Korea Nuclear Test Furthers EMP Bomb

North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifts off / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, Sept. 6, 2017:

North Korea for the first time this week revealed plans for using its nuclear arms for space-based electronics-disrupting EMP attacks, in addition to direct warhead ground blasts.

The official communist party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a report Monday on “the EMP might of nuclear weapons,” outlining an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack produced by detonating a nuclear warhead in space.

“In general, the strong electromagnetic pulse generated from nuclear bomb explosions between 30 kilometers and 100 kilometers [18.6 miles and 62 miles] above the ground can severely impair electronic devices, electric machines, and electromagnetic grids, or destroy electric cables and safety devices,” said the article authored by Kim Songwon, dean of Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.

“The discovery of the electromagnetic pulse as a source of high yield in the high-altitude nuclear explosion test process has given it recognition as an important strike method,” he stated.

The official discussion by North Korea of plans to conduct EMP strikes will likely fuel debate over the threat. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has said North Korea is capable of orbiting an EMP nuclear weapon in a satellite.

Some liberal arms control advocates have dismissed the EMP threat from Pyongyang as far-fetched, such as arms control advocate Jeffrey Lewis, who in April dismissed the threat of an EMP attack by laughing at a reporter’s question. “This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people,” he told NPR.

Disclosure of North Korea’s intention to use its nuclear force for EMP attacks comes as U.S. intelligence agencies are continuing to analyze the latest underground nuclear test by North Korea on Sept. 3 that the regime said was its first hydrogen bomb explosion.

Senior administration officials said initial assessments of the nuclear blast in northeastern North Korea indicate it was the largest test detonation so far, and much larger than an underground test carried out last year. It was the regime’s sixth nuclear test.

U.S. nuclear technicians have not made a definitive conclusion about the specifics of the device. Specialists are trying to determine if the test involved a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang asserted, or a device designed for EMP attack. They are also assessing whether the test used boosted fission technology.

Hydrogen bombs are advanced devices that use a two-stage explosion process to produce a massive explosion. Boosted fission devices are less sophisticated technologically and require more nuclear fuel.

“We’re highly confident this was a test of an advanced nuclear device—and what we’ve seen so far is not inconsistent with North Korea’s claims,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

However, a final conclusion on the type and yield of the blast is not expected for several days. Data from the test is being analyzed by nuclear weapons experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Also, the large explosion—perhaps more than 100 kilotons, or the equivalent of 100 tons of TN—likely produced significant venting of radioactive particles into the air.

Special U.S. intelligence aircraft, including the WC-135 nuclear “sniffer” jets, are conducting flights near the test zone to gather samples of particles from the test.

Kim, the North Korean technical university dean, stated that high-altitude explosions can be conducted in the stratosphere or in space where the blast wave is limited by the lack of air or the thinness of air.

“In explosions occurring at such altitudes, large amounts of electrons are released as a result of ionization reactions of high-energy instant gamma rays and other radioactive rays,” he said. “These electrons form a strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) through interaction with the geomagnetic field.”

“The detonation would create a strong electric field of 100,000 volts per meter when it approaches the ground and “that is how it destroys communications facilities and electricity grids,” the report said.

The EMP report was published Monday, a day after the same state-run outlet reported on a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a nuclear weapons facility that also mentioned plans for using nuclear weapons in EMP attacks.

“Our hydrogen bomb—whose power as a nuclear bomb can be adjusted at will from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons according to the targets of strike—is a multifunctional thermonuclear warhead which not only has enormous lethality and destructibility, but also can even carry out super-powerful EMP attack over an expansive area through detonation at high altitudes according to strategic goals,” the report said.

EMP was discovered by the U.S. military during above ground nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean during the 1960s.

EMP waves produced from nuclear tests were found to disrupt electronics throughout areas up to 1,000 miles from the center of the blast.

Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst who has been active in urging greater defenses against EMP attack, said a congressional commission on EMP has been warning for years about the North Korean EMP threat.

“EMP attack, by blacking-out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures, could kill far more people than nuclear blasting a city,” Pry said.

According to Pry, the Congressional EMP Commission warned that nationwide blackout and subsequent disruption from an EMP strike could kill 90 percent of the U.S. population through starvation, disease, and societal chaos.

“North Korea knows this, which is why state media describes their new nuclear warhead as capable of both blasting cities and EMP,” he said.

William R. Graham, chairman of the commission, also has warned that North Korea’s two satellites orbiting over the U.S. could be armed with EMP weapons and detonated over the United States or U.S. allies.

Pry said despite the increasing danger from EMP, the commission will cease functioning Sept. 20 unless its charter is renewed.

“No one at the Pentagon or DHS has asked for the EMP commission to be extended,” he said, adding that the commission has produced the best expertise on the threat.

The commission has urged the United States to harden the nation’s electric grid and other critical infrastructure against EMP attack. But those efforts have been thwarted as the result of lobbying from the electric power industry that opposes the cost of expensive upgrades and stockpiling of transformers and other equipment.

In other developments related to North Korea, U.S. officials also said there are signs North Korea is preparing to conduct another long-range missile test. Two earlier long-range missile tests demonstrated new strike capabilities.

