This Fictional Memo to the President from 1989 Predicted Terrorism in the US

'Rules of the Game' by G. Gordon Liddy was originally published in the January 1989 issue of Omni Magazine.

Editor's Note from Omni, 1989:

On my corner, the drug guys hang out cracking (which in this context means trading insults) until launched to the pay phone by their beeping pagers. Current fashion dictates that you clip these in the bottom crook of pants pockets.

To the uninitiated, this scene is no big deal, save perhaps for the oddity of crackozoids in rags sporting pricey pagers. This stealthy curbside use of high-tech com gear is just good business. Crime today is a paramilitary operation, and just like an army, it depends on com gear as much as on weaponry.

Beepers and cellular phones let you coordinate complicated plans involving men and material constantly on the move. That's how loads of coca leaf make it through the jungle to basuca-paste factories and then via overloaded planes and boats through the AWACS (airborne warning and control system) net of our coastal defenses so that tiny empty crack vials eventually wind up in the gutter at the feet of the drug guys on my corner.

Today, drug gangs deal mostly in drugs and weapons and have no political or strategic agenda. But in 1986 a terrifying episode perhaps heralded a shift in this direction: A drug gang in Chicago reached out and phoned someone in the Libyan government-possibly strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi himself- with an offer to commit terrorism for a price.

Luckily the FBI tumbled onto the scheme. Now the gang leaders are doing time. International terrorism—so long a tragic staple of the rest of the world's bitter diet—has yet to reach the U.S. mainland. But the signs are clear that violence is becoming a multinational business.

It's not just the readily available beepers and car phones and bugging and antibugging devices, too, for that matter. These days $600 buys you a semiautomatic Uzi—the terrorist's favorite. No, you can't get that deal in my neighborhood. For the Uzi, you have to go to the Woolworth outlets in either North Miami Beach or Hollywood, Florida.

The Memorandum that follows, so artfully done by G. Gordon Liddy, elucidates one way that terrorism might strike at home in the all-too-near future in the hands of a small, Communist-backed cadre. These terrorists would hit power plants, rail lines, airports, and natural gas pipelines. Although Liddy's tale is pure speculation, it is based on technologies and tactics that are very real.

Knocking out these essential parts of a country's infrastructure is also a preferred way to wage a modern war, say proponents of a new, deadly strategy called low-intensity conflict. This approach is exemplified in a profusion of brushfire conflicts around the globe: Freedom fighters in Nicaragua and Afghanistan do it; Marxist rebels in EI Salvador do it. But so do the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Red Army Faction.

How military strategy evolved to this sort of warfare and the likelihood that it will backfire, fanning terrorism's flames and bringing it all back home are the subjects of the compelling piece on page 46 by Peter Kornbluh, coeditor with Michael T Klare of the book Low-Intensity Warfare: Counterinsurgency, Proinsurgency, and Antiterrorism in the Eighties.

Debate rages, naturally, over who is to blame for the brutal low-intensity conflicts now dotting the globe. It's tough singling out one guilty party, considering how fashionable small, cool conflicts have become.

—The Editor

THE WHITE HOUSE TOP SECRET

PENUMBRA IKON ZOAR JENN IFER HELOS
SENSITIVE
NODIS
09 September 1999

MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT

FROM: AXEL JOHANSEN [Chief of Staff]

SUBJECT: HOW AMERICA WAS SHUT DOWN

This memorandum is a summary of and attached to, the comprehensive damage report, physical and political, on the coordinated terrorist sabotage attack on the night of second August. The political section has, as ordered, been expanded to include a report on the Capitol Hill riot of last Thursday, which cost 13 lives, including those of the speaker of the House and a congressman before order was finally restored.

