Popular Mechanics Bashes Former CIA Director, Author Over EMP Threat

Popular Mechanics downplayed the potential devastation of a North Korean electromagnetic pulse attack calling one former CIA director’s take “not realistic.”

Ambassador R. James Woolsey (and former CIA director) co-wrote an opinion piece for The Hill on March 29, arguing that “the press and public officials ignore or under-report” the threat of an EMP attack by North Korea.

Woolsey and Congressional EMP Commission chief of staff Dr. Peter Vincent Pry warned “North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans.” Citing photographs of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, defense estimates of what his military would be capable as well as statements from CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, a former NORAD commander and “senior national security officials” to build their case that the threat of an EMP attack is severe.

Popular Mechanics denounced that idea as “apocalyptic,” and attempted to deride the claims as based on a sci-fi novel embraced by former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

In a bold, highlighted pull quote, Popular Mechanics blared, “THE CLAIM THAT NORTH KOREA COULD KILL 90 PERCENT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WAS DIRECTLY PULLED FROM A SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL.” The novel in question was One Second After by William R. Forstchen.

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

Forstchen issued a heated response on Facebook saying, “Talk about FAKE NEWS. An article published on March 31st in Popular Mechanics alleges that my novel ‘One Second After’ presented the potential of a 90% fatality rate in the wake of an EMP attack. That based upon my book, members of Congress now run with that figure.”

“Such bad reporting is highly misleading and dangerous. I based those grim statistics in my novel on two bipartisan Congressional studies, published in 2004 & 2008,” Forstchen continued. “My novel was published in 2009! How can a novel published years after the first Congressional report influence that report?”

In fact, the notes at the end of Forstchen’s novel cite an interview with an Air Force General published in 2002 by New York Times Magazine, expert testimonies delivered before Congress in 1997, 2004 and 2005, and the 2004 report of the Congressional EMP Commission.

Clearly, he was influenced to write a novel based on the concerns of military experts — not the other way around

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.