South Korean press reports said the next ICBM test could be launched over the Pacific and timed to a North Korean anniversary marking the communist state’s founding on Sept. 9.

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that in response to the nuclear test the United States will sell advanced arms to both South Korea and Japan as part of its policy of seeking to pressure the Pyongyang regime into giving up its nuclear arms.

“I am allowing Japan and South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump said.

The president also said tougher economic sanctions are being considered. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” he said Sunday.

Trump also criticized China for failing to rein in its ally. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he said.

China maintains a defense alliance with North Korea that requires defending Pyongyang from any attack. China also provides some 90 percent of North Korea’s trade.

The Trump administration recently imposed sanctions on Chinese and Russian entities supporting North Korea’s arms programs. But the sanctions did not hit a Chinese company known to have supplied mobile missile launchers to the North Koreans for its long-range missiles.

Among the options being considered are an oil embargo on North Korea that would severely cripple the country’s ability to provide energy resources. Additional sanctions also could target Chinese banks that have been working covertly with North Korea.

South Korea also is considering requesting that the United States return stockpiles of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the country. The weapons were withdrawn in the early 1990s.

Another step announced by the administration is the loosening of restrictions on the payload weight of missile warheads, agreeing not to oppose Seoul’s plan to build bigger warheads for its short-range missiles.

South Korea had sought U.S. approval for exceeding both the range and payload limits for missiles under informal international Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines.

The MTCR limits signatories from building missiles with ranges greater than 186 miles and with warheads larger than 1,100 pounds.

In Japan, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday initial assessments indicate North Korea may have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, as the regime claimed.

Nuclear experts said the basis for early judgments about the nuclear test are based on seismic data.

Initial estimates of the blast registered the explosion as causing a tremor ranging from 5.8 magnitude to 6.1 magnitude on the earthquake scale. Later estimates put the blast at 6.3, indicating a much larger explosion.

David S. Maxwell, a North Korea expert and associate director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said he did not think an underground test is a useful way to test an EMP bomb.

“An underground or ground burst has less EMP effects but as I understand it all nuclear explosions create EMP,” he said, noting that during Army training in Europe, troops took down antennas and turned off all electric devices to protect them from a Soviet nuclear strike.

“It was hard back then and it will be even harder now that we are so much more dependent on electrical devices for every aspect of war fighting, and life in general,” he said.

Maxwell said the rapid testing of North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles is likely designed to rapidly advance its programs in anticipation of a future negotiated freeze on the programs.

“I think the Kim family regime is banking on Russia and China being able to pressure the U.S. into a freeze, and the regime will agree to that if it believes it possesses a significant nuclear deterrent that it will not give up,” he said.

Also see:

NORTH KOREA’S ULTIMATUM TO AMERICA

What the US response will mean for stability in Asia and beyond.

Front Page Magazine, by Caroline Glick, Sept. 6 2017:

The nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea entered a critical phase Sunday with North Korea’s conduct of an underground test of a thermonuclear bomb.

If the previous round of this confrontation earlier this summer revolved around Pyongyang’s threat to attack the US territory of Guam, Sunday’s test, together with North Korea’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental US, was a direct threat to US cities.

In other words, the current confrontation isn’t about US superpower status in Asia, and the credibility of US deterrence or the capabilities of US military forces in the Pacific. The confrontation is now about the US’s ability to protect the lives of its citizens.

The distinction tells us a number of important things. All of them are alarming.

First, because this is about the lives of Americans, rather than allied populations like Japan and South Korea, the US cannot be diffident in its response to North Korea’s provocation. While attenuated during the Obama administration, the US’s position has always been that US military forces alone are responsible for guaranteeing the collective security of the American people.

Pyongyang is now directly threatening that security with hydrogen bombs. So if the Trump administration punts North Korea’s direct threat to attack US population centers with nuclear weapons to the UN Security Council, it will communicate profound weakness to its allies and adversaries alike.

Obviously, this limits the options that the Trump administration has. But it also clarifies the challenge it faces.

The second implication of North Korea’s test of their plutonium-based bomb is that the US’s security guarantees, which form the basis of its global power and its alliance system are on the verge of becoming completely discredited.

In an interview Sunday with Fox News’s Trish Regan, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton was asked about the possible repercussions of a US military assault against North Korea for the security of South Korea.

Regan asked, “What are we risking though if we say we’re going to go in with strategic military strength?… Are we going to end up with so many people’s lives gone in South Korea, in Seoul because we make that move?” Bolton responded with brutal honesty.

“Let me ask you this: how do you feel about dead Americans?” In other words, Bolton said that under prevailing conditions, the US faces the painful choice between imperiling its own citizens and imperiling the citizens of an allied nation. And things will only get worse. Bolton warned that if North Korea’s nuclear threat is left unaddressed, US options will only become more problematic and limited in the years to come.

This then brings us to the third lesson of the current round of confrontation between the US and North Korea.

If you appease an enemy on behalf of an ally then you aren’t an ally.

And eventually your alliance become empty of all meaning.

