhani could give a damn seeing how weakened and vulnerable the US is leaving a void for Germany to now fill and who will deal with Rouhani et al, not the good ‘ol USA as apparently and as Mrs. Bush pointed out, other than the Clintons, the Bush family and now Obama, it is rather strange there is no one else to be elected to the White House!

Some day, The United States Of America Is A Corporation Owned By Foreign Interests

Below are two articles covering the fact that, since the Act of 1871 which established the District of Columbia, we have been living under the UNITED STATES CORPORATION which is owned by certain international bankers and aristocracy of Europe and Britain.

In 1871 the Congress changed the name of the original Constitution by changing ONE WORD — and that was very significant as you will read.

Some people do not understand that ONE WORD or TWO WORDS difference in any “legal” document DO make the critical difference. But, Congress has known, and does know, this.

I’m told this corporation, established in 1871, will be cancelled by NESARA and NESARA will also restore the ORIGINAL Constitution which assists in restoring our Constitutional Rights and the Bill of Rights and our rights as described in the Declaration of Independence.

1871, February 21: Congress Passes an Act to Provide a Government for the District of Columbia, also known as the Act of 1871*

With no constitutional authority to do so, Congress creates a separate form of government for the District of Columbia, a ten mile square parcel of land (see, Acts of the Forty-first Congress,” Section 34, Session III, chapters 61 and 62).

The act — passed when the country was weakened and financially depleted in the aftermath of the Civil War — was a strategic move by foreign interests (international bankers) who were intent upon gaining a stranglehold on the coffers and neck of America.

Congress cut a deal with the international bankers (specifically Rothschilds of London) to incur a DEBT to said bankers. Because the bankers were not about to lend money to a floundering nation without serious stipulations, they devised a way to get their foot in the door of the United States.

The Act of 1871 formed a corporation called THE UNITED STATES. The corporation, OWNED by foreign interests, moved in and shoved the original Constitution into a dustbin. With the Act of 1871, the organic Constitution was defaced — in effect vandalized and sabotage — when the title was capitalized and the word “for” was changed to “of” in the title.

* Info from yet unpublished book, “Pentimento: Freedom Revisited.” As you will see when reading, just as much of my knowledge of the Trading with the Enemy Act came from Gene Schroder, et al. this, too, came from elsewhere — from Lisa Guilian of Babel Magazine, whom I first “met” by way of an article by Patrick Bellringer. So, we cooperate as we study and learn the truth. C. E.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is the constitution of the INCORPORATED UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

It operates in an economic capacity and has been used to fool the People into thinking it governs the Republic. It does is not!

Capitalization is NOT insignificant when one is referring to a legal document. This seemingly “minor” alteration has had a major impact on every subsequent generation of Americans.

What Congress did by passing the Act of 1871 was create an entirely new document, a constitution for the government of the District of Columbia, an INCORPORATED government. This newly altered Constitution was not intended to benefit the Republic. It benefits only the corporation of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and operates entirely outside the original (organic) Constitution.

Instead of having absolute and unalienable rights guaranteed under the organic Constitution, we the people now have “relative” rights or privileges. One example is the Sovereign’s right to travel, which has now been transformed (under corporate government policy) into a “privilege” that requires citizens to be licensed.

By passing the Act of 1871, Congress committed TREASON against the People who were Sovereign under the grants and decrees of the Declaration of Independence and the organic Constitution.

[Information http://www.babelmagazine.com. The Act of 1871 became the FOUNDATION of all the treason since committed by government officials.]

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA
chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 26, 2014 @ 6:58 am

An annual preparedness report is required to be produced by FEMA and DHS. The first appeared in January 2008 by the departing BUSH Administration!

Four [4] have appeared so far each effort labeled the first of its kind. IMO none have provided any detailed analysis of the States and their local governments capabilities, nor of the capabilities of OFAs [other federal departments and agencies!

Which party will be the first to revive the Nixonian Super-Cabinent idea?

Some might argue based on scheduled and actual meetings of the President with his senior appointees the Nixonian plan is in full effect since January 1993 over 20 years after Nixon circulated the concept!

