Commentary

Mainstream Media Ignoring Threat That Puts 327M American Lives at Risk

Melissa Hancock
By Melissa Hancock | September 25, 2017 | 12:51 PM EDT

North Korean ballistic missile (Wikimedia Commons Photo/Stefan Krasowski)

On September 3rd, North Korea explicitly threatened to use a nuclear warhead to execute an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) over the United States. A long-term, nation-wide blackout would result.

Experts such as Dr. William R. Graham, chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission, estimate that up to 90 percent of America’s population could perish following an EMP attack. This story has not been reported by major networks and newspapers. Why is it not front page news?

A good deterrent against a North Korean attack would be to install protective devices called neutral ground blockers.  About 2,500 critical transformers across the U.S. electric grid need protection. The Foundation for Resilient Societies has done a preliminary cost analysis, and determined that it would cost less than $5 per American to accomplish this defensive measure, for a total of approximately $1.5 billion. It is a small price to pay to protect 327 million lives.

There have been several policy attempts to harden the electric grid against EMP attack. The Congressional EMP Commission, first established in 2001, produced two public reports and testified before Congress in 2008. Unfortunately, support for the EMP Commission has been inconsistent. The Commission was disbanded in 2008 and then re-established by Congress in December 2015. Recently the Commission was once again disbanded and its reports taken off the EMP Commission website.

In 2016 Congress enacted a Critical Infrastructure Protection Act sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks. A report to Congress is due by the Department of Homeland Security in December.

The North American Reliability Corporation (NERC), the industry group that sets electric grid standards, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the government agency that approves NERC standards, operate in obscurity, rarely making headlines.  NERC has argued that an EMP attack is a low-probability event best left to the Department of Defense. With North Korea’s threat, an EMP attack is no longer a low priority event.  An EMP attack is a clear and present danger. Utilities need to harden their equipment against EMP.

When the mainstream media ignore an explicit threat from North Korea, this error of omission compounds our unpreparedness. Some would consider it a dereliction of journalistic duty. Now is the time to question why North Korea’s EMP threat is not front page news.

Melissa Hancock is Media Relations Manager for the Foundation for Resilient Societies and a trustee of the Media Research Center.

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