For 25 years, three successive US administrations opted to turn a blind eye to North Korea’s nuclear program in large part out of concern for South Korea.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all sought to appease North Korea’s aggressive nuclear adventurism because they didn’t believe they had a credible military option to deal with it.

In the 1980s, North Korea developed and deployed a conventional arsenal of bombs and artillery along the demilitarized zone capable of vaporizing Seoul.

Any US military strike against North Korea’s nuclear installation it was and continues to be argued, would cause the destruction of Seoul and the murder of millions of South Koreans.

So US efforts to appease Pyongyang on behalf of Seoul emptied the US-South Korean alliance of meaning. The US can only serve as the protector of its allies, and so assert its great power status in the Pacific and worldwide, if it prevents its allies from being held hostage by its enemies.

And now, not only does the US lack a clear means of defending South Korea, and Japan, America itself is threatened by the criminal regime it demurred from effectively confronting.

Regardless of the means US President Donald Trump decides to use to respond to North Korea’s provocative actions and threats to America’s national security, given the nature of the situation, it is clear that the balance of forces on the ground cannot and will not remain as they have been.

If the US strikes North Korea in a credible manner and successfully diminishes its capacity to physically threaten the US, America will have taken the first step towards rebuilding its alliances in Asia.

On the other hand, if the current round of hostilities does not end with a significant reduction of North Korea’s offensive capabilities, either against the US or its allies, then the US will be hard pressed to maintain its posture as a Pacific power. So long as Pyongyang has the ability to directly threaten the US and its allies, US strategic credibility in East Asia will be shattered.

This then brings us to China.

China has been the main beneficiary of North Korea’s conventional and nuclear aggression and brinksmanship.

This state of affairs was laid bare in a critical way last month.

In mid-August, Trump’s then chief strategist Steve Bannon was preparing a speech Trump was set to deliver that would have effectively declared a trade war against China in retaliation for its predatory trade practices against US companies and technology. The speech was placed in the deep freeze – and Bannon was forced to resign his position – when North Korea threatened to attack the US territory of Guam with nuclear weapons. The US, Trump’s other senior advisers argued, couldn’t declare a trade war against China when it needed China’s help to restrain North Korea.

So by enabling North Korea’s aggression against the US and its allies, China has created a situation where the US has become neutralized as a strategic competitor.

Rather than advance its bilateral interests – like curbing China’s naval aggression in the South China Sea – in its contacts with China, the US is forced into the position of supplicant, begging China to restrain North Korea in order to avert war.

If the US does not act to significantly downgrade North Korea’s offensive capabilities now, when its own territory is being threatened, it is difficult to see how the US will be able to develop an effective strategy for coping with China’s rise as an economic and strategic rival in Asia and beyond. That is, the US’s actions now in response to North Korea’s threat to its national security will determine whether or not the US will be in a position to develop and implement a wider strategy for maintaining its capacity to project its economic and military power in the Pacific in the near and long term.

Finally, part of the considerations that need to inform US action now involve what North Korea’s success in developing a nuclear arsenal under the noses of successive US administrations means for the future of nuclear proliferation.

In all likelihood, unless the North Korean nuclear arsenal is obliterated, Pyongyang’s nuclear triumphalism will precipitate a spasm of nuclear proliferation in Asia and in the Middle East. The implications of this for the US and its allies will be far reaching.

Not only can Japan and South Korea be reasonably expected to develop nuclear arsenals. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other inherently unstable Arab states can be expected to develop or purchase nuclear arsenals in response to concerns over North Korea and its ally Iran with its nuclear weapons program linked to Pyongyang’s.

In other words, if the US does not respond in a strategically profound way to Pyongyang now, it will not only lose its alliance system in Asia, it will see the rapid collapse of its alliance system and superpower status in the Middle East.

Israel, for one, will be imperiled by the sudden diffusion of nuclear power.

Monday morning, North Korea followed up its thermonuclear bomb test with a spate of threats to destroy the United States. These threats are deadly even if North Korea doesn’t attack the US with its nuclear weapons. If the US does not directly defeat North Korea in a clear-cut way now, its position as a superpower in Asia and worldwide will be destroyed and its ability to defend its own citizens will be called into question with increasing frequency and lethality.

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Bolton: ‘Only Diplomatic Option Left Is to End the Regime in N Korea By Effectively Having the South Take It Over’

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North Korean Crisis a Decades-Long Failure of Political Will

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US Must Act on EMP Terror Warnings

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Frank Gaffney: Consequences of North Korean EMP Attack ‘Could Be Truly Nation-Ending’

Also see:

What the Crisis Means: North Korea, Nukes and Islamists

A North Korean military parade (Photo: Stefan Krasowski/Flickr)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Aug.  9, 2017:

North Korea is officially a communist, Stalinist dictatorship, but that hasn’t stopped it from crossing the ideological divide to embrace Islamist regimes and, reportedly, even jihadist groups. The latest crisis between North Korea and the U.S. appears separate from the war with Islamism, but there are 10 ways it overlaps.

The U.S. and allied intelligence services now believe North Korea has miniaturized its nuclear warheads to fit onto its intercontinental ballistic missiles and has the potentially up to 60 nuclear weapons.