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 26, 2014 @ 9:14 am

Sec. 624. Annual Report to Congress (42 U.S.C. 5197c)
The Administrator shall annually submit a written report to the President and Congress covering expenditures, contributions, work, and accomplishments of the Federal Emergency Management Agency pursuant to this title, accompanied by such recommendations as the Administrator considers appropriate.

Another annually required report for which no evidence of compliance exists.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 27, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

The nuke scenario

Questions re EMP – electric grid and way of Life threatened?

It depends on whom you ask. One way to create a widespread and damaging electromagnetic pulse (EMP) would be to detonate a large nuclear weapon over the central United States, at an altitude of 25 miles to 500 miles (40 kilometers to 800 kilometers), according to the Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from EMP Attack, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in July 2008. At this height, a nuclear blast could interact with the ionosphere, the shell of electrons and electrically charged particles surrounding Earth, to create a series of electromagnetic pulses that could reach across a continent, according to the commission. [Photos: Inside the Doomsday Castle]

Once a burst of atmospheric radiation hits the ground, it could induce strong currents in telephone and electrical cables, which can short out transformers, said Daniel Baker, a physicist at the University of Colorado. Transformers take high voltage current and “transform” it into low voltage current that can be used by households. But an EMP could derail this process, creating currents that overheat transformers and cause them to fail, Baker said.

Brent, the patriarch of the “Doomsday Castle” clan, thinks that terrorists or a rogue nation could loft a nuke high enough to take out the electricity grid over the eastern United States or Southeast, he told LiveScience. (Family members aren’t disclosing their last name or location for fear of curious and/or hostile fans showing up on their castle steps.)

The family behind the National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Castle.” From left to right: Brent II, Lindsey, Brent, Michael, Ashley, Dawn-Marie.
Credit: National Geographic ChannelView full size image
But such a nuclear attack would be nigh suicidal for any country, as the United States could retaliate with its nuclear submarines, which lurk in the oceans around the world out of the range of any EMP threat, according to the commission. It’s also hard to imagine that a rogue terror group could accomplish such a feat, due the technical difficulty of the task. And in either case, the missile would have to make it into the middle of the country, eluding U.S. missile defenses, according to a fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security.

Solar flares

An electromagnetic surge from a solar storm is a more likely threat for an EMP. Generally, experts expect a bad solar storm to reach Earth about once every century, Baker said. The last time one hit the planet was during the Carrington event, when particles from a powerful coronal mass ejection overloaded telegraph wires and set paper messages on fire in 1859. A coronal mass ejection is an enormous sun eruption of super-hot plasma that spews charged particles across the solar system.

At that time, the world was just beginning to use widespread electronic communications. Baker and his colleagues just submitted a paper that details a coronal mass ejection that took place in July 2012. In that event, some 80 billion pounds of energized particles were ejected from the sun at a speed of several million miles per hour. Luckily it missed Earth. But if it had occurred one week earlier, it would have been aimed directly toward our planet — with catastrophic results. [The Worst Solar Storms in History]

“Given our current state of readiness, we’d still be picking up the pieces,” Baker said.

Bad solar storms work by sending “blobs” of energized particles toward the Earth, carrying their own magnetic field, Baker said. This missile-like group of particles can “open a gate” in Earth’s magnetic field, allowing energetic particles to enter the high atmosphere and send currents all the way down to the planet’s surface, he said. These can induce currents in the electrical grid, overheating transformers and causing them to fail. And these things can take months or years to replace. “You can’t exactly buy another at Sears,” Baker said.

Preparation and protection

There are ways to protect against an EMP attack or a solar storm, although they involve coating certain electrical parts and allowing electrical current to be routed around transformers, Baker said — steps that would be expensive, he said. Installing extra transmission lines and generators could help divert power around vulnerable nodes in the grid, he added.

One way to protect devices is to encase them in Faraday cages, wherein a shell of conductive material prevents them from experiencing external electromagnetic currents. The military protects some of its most important facilities this way, Brent said.

Christopher Tingus
chris.tingus@gmail.com

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