* America's Ultra-Secret Weapon - Days Before Going to Bat For Wireless Companies, Bush Administration Official Was Feted by Lobbyists - SAY NO TO WAR IN IRAQ (22/1/03)
America's Ultra-Secret Weapon


Posted Sunday, January 19, 2003; 10:31 a.m. EST

Every war has its wonder weapon. In Afghanistan, it was the Predator, the unmanned drone that would loiter, invisibly, over the battlefield before unleashing a Hellfire missile on an unsuspecting target. The Gulf War marked the debut of precision-guided munitions, and in Vietnam helicopters came of age. World War II gave us the horror of nuclear weapons, and World War I introduced the tank. If there's a second Gulf War, get ready to meet the high-power microwave.

HPMs are man-made lightning bolts crammed into cruise missiles. They could be key weapons for targeting Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. HPMs fry the sophisticated computers and electronic gear necessary to produce, protect, store and deliver such agents. The powerful electromagnetic pulses can travel into deeply buried bunkers through ventilation shafts, plumbing and antennas. But unlike conventional explosives, they won't spew deadly agents into the air, where they could poison Iraqi civilians or advancing U.S. troops.

The HPM is a top-secret program, and the Pentagon wants to keep it that way. Senior military officials have dropped hints about a new, classified weapon for Iraq but won't provide details. Still, information about HPMs, first successfully tested in 1999, has trickled out. "High-power microwave technology is ready for the transition to active weapons in the U.S. military," Air Force Colonel Eileen Walling wrote in a rare, unclassified report on the program three years ago. "There are signs that microwave weapons will represent a revolutionary concept for warfare, principally because microwaves are designed to incapacitate equipment rather than humans."

HPMs can unleash in a flash as much electrical power-2 billion watts or more-as the Hoover Dam generates in 24 hours. Capacitors aboard the missile discharge an energy pulse-moving at the speed of light and impervious to bad weather-in front of the missile as it nears its target. That pulse can destroy any electronics within 1,000 ft. of the flash by short-circuiting internal electrical connections, thereby wrecking memory chips, ruining computer motherboards and generally screwing up electronic components not built to withstand such powerful surges. It's similar to what can happen to your computer or TV when lightning strikes nearby and a tidal wave of electricity rides in through the wiring.

Most of this "e-bomb" development is taking place at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M. The Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland has been studying how to deliver varying but predictable electrical pulses to inflict increasing levels of harm: to deny, degrade, damage or destroy, to use the Pentagon's parlance. HPM engineers call it "dial-a-hurt." But that hurt can cause unintended problems: beyond taking out a tyrant's silicon chips, HPMs could destroy nearby heart pacemakers and other life-critical electrical systems in hospitals or aboard aircraft (that's why the U.S. military is putting them only on long-range cruise missiles). The U.S. used a more primitive form of these weapons-known as soft bombs-against Yugoslavia and in the first Gulf War, when cruise missiles showered miles of thin carbon fibers over electrical facilities, creating massive short circuits that shut down electrical power.

Although the Pentagon prefers not to use experimental weapons on the battlefield, "the world intervenes from time to time," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says. "And you reach in there and take something out that is still in a developmental stage, and you might use it."


Informant: Volker Hartenstein Member of the Bavarian Parliament

Days Before Going to Bat For Wireless Companies, Bush Administration
Official Was Feted by Lobbyists

By Pete Yost
Associated Press


Monday 20 January 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) The Bush administration's point person for telecommunications policy allowed wireless phone company lobbyists to help pay for a private reception at her home, and then 10 days later urged a policy change that benefited their industry, according to documents and interviews.

Assistant Commerce Secretary Nancy Victory said she regards the lobbyists as personal friends, and cleared the arrangement in advance with her department's ethics office. She did not report the October 2001 party as a gift on her government ethics disclosure form.

''My friends paid for this party out of their personal money,'' Victory said in an interview last week with The Associated Press.

