What kind of weapon could wipe out food and medicine distribution, force America into a slumber for decades, make planes fall from the sky, permanently shut down the U.S. electrical grid, sever communications systems and lead to the deaths of millions?
In this image made from KRT video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a massive celebration marking the 100th birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung, Sunday, April 15, 2012, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP)
It's called an electromagnetic pulse weapon, or EMP. Wednesday's new episode of TheBlaze TV's For The Record, Blackout (8:30 p.m. ET), reveals the very real threat America faces if such a weapon were detonated above the nation's skies.
Multiple senior U.S. officials, lawmakers, military personnel and intelligence analysts say the Obama administration needs to take this threat seriously and prepare in the event an attack that would set the U.S. back to pre-industrial times and leave us vulnerable to enemy states.
James Woolsey, who served as CIA director from 1993 to 1995, told "For The Record" that 9/11 was a wake-up call that enemies of the United States were looking to launch massive attacks.
He said senior government officials began thinking outside the box and questioned what "if the government in North Korea or in Iran really thought that the world would be so much a better place and that they themselves would be so much more likely to go to heaven if they could just kill as many Americans as possible?"
"These guys lusted after massive destruction," Woolsey told "For the Record."
North Korea presents that very real threat. In 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would shift the focus of its military might from the Middle East to Asia.
"There was concern that the U.S. was missing the bigger picture," a U.S. official said. "North Korea, China presented problems that we still have not fully grasped. A rogue nation like North Korea can be very dangerous."
Earlier this year, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency declassified parts of a report presented to Congress that emphasized the threat of North Korea's missile program, and its rocket launch in 2012.
The DIA report stated the agency accessed with "moderate confidence that North (Korea) currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles … However, the reliability will be low.”
The Pentagon, however, quickly went into damage control, attempting to clarify the statement saying, “it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage."
Michaela Dodge and Jessica Zuckerman, both senior defense and strategic policy analysts with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, said in a 2012 report that "Congress should demand that the administration develop, test and ultimately field defenses against EMP attacks, including improved ballistic missile defenses capable of countering short-range ballistic missiles that can carry EMP warheads."
The most effective way of delivering an EMP attack is by detonating the weapon at a high altitude so energetic particles "released during the explosion would disable, damage or destroy all unhardened electronic devices within the line of sight of the detonation," the report said.
"A rogue state would not need a long-range ballistic missile to deliver a nuclear warhead," their report stated. "Even short-range ballistic missiles carrying an EMP device or a nuclear warhead launched from a ship off the U.S. coast could impact millions. Today, over 30 countries, including Iran and North Korea, possess ballistic missile capabilities."
Michael Del Rosso, an engineer and Pentagon consultant who has worked with the EMP commission, described the findings in the unclassified 2004 and 2008 and noted that the commission published five reports, three were classified and two were unclassified.
Del Rosso, who also participated in confidential briefings on nuclear threats to America, said "this is what national states like Iran and North Korea have spent billions of dollars developing this capability and they're doing it for a reason. And they say the reason is the fact that they see the United States as their primary adversary."
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