This was seen as an undeclared “red line” and prompted President Trump to threaten to bring “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea’s verbal threats continue; a benchmark North Korea immediately crossed by announcing it was considering a nuclear strike on the U.S. territory of Guam, where 6,000 U.S. troops are stationed. Another 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea and 49,000 in Japan.

North Korea threatened to attack Guam in 2013 and its bombastic rhetoric is practically a daily occurrence, but North Korea’s aggressive attacks have increased in recent years including sinking a South Korean ship in 2010, an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that same year, a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and a bold assassination of a political rival in a Malaysian airport using the VX biological weapon earlier this year.

 

  • The Iranian and North Korean WMD programs should be seen as a single entity.We must now assume that Iran likewise has the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads onto ICBMs.Iran and North Korea have shared virtually everything when it comes to ballistic missile and nuclear technology. One Iranian opposition group claimed that Iran continued its nuclear program in spite of the nuclear deal by simply outsourcing it to North Korea. The nuclear and missile tests are widely seen as being on done on behalf of Iran with Iranian scientists on the scene for their occurrences.Both North Korea and Iran helped the Syrian regime pursue nuclear weapons, resulting in the Israeli airstrike on Bashar Assad’s nuclear reactor in 2007. Various reports indicate that Syria’s nuclear program continued thereafter, albeit on a smaller scale.
  • North Korea’s Links to Hamas, Hezbollah and reportedly Al-Qaeda-tied terrorists in the Philippines.In 2003, the government of the Philippines said that it captured documents showing that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamist group that has had a relationship with Al-Qaeda in the past, paid $2 million to North Korea for guns, ammunition and grenades and was looking to buy mini-submarines. Another sale was reported in 2005 of 10,000 rifles.In 2006, a federal judge ruled that North Korea is liable for damages caused to American-Israeli citizens due to its material support for Hezbollah. Iran sponsored North Korean assistance to help the terrorist group by providing rockets and missiles and guidance on building its sophisticated network of tunnels and bunkers. It said that Hezbollah terrorists have been traveling to North Korea for advanced training since the late 1980s.In 2009, the UAE intercepted over 2,000 detonators for Hamas’ 122mm Grad rockets and associated equipment. Later that year, Israel intercepted 35 tons of rockets, RPGs, shoulder-fired missiles and equipment for surface-to-air missiles from North Korea to Iran for delivery to the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups in Thailand.In 2014, it was reported that Hamas was negotiating an arms deal with North Korea worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for missiles and communications equipment and a down payment had already been made. It is strongly suspected that North Korea helped Hamas build its sophisticated tunnel system that was used to attack Israeli civilians and wage war in 2014 against the Israeli military.The Hamas terrorist group openly thanked North Korea for its political support against Israel this year. The North Korean regime (DPRK) pledged to “mercilessly punish” Israel for its leaders’ accurate description of the ruling leader as a “crazy.” The DPRK said it “fully supports” the Palestinian jihad to have an independent country and to seize Jerusalem, a vague statement that seems to imply material support.We should expect such sales to increase as sanctions force the North Korean regime to look for more revenue, as well as ways to retaliate against the U.S. and its allies. The North Korean regime has no problem selling arms to Islamists and is not a target of the jihadists, so we shouldn’t be surprised if North Korea goes so far as to directly sell weapons and expertise to groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
  • North Korea has threatened to sell nuclear weapons to other countries and even international terrorist groups. It now has up to 60 nuclear weapons, a number that could grow to 100 by 2020.In 2005, North Korea threatened to sell its nuclear weapons to terrorist groups “if driven into a corner.”North Korea has a surplus of nuclear weapons. It can afford to sell off a few if it feels confident that U.S. intelligence will be unable to identify and intercept the shipment; a fair assumption given our recent underestimations of their capabilities.Past customers for Iranian missiles and arms include Iran and its puppet Assad regime in Syria; Yemen, which is now working with Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood; Pakistan; Eritrea, which has supported Al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia; the Somali government; Cuba and possibly Venezuela.  There are suspicions that Turkey is looking to build nuclear weapons, as an imam close to President Erdogan is encouraging this.
  • Joint cyber warfare programs with Iran.Both Iran and North Korea have launched cyber attacks on the U.S. and its allies with minimal consequences. There is strong evidence that the two rogue states’ programs are interconnected and they are even launching joint cyber attacks together.
  • Radical Islam will seep into an unstable North Korea.As soon as a closed society begins opening up, the promoters of Islamism get to work. A relevant example is how Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are in a mad dash to lead the Muslim community in Cuba.In 2010, Pew estimated there are 3,000 Muslims in North Korea, a 300% increase from 1990. It projects that number will stay about the same until at least 2030, but that is doubtful as globalization inevitably penetrates North Korea and exposes more citizens to Islam.The most jihad-prone forms of Islam in North Korea are already leading the way. In 2013, North Korea allowed Iran to build the country’s first mosque, located at the Iranian embassy.The extreme anti-Americanism and anti-democracy thought that is instilled in the population means this Muslim population will probably be inclined towards radicalism.
  • Regime instability will be a gold mine for terrorists, criminals and rogue states.The regime is bound to become more unstable over time and that could increase as international tension rises and the U.S. potentially tries to undermine Kim Jong-Un. North Korea is armed to the teeth with deadly expertise, conventional weapons and WMDs, all of which will be sold off by their hungry protectors or abandoned in the event of extreme upheaval.All kinds of black market criminals, terrorists and governments will be trying to snatch up whatever they can. For Islamists, they will look to the Muslim population for logistical support. Iranian operatives are already in the country, as may be Hezbollah terrorists.ISIS is on the rise in the Philippines, the Islamic terror threat is increasing in South Korea and it’s only a matter of time before China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang Province becomes a jihadist front. North Korea is isolated now, but don’t assume that Islamists won’t be able to enter the country and make contact with its black market as the regime becomes unstable.
  • Reported plans for a two-front war by Iran, Syria and North Korea.There have been intelligence reports since the early 1990s indicating that Iran, Syria and North Korea had a deal to force the U.S. into a two-front war if any one of them came into military conflict with America. Since then, these countries have only grown stronger, we have grown weaker, and their friendships have grown tighter.Of course, we do not know if such an agreement exists today and we also do not know if they are loyal enough to honor it if it exists. However, the reported historical precedent must be taken into account and it is certain that Iran, Syria and North Korea will at least take limited measures to assist each other in the event of military conflict. And if Iran and North Korea have aspirations to commit aggression, there’s no better time to act than when the U.S. is preoccupied on another front.
  • Bogging down the U.S.If the situation escalates, then the U.S. military—already suffering from the sequestration—will be hard pressed for resources to maintain its operations against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention more limited efforts in places like Yemen, Libya and the Philippines.
  • North Korean Terrorists Could Target U.S. SoilIt is not out of the realm of possibility that North Korea will try to launch saboteur/terrorist attacks on American soil, particularly against those seeking to undermine Kim Jong-Un.Earlier this year, Kim Jong-Un used two assassins to murder a political rival using the VX biological weapon in a Malaysian airport. Think about how much of an escalation that is: A biological terrorist attack inside an airport in a foreign country. That means North Korea has loyal operatives who can sneak such deadly substances into other countries and are willing to risk their lives to commit murder on Kim Jong-Un’s behalf.And the target was another North Korean from the top of society. Such operatives would have even less qualms about targeting Americans.North Korea could collaborate with Islamist terrorists or criminal elements for an attack in America. After all, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps hoped to hide behind Mexican drug cartel members in its plan to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. by blowing up a diner.
  • The Worst of All Scenarios: EMP Watch this Clarion Project short film from 2012 about the threat posed by a potential Electro-Magnetic Pulse attack by Iran. North Korea has the same capability. A top expert on nuclear weapons and EMPs, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, has been sounding the alarm that he believes North Korea is actually practicing carrying out such an attack on the U.S.Should that happen and the attack succeed, North Korea will cripple the U.S. and perhaps win its war against America. And even if the U.S. destroyed North Korea in response, the jihadists will have won their war against America as the country struggles to survive as Islamists rampage across the planet.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s Shillman Fellow and national security analyst and an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.