Victory added she believed it was ''ridiculous'' to draw a connection between the party and her letter 10 days later to the Federal Communications Commission urging an immediate end to a decade-old restriction on wireless spectrum.

''Many of the attendees had nothing to do with that issue,'' she said, declining to further identify the guests.

Ethics experts said the arrangement at the very least heightens public concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest, and may have run afoul of federal ethics standards.

''Going ahead with this party seems insensitive to public concern about whether this Bush administration is in the pocket of corporations and lobbyists. It doesn't look good for her or the administration,'' said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who teaches legal and government ethics.

Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University's law school, said Victory had a legal obligation to disclose the lobbyists' largesse on her financial disclosure form.

''Victory's industry friends could pay for the party out of their own pocket, but she had a duty to reveal their contribution to the public,'' Gillers said. Under federal ethics rules, Victory can correct the matter by revising her financial disclosure form.

Victory serves as administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and is the administration's policy representative before the independent Federal Communications Commission.

The party Oct. 14, 2001 was paid for by six hosts, including lobbyists for three companies with a stake in wireless communications and an attorney from Victory's old law firm where her husband is a partner specializing in communications law.

Corporate representatives from the telecommunications industry were among the dozens of party guests, according to Victory.

A copy of the party's invitation, obtained by AP, clearly names at the top lobbyists Brian Fontes of Cingular Wireless, Priscilla Hill-Ardoin of SBC Telecommunications and Rich Barth of wireless phone manufacturer Motorola.

It said the hosts ''invite you and your guest to a reception in honor of Nancy Victory,'' and urged attendees to RSVP to a number or e-mail address at Victory's old law firm.

Ten days after the catered reception at Victory's million-dollar home in Great Falls, Va., she asked the FCC to immediately repeal restrictions that Cingular, SBC and other major cellular companies had long complained about.

The FCC voted two weeks later to phase out by Jan. 1, 2003, the limits on how much of the spectrum individual carriers could own in a geographic area. The agency had put the limits in place in the early 1990s to promote competition.

In today's market, ''rules such as these that draw arbitrary lines in the name of ensuring competition are simply not needed,'' Victory wrote the FCC on Oct. 24, 2001.

The carriers argued that more airwaves would give them the space to provide advanced mobile services, but critics said the change would squeeze out smaller competitors and drive up rates.

Casting the single vote against the change, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said that the agency had not done enough to study the shortage of airwaves.

''This is, for some, more about corporate mergers than it is about anything else,'' Copps said at the time.

Cingular and SBC both had formally urged the FCC to end the restrictions. Motorola did not weigh in on the issue, but it's largest commercial cellular customers, including Cingular, advocated repeal.

Victory declined to name any of the invited guests, but said a government ethics officer told her in advance that ''these parties are very, very common'' and that there was no ethical problem as long as those at the reception were personal friends.

Victory said she did not provide the ethics officer with a list of those from industry, ''nor should that be necessary. They're my friends.'' The ethics officer, she said, also told her she didn't have to report the party as a gift.

At least one company whose lobbyist helped pick up the tab, SBC, is checking to see if the approximately $480 its lobbyist spent came from corporate funds. Fontes and Barth said they don't remember how much they paid or whether the money came from corporate funds.

''A group of folks who either worked with Nancy or have known her for many years just got together to toast her,'' Fontes said. Victory had been confirmed by the Senate for her new government post two months earlier.

Kirsten Lovett, a spokeswoman at Victory's former law firm, Wiley Rein & 0Fielding, said in a statement that ''I do not know anything about the party to which you refer as it was not a firm function'' even though the invitation's RSVP listed a number and e-mail address at the firm and one of its partners was a co-host.

Wiley Rein & Fielding, is one of the largest communications law firms in town. The founder, Richard Wiley, was an FCC commissioner and chairman during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Informant: Don Maisch



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