Vulnerabilities in US National Security the Media Won’t Talk About

The media’s depiction of the vulnerabilities in our national security is somewhat of a joke. Claiming to preserve the interests of the American public, sensationalist lawmakers and the oligopolistic media portray an inaccurate depiction of America’s current state of national security.

Never mind Homeland Security’s frightening resemblance to a fascist organization with blatant conflicts of profit interest, or the media’s firm grasp on the dispersion of information due to the concentration of ownership within the various broadcasting industries belonging to a few corporations. Let’s focus for a moment on the realistic vulnerabilities that the majority of the public is completely oblivious towards, vulnerabilities that should be addressed, but are left almost completely neglected.

Nuclear weapons have often been at the forefront of conversation regarding terrorist attacks since the inception of the atomic bomb. Political rants about “weapons of mass destruction” have been utilized to justify invading Iraq, and to ensure that the American public is weary of other “disobedient” countries like Iran and North Korea. After all, these countries, along with several terrorist organizations, have enough resources to begin the vastly complicated and expensive process of enriching uranium and developing a cruise missile or container to undetectably transport a massive nuclear warhead onto U.S. soil. Not to mention their stellar track record and job perks offered to attract a rare breed of experienced nuclear physicists, which global organizations have a close watch on. Yup, that’s exactly what we should be worried about.

Enriching enough uranium and plutonium to reach critical mass is a cumbersome and dangerous task that requires a powerful and influential organization with incredible amounts of resources.  Acquiring the radioactive materials in sufficient quantities in state of the art refining and manufacturing plants is the easy part (as easy as that could get). The difficulties lie in transporting the warhead onto U.S. soil to wreak havoc. The United States Department of Defense, Air Force, Army, and Navy have state-of-the-art systems to detect and neutralize virtually any sort of threat approaching from the skies or seas. The US Navy has a presence in every single ocean on earth, with the Air Force covering the skies in a similarly blanketed fashion.

The logistics involved in creating or stealing nuclear weapons and delivering it to its target halfway around the world (presumably the US), especially through two oceans on either side, is an unrealistic threat. The nuclear weapon threat has been used as a sensationalist media buzz-term to somehow, someway, justify invading the Middle East. If Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq didn’t have any nuclear weapons (with their vast resources and decades long reign), there’s close to zero probability that rogue, guerilla type terror organizations will (these people are desperate for simple things such as small arms ammunition, and lack the intellectual capital and infrastructure to actually build and deploy a nuclear weapon).

If a terrorist organization’s mission statement was to actually disrupt the social, economic, and political systems in the United States, instilling fear in the public and coercing lawmakers to take unconstitutional measures for “ensuring” the safety of the people, it wouldn’t be too difficult and they wouldn’t necessarily need a nuclear weapon. Some might even argue that the economic demise of the US since 9/11 has been caused, at least marginally, by the terror act itself.

The vulnerabilities of U.S. National Security:

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could wipe out EVERY transistor within a particular range of detonation of a nuclear or non-nuclear fluctuating magnetic explosion. An abrupt burst of electromagnetic radiation would rapidly change the surrounding electric and magnetic fields, producing damaging current and voltage surges. Every device with electronic components would become useless until the damaged parts were replaced. All the data in every hard drive of a personal computer or server, or flash memory on a camera or cell phone would be wiped out instantaneously! The electronic systems regulating the power grid would be wiped out and nearly all of the electronic components would be damaged. Technicians wouldn’t be able to simply replace a couple fuses to get it up and running again. Nearly every modern automobile would be rendered useless because they rely on electronic ignition systems. An EMP effectively sends any modern society hurling back into the Stone Age.

Furthermore, the implications would be far more disruptive than a cell phone not functioning or a car not starting. Consider the number of electronic devices in hospitals that would fail, or the refrigeration systems reliant on the power grid. The detonation of such a bomb or magnetic field would disrupt the very fabric of the U.S.’s socio-political and economic structures. The reality is that there aren’t enough functioning electronics to replace the damaged parts in the event of a powerful EMP. This sort of attack would virtually send the U.S. back to the 1800’s, but with a more ignorant population since we’ve become heavily dependent on electronics and the compartmentalization of industry for food and basic services, amongst other things.

Unfortunately, modern technology has made it easier to manufacture small scale EMP producing weapons that could be virtually undetected until detonation. These sorts of weapons could be synchronized to detonate several miles away from major power plants across the U.S. and produce far reaching affects.

Vulnerabilities in the Pharmaceutical Industry

More than 80 percent of the active ingredients for drugs sold in the U.S. are manufactured abroad [1]. That, in itself, is a major vulnerability for the United States. These aren’t just complex, small-time market drugs either; these include drugs that could potentially come into high demand at a large scale. In 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb closed its factory in East Syracuse, New York, which was the last plant in the United States to manufacture the major ingredients for crucial antibiotics like penicillin [2]. Furthermore, the FDA does not have direct oversight of any of the manufacturing plants abroad. The FDA does not and cannot (at least for now) regulate the operations of these plants. If history has taught us anything, it is that the compartmentalization of manufacturing industries outside of the nation is a great way to ensure regional collapse in the occurrence of a catastrophic event. The real issue here is the myriad of critical materials and products that the US has to import, and the vulnerabilities those import dynamics create in case of emergency. Each state, community, or geographically defined region should take reasonable measures to ensure self-sustainability in the event of a catastrophic occurrence, a survival method in case of full supply chain collapse.

Setting aside the shear dangers of outsourcing the manufacturing of crucial antibiotics and other medications, let’s focus for a moment on the potential risks at hand due to the FDA’s inability to regulate these plants. If a terrorist organization aimed to disrupt the social fabric of the U.S., it wouldn’t be very difficult to taint numerous drug manufacturing plants in China and India. This would inevitably destroy the American public’s trust in the pharmaceutical industry, even if tainted medications wouldn’t reach every consumer. Furthermore, if these drugs, especially antibiotics were to become in high demand domestically due to an outbreak, there is little to no recourse set in place for the US to be able to secure these medicines for the domestic population if the global demand should surge. This all goes back to the inevitable dangers of short supply correlated with the outsourcing of major manufacturing and processing plants.

Vulnerabilities of the Power Grid and Our Reliance on Foreign Oil

Former CIA director James Woolsey lectures on the current power grid and energy infrastructure vulnerability.


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