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North Korea discussion begins at 2:22 in video:

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Fred Fleitz:

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Also see:

A secret group bought the ingredients for a dirty bomb — here in the U.S.

radioactive

Washington Post, by  Patrick Malone, Aug. 4, 2016:

The clandestine group’s goal was clear: Obtain the building blocks of a radioactive “dirty bomb” — capable of poisoning a major city for a year or more — by openly purchasing the raw ingredients from authorized sellers inside the United States.

It should have been hard. The purchase of lethal radioactive materials — even modestly dangerous ones — requires a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a measure meant to keep them away from terrorists. Applicants must demonstrate they have a legitimate need and understand the NRC’s safety standards, and pass an on-site inspection of their equipment and storage.

But this secret group of fewer than 10 people — formed in April 2014 in North Dakota, Texas and Michigan — discovered that getting a license and then ordering enough materials to make a dirty bomb was strikingly simple in one of their three tries. Sellers were preparing shipments that together were enough to poison a city center when the operation was shut down.

The team’s members could have been anyone — a terrorist outfit, emissaries of a rival government, domestic extremists. In fact, they were undercover bureaucrats with the investigative arm of Congress. And they had pulled off the same stunt nine years before. Their fresh success has set off new alarms among some lawmakers and officials in Washington about risks that terrorists inside the United States could undertake a dirty bomb attack.

Read more

Belgium Revelations Add Troubling Twist to Nuclear Security Summit

shutterstock_277314425.sized-770x415xtPJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, March 31, 2016:

White House officials acknowledged that concerns about nuclear surveillance by terrorists linked to the Belgium and Paris attacks will be on the agenda at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, but only because ISIS was on the agenda before last week’s bombings.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on a Tuesday conference call previewing the summit that they know “terrorist organizations have the desire to get access to these raw materials and their desire to have a nuclear device.”

“That was certainly the case with al-Qaeda, and that is certainly the case with ISIL as well. And given the ongoing concern about chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, we have seen ample proof that terrorist organizations like ISIL have no regard for innocent human life or international norms, and that only redoubles the need for us to have effective international nuclear security approaches,” Rhodes said.

