SFR Discusses the EMP Threat with Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Welcome back, it is my great pleasure to welcome as well Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a man of extraordinary ability and great service to our country in a number of capacities, including about twenty years at the Central Intelligence Agency where he was one of its duty experts on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He took those insights and skills sets to Capitol Hill where he has worked for many years in various committees, including the armed services committee, and commissions, including very importantly one with which he is currently working, the US commission on the electromagnetic pulse threat or EMP threat. Peter is a prolific author of books and articles and columns on many subjects, including quite a few involving this issue of the threat to the most critical of our critical infrastructures, the electric grid. Dr. Pry, welcome back to Secure Freedom Radio. It’s a delight to have you with us.

PETER VINCENT PRY:

Always a pleasure, Frank. Thank you for having me.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

We’re speaking to you on the morning after, as they say. The North Koreans have tested their fifth nuclear weapon. I was just discussing it a bit with Representative Chris Stewart. Give us a little bit of background on what this test seems to have entailed.

PETER VINCENT PRY:

Well, there’s a lot of dispute over the yield. You know, it is their fifth nuclear test. And it’s – instead of waiting for several years in between tests, this one – it’s only been a few months since their last illegal nuclear test in January. And the general consensus seems to be it’s the highest yield nuclear test we’ve seen. But depending on the so-called, you know, the instant experts in the press, you know, the yield’s being estimated for a range from ten kilotons to about thirty kilotons. You know, which would – which don’t seem like impressive yields, those are still a comic weapon type yield according to the pundits.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

To the extent that we can say, is there reason to believe that the North Koreans would know how to mask the size of the yields and therefore perhaps have tested something larger, but throwing us off the scent?

PETER VINCENT PRY:

Oh, absolutely. They can do decouple tests and the press never mentions this. You know, it’s basically, it’s a simple thing to do. You dig a cavern and when you do the test, you fill it with shock absorbing materials and you can reduce by tenfold the actual yield. So that a ten kiloton test would actually be a hundred kilotons or a thirty kiloton test would actually be three hundred kilotons. But let me also say something else about this, Frank. One of the big ifs that’s being perpetrated by the non-experts in the mainstream media is that the high yields are the most important threat. That the high yields matter.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

And that therefore, if the North Koreans can’t get to those high yields, that we can if not dismiss certainly deprecate the threat it represents.

PETER VINCENT PRY:

That’s right. But we should know from our own historical experience and that of other countries that have engaged in nuclear test programs, that’s not true. High yield tests are usually done for political reasons. And when you want to look at nuclear weapons effects which are now very well understood. You know, nobody really has to do high yield tests anymore to know what the nuclear effects are going to be. Low yield tests are actually scarier. Because historically, those are associated with experimenting with new nuclear weapon designs. For example, in 1946 we all know about the famous Bikini Atoll tests because we were, you know, using Nagasaki type bombs to see their effects on shapes and structures. And those were high yield tests for the permit of atomic bombs at the time. But the really – the scarier series of nuclear tests was called Crossroads that was held in 1951. And the yields of those tests were only one to eight kilotons. Exactly the same yields as the North Koreans are doing now. And they were – that provided us with testing, component testing of break through technology so that we could expand our nuclear arsenal from fifty weapons in 1948 to hundreds of weapons and eventually thermonuclear weapons. So these low yield types – another example is the Pakistani tests in 1998. Most of those tests, four out of the five tests, were only of one kiloton. But they were of neutron bombs. You know, Pakistan, twenty years before it did its tests had actually designed neutron bombs and thermonuclear warheads and verified the design to 1998, not because it felt it had to technically, but it was actually largely a political decision because of a border dispute with India.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

India, indeed. Peter, let me ask you, you have written now on a number of occasions with your co-author, Jim Woolsey, the former director of central intelligence, on other occasions with Dr. William Graham, the chairman of the EMP commission on which you serve, about the possibility that North Koreans actually are designing weapons to be low yield but to have, like the neutron bomb, certain special effects and among them, electromagnetic pulse. Talk a bit about that if you would and its implications.

PETER VINCENT PRY:

The threat we’re concerned about is what the Russians call a super EMP weapon. And it’s designed not to produce a big explosive yield, but to produce a strong intense burst of gamma rays. This is what creates the electromagnetic pulse effect. With a single one of these weapons detonated over North America, you know, it sends out basically a super-energetic radio wave. It’s harmless to people in its immediate effects, but it will destroy electronics across the whole continental United States, black out the electric grid, and in a year, could kill nine of ten Americans, through starvation, disease, and societal collapse. Cause we’re reliant on electronic civilisation, we can’t survive without electricity, without our electronics. And it’s – we think it likely that this is what the North Korean weapon is, or at least one of the weapons that they’re –

FRANK GAFFNEY:

If that were the case, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, what might it mean in terms of the capacity of the North Koreans to threaten not just our allies and forces in places like South Korea and Japan, but perhaps the continental United States as well?

PETER VINCENT PRY:

Well, we could be at risk even as we speak. Because there are two North Korean satellites, the KSM-3 and KSM-4 passing overhead that could carry these weapons which are of small dimension. And the pass at the optimum trajectory to invade our national missile defences and to the right altitude to put an EMP field down over all forty-eight states and most of Canada. So this could be, as Jim Woolsey and I and the others you’ve mentioned have written, as sort of a sword of Damocles in a nuclear age battleship diplomacy. So that if there’s ever a crisis, they could say, wait a minute, you know, we’re going to eliminate you as a civilisation if you try to rescue South Korea or if you try to retaliate for us nuking Tokyo or something along those lines. Or maybe they won’t even give us a warning and just do it because Kim Jong-un is one of the most dangerous figures in history. He’s Caligula armed with nuclear weapons.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Right. And Peter, you’ve been, as I said, deeply involved in understanding this sort of threat for many, many years. Should the North Koreans, God forbid, exercise that kind of option to lay down this immense electromagnetic pulse on the United States, just very quickly, what would the likely effects be?

PETER VINCENT PRY:

Well, immediately, airplanes would fall out of the sky, the electric grid would shut down so there would be no drinking water. The food starts spoiling after three days. We’ve only got enough food in the country to feed three hundred and twenty million people for thirty days. Nuclear power plants, seven days. It’s going to go Fukushima. There’s over a hundred nuclear power plants in this country. And it would spread radioactive plumes over the most populous half of the United States. There’d be firestorms in cities from exploding natural gas pipelines. And it wouldn’t be just the kind of passive blackout that we’re used to. You’d be talking about wide scale industrial accidents that would pollute rivers, toxic clouds from chemical plants and oil refineries blowing up –

FRANK GAFFNEY:

And attendant loss of life that would be horrific, to say the least. Peter, I’m afraid we have to leave it at that for the moment. Thanks again for your work, come back to us soon. Next up, we’ll speak with Bill Gertz. He’ll take us inside the ring about, among other things, Hillary Clinton’s emails being hacked after all. That and more, straight ahead.