Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned Thursday of potential catastrophic damage to the nation's electronic capabilities.
Huckabee, who hosts shows on Fox News and ABC Radio, was the keynote speaker on the second day of a conference about electromagnetic pulse (EMP), attended by several-hundred people in Niagara Falls Conference Center.
The little-known and controversial phenomenon could be triggered by a nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere, or by solar geomagnetic storms.
Huckabee, an unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential candidate, warned "Islamo-fascists" could instigate EMP with a nuclear weapon.
"Somebody who doesn't like us might say, wouldn't that be a great way to shut down the United States of America?" Huckabee said. "It would have a more immediate and long-term social and economic upheaval than any other attack could produce."
The EMP conference, organized by Henry Schwartz, owner of Steuben Foods in Elma, included defense hawks and neoconservatives who have warned of the EMP threat since Newt Gingrich, the first day's keynote speaker, was House speaker in the 1990s.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Maryland, who oversaw the EMP Commission that reported in 2004 that EMP "might result in the defeat of our military forces," spoke at the conference by video Thursday. In a statement to The News, Bartlett said the threat could be addressed with "an investment of $100 million with available technology [that] would protect our grid from EMP."
Without remedying the problem, Bartlett said, EMP "would inflict damage with a continentwide footprint bigger than any other disaster."
However, critics contend the danger has been exaggerated.
"The EMP Commission is a case study in the revolving door between industry, pro-industry nonprofits and the Pentagon," wrote Nick Schwellenbach of the Project on Government Oversight in 2005.
Huckabee dismissed such skepticism.
"There are always going to be cynics no matter what the threat," he said. "No one has argued it is not possible to happen scientifically."