“As the president said back in Prague, a terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device would cost an enormous amount in terms of human life, and could also have profound political and economic and environmental effects on global security as well. And so, therefore, this is a challenge that demands the type of international cooperation that we are promoting through the Nuclear Security Summit process.”

The summit begins Thursday as President Obama holds a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts about North Korea, followed by a bilateral with Chinese President Xi Jinping. All leaders in town for the summit will join Obama at a working dinner to “share perspectives on the evolving nuclear terrorism threat,” Rhodes said.

Obama’s Friday schedule is largely dedicated to “mark the progress that has been made in implementing the Iran deal.”

Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD and terrorism at the National Security Council, was asked if the Belgium attacks impacted the conference agenda — specifically, reports that Belgian bombers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui were involved in video monitoring of a Belgian nuclear official who had access to sites harboring a range of materials that could be used in weapons. That video was reportedly given to Mohammed Bakkali, a planner of the Paris attacks now in custody.

Concerns over the terrorists’ interest in nuclear officials and sites range from ISIS cells constructing their own dirty bombs to sabotaging a country’s nuclear infrastructure.

Holgate said “having a portion of the discussion that focuses on counter-ISIL is a judgment that was made in January, but it turns out that it’s obviously very timely, unfortunately.”

“We have seen those reports about targeting nuclear facilities as part of a broader-level — broader plot. And certainly the video footage is of concern and suggests that there is at least some interest by ISIL. But we don’t have any indications that it was part of a broader planning to acquire nuclear materials, and we don’t have any information that a broader plot exists,” she said.

Holgate added “we’ve been working closely with Belgium over the years on nuclear security issues.”

“We’ve worked with them to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium at that particular site where that manager worked. And there’s extensive cooperation between our regulatory bodies that includes discussions of nuclear security and related issues,” she said. “And we stand ready to help the Belgians in any way should they require or wish to cooperate more deeply with us on these issues.”

Rhodes added that the working meetings can look “at denying access to the most dangerous materials and going on offense against ISIL broadly.”

“We’ve seen over the years different terrorist organizations have ambitions related to acquiring nuclear materials. We’ve seen that in their public statements. We’ve seen that in different cases in terms of their monitoring of nuclear facilities. And that’s why the summit process is so important,” he said. “Because different countries have different levels of security at their facilities or in terms of how they are handling nuclear materials. Belgium has advanced nuclear security protocols in place, but we have a variance among different countries.”

Asked if the administration is more concerned about terrorists constructing a dirty bomb or obtaining fissile material or a nuclear weapon, Holgate replied it’s “hard to handicap” the scenarios.

“They’re both ones that we’re working hard to prevent and avoid. Certainly there is much more extensive radiologically material out there in the world than there is highly enriched uranium or plutonium that you need to make an actual nuclear weapon. You find radiological material in industrial, medical, academic and other communities, and there is a code of conduct that identifies best practices on how to secure that,” Holgate said.

“…That having been said, there are abandoned sources, orphan sources that concern us. And the potential for that kind of a device certainly exists. At this point, we don’t have explicit indications that ISIL is looking to achieve either type of a nuclear or a radiological capability, but we’re keeping a close eye on that.”

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UTT Reviews Final Republican Presidential Debate of 2015

debate1UTT, by John Guandolo, Dec. 16, 2015:

Last night (Tuesday) in Las Vegas, Nevada the Republican candidates for President met for their last debate of 2015.  The focus of the debate was national security with a large portion of the discussion dedicated to ISIS and the jihadi threat.

UTT now offers a few comments on this debate and each candidate specifically as it relates to their positions on the Islamic threat.

Sadly, there were several illogical streams of thought from the candidates with regard to the Global Islamic Movement, the most obvious of which was the focus primarily on ISIS and the concerns surrounding that, and no spoken understanding of the larger Islamic Movement.

The candidates generally proclaimed:

  1. We cannot defeat ISIS without partnering with the Muslim world and using Arab forces
  2. Banning Muslim immigration to U.S. will hurt us in defeating ISIS
  3. ISIS is “radical” and the threat is primarily “over there”
  4. There was no mention of sharia as the enemy threat doctrine
  5. The Saudis are our friends
  6. There was no mention of destroying Iran’s military capability
  7. There was no mention that most Islamic Centers/Mosques and Islamic organizations in America are hostile/jihadist and, therefore, pose a threat to the American people.
  8. There was no mention that all of the recent jihadi attacks in America are directly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood’s network here

The following are key quotes from the candidates with brief comments by UTT included:

Senator Ted Cruz:  Senator Cruz seemed to understand the jihadi threat better than the other candidates, and gave a more narrow definition of the threat than we have heard thus far.  He also mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood and called them a “terrorist organization.”  Senator Cruz highlighted the absurdity of an American government relying on “moderate Muslims” to change the course of the war, and made clear that border and port security were high priorities.

“Its not a war on a faith, its a war on a political and theocratic ideology that seeks to murder us…what (carpet bombing ISIS in their capital) means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely defeat ISIS…we need to use overwhelming air power, we need to be arming the Kurds, we need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.”

