John McCaslin

One of the more frightening post-Sept. 11 reports is handed to us by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, detailing how an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could disrupt electronic systems across the entire continental United States for years on end.

As Bartlett describes such a catastrophic scenario, one would be able to communicate only with those within earshot and travel only by walking or riding a bike. There would be no heat or light for houses, no running water and, after a few days, no food.

"Millions of Americans could die from starvation and disease as an indirect consequence of an EMP attack that disrupts the infrastructures for transportation, medical services, food and water," the congressman writes to colleagues, who earlier were warned by the September 11 commission that the United States is vulnerable and virtually unprotected against such an attack.

Ironically, the Clinton administration dismissed the EMP threat. But concerns were underscored in 1999 when, in the wake of so-called U.S. military "aggression" in the Balkans, Russia's chairman on the Duma International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, warned a U.S. congressional delegation in Vienna, Austria:

"If we really wanted to hurt you . we would launch (a submarine-launched ballistic missile) and detonate a single nuclear warhead device at high altitude over the United States and shut down your power grid and communications for six months or so."

The 9/11 commission states that even a low-yield nuclear weapon, purchased by terrorists on the black market or delivered to them by a rogue state, "can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas."

Editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote recently of the EMP potential: "All we can say is, we hope someone in Washington is paying attention." Actually, Bartlett was paying attention before Sept. 11, 2001, introducing legislation in 2000 to analyze the threat from EMP.

He says steps must be taken by the United States now, more than ever, to alleviate that threat.


Political pundit Tom Adkins received the following birth announcement from his client, Chris Tate:

"Just wanted to let you know that Jill and I are filling up our house. Jill gave birth to Lauren Elizabeth Tate (on Election Day), and she weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and measured 19.5 inches. Needless to say, we are very proud and excited. . By the way, Jill's water broke at 5 a.m., but we waited to cast our votes for W. before going to the hospital."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.