U.S. Commercial Aircraft Industry: 90 Percent Inoperative

The rendering of U.S. jet equipment inventory unusable cannot be attributed to the events of second August. The intelligence community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are, however, unanimously in agreement that the two are part of the same overall operation. This conclusion is based primarily upon the evidence taken from the body of a female slain by SEAL Team 3 on second August in the San Diego area while she was participating in the attack on the national electrical power distribution system (next heading). But for this fortuitous event, the sudden structural failure of several aircraft belonging to each U. S. carrier would still be blamed on age (a la the 1988 Aloha aircraft incident, when metal fatigue caused the roof of a Boeing 737 to rupture in flight). As it is, we have had to ground the U.S. civil commercial aviation fleet for an indefinite time, but at least we know what to look for.

Japanese intelligence has confirmed that the body of the woman slain by the SEALs is that of a member of their "Red Army" group. On her person was an item at first thought unrelated to her mission: what appeared to be a U.S.-made Magic Marker, which, although not dried out, did not mark. The fluid it contained has now been identified by researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as nearly chemically identical to our classified liquid metal embrittlement (LME) agent. Unfortunately, prior to being added to the classified technologies list, the LME agent was discussed in open literature.

With the aid of the LME marking device, a terrorist could gain, and obviously has gained, access to aircraft and by the simple process of drawing a virtually undetectable line across fuselage components subject to stress, could cause the metal under the line to become brittle enough to fail shortly after it is next subjected to the stress of flight.

It will take a long time to check every aircraft unless under interrogation any of the few prisoners we were able to take will talk. They are being questioned by CIA, over the protests of the FBI, because in this rare instance CIA methods are justified for domestic use and are not in the FBI repertoire.

We have been able to achieve 10 percent capacity of normal civil or commercial air transport only because the smaller turbine commuter aircraft were not attacked, nor were the aircraft of foreign carriers, a number of which have generously leased us spare aircraft at extortionate rates.

Even assuming the best, the fear of the American public for the safety of our civil fleet will have a lasting, very economically damaging effect.

Nation's Capital and Seven Largest Metropolitan Areas Blacked Out Indefinitely

Since the devastating New York City blackout of 1977 much has been done by way of redundancy to protect entire nets from chain-reaction failures. Nevertheless the terrorists exploited a vulnerability brought to governmental attention several administrations ago (and ignored since) by Dr. Robert H. Kupperman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The terrorists did their homework very thoroughly.

Kupperman's point is as follows: In order to achieve economies of scale, generated electrical power is transmitted over long distances at extremely high voltage (EHV). Think of a power line as a water pipe. In electrical terms, amperage is the flow of water through the pipe. Voltage is the pressure. The higher the pressure, the greater the amount of water a given pipe can transport. To get water under pressure requires a pump. To get electricity under pressure requires a transformer. EHV requires an EHV transformer, both to step the voltage up at the beginning of its journey and down at its destination.

There are only about 500 EHV transformers in the entire nation. Their locations are shown on a map available to the public. Most are protected by no more than a chain-link fence and warning signs that serve to confirm exactly what they are. EHV transformers are sophisticated pieces of equipment not manufactured in the United States. The lead time for delivery of a new one from abroad is 18 months. They can be put out of operation by a high-powered rifle.

Thus a small number of terrorists—a few using .458 Winchester magnum rifles (as was the woman killed by the SEALs), and the rest Israeli-made copies of our Marine Corps' new 40mm lightweight, polymer/ceramic, near-handgun—size grenade launchers-took out the few key EHV transformers around Washington, DC, New York City/Newark, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Oakland/San Francisco, and Los Angeles. San Diego was saved when an element of SEAL Team 3, on a security penetration test mission, came upon one of the terrorists who panicked and fired on them. After killing her, the SEALs grasped her mission, alerted their superiors, and in short order we had nearly half the few prisoners captured to date.

The aftermath of the EHV attack has been devastating. There is no power for the water supply pumps. The effects of arson are impossible to control. Martial law is barely able to maintain order now that the stores are looted and burned. Vigilante justice is rampant. Sanitation has broken down, and the rats are out of control in New York City It will take six months to a year, under emergency conditions, to acquire and replace the transformers and restore the electrical power.