“We keep hearing from President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Washington Republicans that they’re searching for these mythical moderate rebels.  Its like a purple unicorn – they never exist. These moderate rebels end up being jihadists.”

“(Immigration) is directly related to what we have been talking about, because the front line with ISIS isn’t just in Iraq and Syria.  Its also in Kennedy Airport and the Rio Grande.  Border security is national security.”

In making the comment that Muslims in India are not prone to the type of activities we see from ISIS, Senator Cruz showed a lack of understanding of the Muslim community there, as many do support and are involved in the jihad.   Overall, however, he clearly understands this threat better than the others.

Donald Trump:  Mr. Trump stated he is willing to take the fight to the enemy by destorying ISIS using all means necessary, but did not demonstrate an understanding of the nature of the threat here in the United States.  He reaffirmed his commitment to pause immigration of refugees and Muslims.

When asked about his ban on Muslims and refugees Mr. Trump stated, “We are not talking about isolation. We are talking about security.  We are not talking about religion, we are talking about security…as far as other people like in the migration, where they are going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them…they are not coming to this country…and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving, they are going, they’re gone.”

Mr. Trump left little doubt he will address this threat head-on, and will do what needs to be done to protect America, regardless of what critics say.

Dr. Ben Carson:  On two occasions, Dr. Carson called for Congress to declare war on ISIS, and was the only candidate to mention the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategic document discovered at the 2004 FBI raid in Annandale, Virginia where the archives of the MB were found.  Many of these documents were entered into the US v Holy Land Foundation trial which was the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial in American history (Dallas, 2008).  None of the candidates explained the MB network here or layed out the evidence from the HLF trial other than Dr. Carson’s brief comment.

“We need to be on a war footing.  We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger….What the Muslim Brotherhood said in the Explanatory Memorandum that was discovered during the Holy Land Foundation trial is that they will take advantage of our PC attitude to get us.”

We have to “shut down all the mechanisms whereby they can disperse money because they go after disaffected individuals all over the place…”

Governor Chris Christie:  Governor Christie emphasized his experience as a federal prosecutor, and it is a pretty strong record on which to stand.  However, his record of defending suit wearing jihadists is also clear, and he has demonstrated his lack of understanding of Islam and sharia.  This means if he is put in a position of leadership at the federal level, he will likely continue the Bush administration’s practice of focusing on jihadis who want to shoot people and blow things up while the suit-wearing jihadis write American foreign and domestic policy on these matters.

“On ISIS, lets be clear, the President needs to be a force that is trusted in the world…if you’re the King of Jordan, if you’re in the royal family in Saudi Arabia, and he’s made this deal with Iran which gives them $150 billion to wage a war and try to extend their empire across the Middle East, why would you want to do it (fight in a coalition against Asad’s forces) now?  But I’ll tell you this, when I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him you have a friend again sir who will stand with you again to fight this fight, he’ll change his mind.”

Governor Christie also proclaimed that ISIS was formed because of Iran, again highlighting his lack of understanding that jihad is an obligation for all Muslims until the world is under Islamic rule.

“ISIS is created and formed because of the abuse that Asad and his Iranian sponsors have rained down on the sunnis in Syria…we need to focus our attention on Iran, because if you miss Iran you are not going to get ISIS.  The two are inextricably connected because one causes the other.”

Governor Christie was strong and resolute on not allowing Syrian refugees into the US because the FBI Director says the FBI cannot vet them.

Senator Rand Paul stated the United States needs to “defeat terrorism” and that  “Regime change hasn’t won.  Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East has only led to chaos and the rise of radical Islam.”

This again reveals a strategic misunderstanding of what we are dealing with.  The rise of the Islamic armies is a function of sharia, not of Israel, toppling dictators, Iran, or anything else.  Our mis-steps hurt us strategically, but these events are not the driving force behind the global jihad – Islamic doctrine is.

“We get so distracted by all of the information, we are spending time getting specific information on terrorists…by arming the allies of ISIS, the Islamic rebels against Asad, that we created a safe space or made that space bigger for ISIS to grow.  I think those who have wanted regime change have made a mistake.”

It should be noted, however, that UTT believes “regime change” should not be the focus, but destroying the enemy in all forms should.  Our objective was to help establish democratic-style governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and today they are Islamic Republics under sharia.

Governor John Kasich’s perspective of wanting to unify Republicans and Democrats seems to ignore the reality that the Democrat party at the federal level is now a socialist-based party with no desire to defend American principles or our national security.

“We need to unify” with democrats.

He also verbalized his approval of trusting and working with Saudi Arabia – the largest funder of the global jihad besides Iran.  “The Saudis have organized 34 countries who want to join in the battle against terrorism.  First and foremost, we need to go and destroy ISIS, and we need to do this with our Arab friends and our friends in Europe.”

“(Asad) has to go. Asad is aligned with Iran and Russia.  The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a shia crescent all across the Middle East.  Asad has got to go.  And there are moderates there.  There are moderates in Syria we should be supporting….At the end, the Saudis have agreed to put together a coalition inside of Syria to stabilize that country.”