North-South Rail Traffic in Eastern United States Severed; Much of Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) Out

Unfortunately, all major north-south railroad traffic in the eastern United States funnels through two choke points: a single strategic railroad bridge over the Potomac River between Washington, DC, and Virginia, and the rail complex at Cincinnati. On the night of second August, terrorist-planted pressure mines—set so that they would go off only under the weight of a full train—took out the Potomac Bridge, and the Cincinnati choke point was severed by use of an expert combination of low-order (ammonium nitrate combined with heating-grade fuel oil) and high-order (both C4 and dynamite) explosives.

Rebuilding is under way, but as you read this, the accordion effect, coupled with the fact that power outages make it impossible to pump automotive fuel, promises substantial interruption of freight delivery, especially of food staples, for some time to come.

Natural Gas Supply for Industrial, Utility, Commercial, and Residential Use in Northeastern and Atlantic Coastal U.S. Cut by 75 Percent; Restoration to Take a Year

Seventy-one percent of domestic natural gas is produced in Texas and Louisiana. Texas consumes a substantial amount of its own production. The remainder is exported interstate via pipelines combining both lengths of pipe and compressor stations. Louisiana, by contrast, consumes little of its production; the bulk of it, combined with excess Texas gas transported from next door, is shipped by pipeline interstate to the northeastern and Atlantic coastal markets. Thus the terrorists, by targeting just the key compressors and a few pipeline river crossings (easily identified by large warning signs saying, WARNING- DO NOT ANCHOR- PIPELINE) entirely within the state of Louisiana, caused a catastrophe. From Louisiana, the pipe network fans out into the Northeast and Atlantic Coast. The key compressors are in Louisiana at the base of the fan. They have no protection at all.

As with the EHV transformers, many of the gas compressors were manufactured abroad. Replacement lead times are long. Very few are in inventory. The damaged compressors destroyed easily by Soviet RPG-Ts (rifle-propelled grenades), cannot be repaired. Even after gas transmission restoration, it will take nearly a year just to relight the industrial pilot lights in large utility and manufacturing installations.

Computer Database Erasure of Wall Street, Six Federal Reserve Banks, Two IRS Service Centers, Several of Largest Commercial Banks, and Numerous Corporations Produces Fiscal Chaos

The same small teams that attacked the EHV transformers serving New York, Washington, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco then used man-transportable electromagnetic pulse generators (EMPGs) to erase computer databases in those cities. The extent of the havoc is now becoming clear as all but the cash monetary system collapses.

A Special Operations Capable Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOCMEU) exercising in Louisiana was alerted by the demolition of a natural gas pipeline at a river crossing. By dawn, they killed six and captured four from two separate five-man terrorist teams. Captured with one team was its EMPG.

The EMPG, cruder and bulkier than our own classified device, appears to be of Soviet origin. While both theirs and ours use superconductors, theirs is coupled with an explosion, whereas ours uses an implosion for greater yield.

The best minds we have been trying to find ways to reconstruct what was lost through retrieval of partial data from unaffected network components. They are working first on the governmental losses.

“Experts have been worried about computer viruses for years. The threat is minor compared to EMPG- it erases everything: records of Treasury bonds, VA checks, civilian and military pensions.”

It may, for example, be possible through the use of old paper records that may survive in local offices, as well as any correspondence in the hands of individual citizens, to reconstruct some of the Social Security system. We may, however, have to ask Congress to consider some sort of postcatastrophic forgiveness or moratorium and a fresh start for some of the private sector.

The loss of Social Security records causes the most severe impact on civilians; the government is more devastated by the loss of IRS records. Many experts have for years been worried about computer viruses. Their threat is minor compared to that of the EMPG, which erases everything: records of Treasury bonds, VA checks, pension plans, military pensions. Some military installations are protected from EMPGs, but none of the civilian-military ones are, such as those installations where records of military pensions are kept.

Who Did It and How?

Intelligence community and Department of Defense (DOD) estimates of the total number of terrorists involved in the coordinated attack vary from 100 to 250. We shall not know the exact number for a long time, if ever. Although the terrorists are being hunted by both the FBI and civil authorities on the theory of criminal law violation, as by DOD Special Warfare (SPECWAR) assets such as the SEALs, SOCMEU, and the Army's Delta Forceon the theory of military attack and under martial law, CIA believes that in the continuing chaos following the assault most participants slipped out of the country, probably via Mexico.

Although worldwide there are more than 3,000 terrorists belonging to about 50 organizations, the intelligence community pinpoints only about five groups with a combined membership of about 200 highly trained men and women as being capable of the second August attack. While there are different estimates of the number of international terrorist groups, here we are including the PLO, IRA (which became totally Marxist, so now there exists the provisional IRA, called the Provos, which is the majority and socialist), Japanese Red Army, the French Action Directe, the Islamic Jihad. Some groups are bogus, like Black September, which was created by the PLO so that it could deny its role in the Olympics massacre. It is, however, unlikely that they could all be recruited for this operation.

Noting that all those captured by the SOCMEU in Louisiana were black aliens, CIA has assigned a high degree of credibility to the information passed on by Mossad that the entire Louisiana attacking force was recruited from black citizens of Communist African nations who were students at the Soviets' Patrice Lumumba University and that the recruits' training took place at the same bases that are used to train the PLO as well as other terrorist groups.

Mossad advances the foregoing based upon three factors: that the attack was Soviet-sponsored and directed (CIA is not so sure. They like the Qaddafi revenge theory better- that he arranged the attack to avenge the death of his daughter in 1986 when we bombed his palace); that the existing pool of 200 sufficiently trained terrorists could not be recruited en masse for one operation; and that groups of blacks could pass unnoticed in Louisiana, given the existing residual racism in the region.

This led to the white commanding officers ignoring the input of competent black police in the South, who detected the presence of black aliens immediately and submitted their field intelligence reports on this matter—the typical police operations procedure. (FBI records tend to lend support to this theory. According to reports from the New Orleans field office, black police officers in Louisiana picked up rumors of strange blacks moving about, but when they reported them to their white superiors, they were either ridiculed or completely ignored.)

It is the consensus, therefore, that the terrorists were recruited from among the 200 who constitute the transnational threat, further supplemented by a contingent of trained-for-the-event Communist black Africans.

The Soviet initiation theory is lent credence by the possession of the EMPG devices. Other than us, only the Soviets are known to have them, and although Israel could probably build one, it would most likely employ our implosion/superconductor technology rather than that of the cruder, less efficient Soviet model.

DARPA suggests Soviet responsibility based not only on the EMPG technology but also on the captured communications equipment. It nearly mirrors our latest classified gear but with construction techniques peculiarly Soviet. The transceivers operate using a constant sweep of an exceptionally large number of frequencies so that no one frequency is used for more than a microsecond at a time, rendering effective interception virtually impossible. Both Israel and Switzerland have equipment operating on the same principle. We have acquired specimens of both, and the transceivers in question are definitely neither.

The question of responsibility remains in doubt, in view of the foregoing. CIA avers that only the black Africans can be believed to have acted from ideological conviction. International terrorists are real, regardless of their rhetoric, not ideological, despite undistributed extreme left or right dispositions. They do it for personal, psychosocial reasons-because they "like" it. 

The how of it is relatively simple. The terrorists were outfitted with appropriate clothing, alias documentation, and pocket litter and infiltrated into the nation with the most porous border on Earth. Armament in total (including AK-47 assault rifles, RPG-7's, handguns, ammunition, and miscellaneous mines and other ordnance) amounted to a small mass compared with the bulk of such regularly smuggled contraband as marijuana. All the odd laws we passed against "plastic" guns did nothing to halt the march of technology, specifically the production of plastic polymer and ceramic guns. While weapons made of these materials are a bit delicate for use in traditional hand-to-hand fashion- i.e., to strike the enemy with-ceramic/plastic construction offers a number of benefits. Ceramic/polymer weapons are impervious to rust, extreme heat, and the elements, and they are self-cleaning.