While Governor Kasich stated he does not support allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, his desire to rely on “moderate” Muslims in places like Syria reveals a grave lack of understanding of the threat.

Carly Fiorina:  Mrs. Fiorina seems focused on using technology to win the war, which is not surprising given her background.  However, her common sense approach to most things may mean she is likely open to the truth at a deeper level.

Her desire to have Muslims in the coalition, again, highlights a lack of strategic understanding of this threat.  “We must have sunni Arabs involved in this coalition.”

“We need to deny (ISIS) territory.  Here at home we need to do two fundamental things…we need to recognize that technology has moved on…and the terrorists have moved on with it…We now learn that DHS says ‘no we can’t check their social media.’  For heaven’s sake, every parent in America is checking social media and every employer is as well, but our government can’t do it…our government has become incompetent, unresponsive, corrupt.  And that incompetence, ineptitude, lack of accountability, is now dangerous…One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class.”

Mrs. Fiorina understands we need warriors to lead this fight.  UTT only slightly disagrees with her specific comments in that we need more warriors/leaders like General Mattis and less like General Petraeus.

Governor Jeb Bush:  Governor Bush believes the Arab world needs to create the strategy to defeat ISIS without acknowledging the Muslim world is conflicted because what ISIS is doing is often right in line with Islamic doctrine.  He strongly disagrees with Mr. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration for a time period specifically because – according to Mr. Bush – it will hurt America’s ability to engage the Muslim world.  Governor Bush seems to be unaware that a large portion of the Muslim world is already at war with us.

“We need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate.  That should be our objective.  The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there…All of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations.  And if we’re going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS…This is not a serious proposal.  In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world, away from us at a time when we need to re-engage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS…Banning all Muslims will make it harder for us to (destroy ISIS)…The main thing we should be focused on is a strategy to destroy ISIS.”

Senator Marco Rubio:  Senator Rubio stated that sunni Arabs reject ISIS ideologically without providing further details.  In fact, the Arab world is concerned because ISIS is calling out Arab leaders who are not abiding by sharia, and the Global Islamic Movement is currently focused on holding those leaders accountable and overthrowing governments in order to make sharia the law of the land.  His plan also mandates our enemies in the Islamic world be a part of the coalition to defeat ISIS, and also believes ISIS was created for some other reason other than the truth that Islamic law requires it.

“We have to understand who ISIS is.  ISIS is a radical Sunni group.  They cannot just be defeated through air strikes.  Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force.  And that ground force must be made up of sunni Arabs themselves.  Sunni Arabs who reject them ideologically and confront them militarily…Asad is one of the main reasons ISIS exists to begin with.  Asad is a puppet of Iran. And he has been so brutal towards the sunni within Syria, that he created the space that led for the people of Syria themselves to stand up and try to overthrow him.  That led to the chaos which allowed ISIS to come in and take advantage of that situation and grow more powerful.”

Overall, the candidates did not acknowledge the reality that the war against us is a Global Islamic Movement, not merely ISIS.  Did Al Qaeda evaporate from the planet by the way?

Many of the candidates also proclaimed we must use Muslim forces to defeat Muslim forces.  This is not rational on the face of it.  America must do what we need to do to defend our sovereignty, our government, our people, and our way of life.

Additionally, none of the candidates spoke truth into the massive jihadi network here in America that is much more of an imminent threat to all of us than ISIS in Syria is.

The good news is, the needle has moved and the discussions are getting closer to the truth.  Most of that is because Mr. Trump has forced these discussions, and that is good for American national security and our future.

Smugglers Attempting to Sell Radioactive Material to Islamists

A truck in Moldova (Photo: © Saskia Heijltjes Creative Commons)

A truck in Moldova (Photo: © Saskia Heijltjes Creative Commons)

Clarion Project, Oct. 7, 2015:

Smugglers in Eastern Europe have been attempting to sell nuclear material to Islamist extremists, according to Associated Press reports.

The deals were attempted in Moldova, a small country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.

The FBI has been fighting a secret war against the smugglers for the past five years in cooperation with local authorities. Criminal organizations with ties to the former Soviet secret police force the KGB have been running the operations.

The most recent attempt was in February this year, when a smuggler tried to sell a large quantity of radioactive cesium specifically to the Islamic State. The cesium was reported to be enough to contaminate several city blocks.

The other three cases were reported as happening in:

  • 2010, when three people were arrested for selling depleted uranium;
  • 2011, when authorities disrupted a deal to sell weapons grade uranium; and
  • 2014, when six people arrested for selling unenriched uranium.

Police and judicial authorities in Moldova told AP that the FBI has thwarted four attempts to transfer nuclear material to Islamist extremists in the past five years.

They used undercover agents to infiltrate the smuggling rings and make arrests.

However, leading smugglers escaped or evaded lengthy prison sentences and the smuggling problem continues.

Constantin Malic, a Moldovan police officer, investigated all four smuggling cases. In one case a smuggler told an informant that he specifically wanted to sell to terrorists because they would use the nuclear material to attack America.

“He said to the informant on a wire: ‘I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans,” Malic said.

“We can expect more of these cases,” Malic predicted. “As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it.”

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