What we have accomplished with our restrictive laws on this technology was to lose a large new industry and all the jobs that go with it. Even without resorting to such high-tech weapons, it is relatively straightforward to get a standard-construction gun through the airport magnetometers and roentgen machines, which are a joke. In a previous terrorist attack on an aircraft, for example, the protagonists took a common semiautomatic pistol apart and immersed its pieces in molten leaded crystal. This passed as an opaque object through the airport machines. Once airborne, one of the terrorists went into the plane's bathroom, broke the glass, and reassembled the pistol. There is no substitute for human inspection by trained personnel.

Which leaves the question of why. To understand that requires a recapitulation of what has been done to us; what has been accomplished from the point of view of whoever was behind the attack.

Our biggest cities and the huge areas surrounding them (the Boston/New York/ Baltimore/Washington metropolitan areas interconnect) are without electrical power, have been so for a month, and will continue to be so for many more. Food has spoiled because there is no refrigeration. (Gas-powered refrigerators have run out.) Fuel cannot be pumped. What traffic there is gridlocked because there are no operational traffic signals.

Garbage is piled up. Rats are running rampant. Emergency generators at hospitals are out of fuel, and the hospitals are running out of supplies. Freight cannot be moved. Factories are out of operation. Food produced in relatively unaffected areas cannot be marketed or even effectively distributed as relief in the affected areas because there is no electricity, and combustion engines need fuel. Police, mistakenly now wedded to and dependent upon the automobile, are crippled. The people, weaned on what passes for news on television and radio, are without it.

Virtually every citizen in the vast areas affected by the attack is now jobless because factories have no fuel or power. The homes in the North are without heat and light, with winter coming on. The economy as we know it is at a halt, and the banking system is shut down. Denied such basics of civilization as police, fire, and healthcare, people are frantic. They have looked to Washington, and Washington has been able to do nothing. We cannot even communicate effectively with these people. Even battery-powered portable radios are failing as their batteries give out.

As you know, according to Kupperman and other observers, the "prayer" of public officials has always been that a disaster will be either so immense as to be perceived as an "act of God" and thus engage the loyalty and team spirit of both the government and a patient populace or so small that it will go away by itself. The dread of officials is the one in between, affecting more than one choke point, the one with which government cannot cope. It is dreaded because it damages the faith of the people in their government and way of life.

The current situation is a nightmare. The people know this was not an act of God. What has happened is so immense as to be almost incomprehensible to them. The people expect their government to do something about it; to fix the problem and punish those responsible. And the American people are not patient. Their faith in what the Founding Fathers wrought is ebbing fast. It is this last factor that occasioned the following.

The Capitol Hill Riot

DOD, working with the Secret Service, has taken elaborate precautions to protect the White House from the angry mobs that looted and burned the K Street corridor. The service has taken additional steps to protect the White House. This is beyond the work that has been done in past years, including the concrete, barriers and extensive sensor deployment. As you are aware, if a would-be intruder stood in Lafayette Park and looked at the executive mansion, he would be observed via high-powered TV monitors secreted in the little vent housings on the roof of the White House. Beyond this, should an individual set foot anywhere on the lawn area, sensors would display exactly where he or she was. Should evacuation become necessary for you or members of your staff, there is the escape tunnel from the White House into the Treasury- which has been recently checked and is fully operational. It was anticipated that the focus of resentment would be upon your office and the White House, the symbol of authority of the national government throughout our history. We know now that that has changed.

Gradually, over the past few administrations, as Congress passed law after law for the people and the executive branch to follow but excepted Congress itself (the civil rights acts, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the minimum wage laws, etc.) and as Congress continued to act as if the rest of the laws of the land did not apply to its members (and indeed, the Constitution itself, as Congress usurped more and more of the powers of the executive branch), the perception of the people shifted like the needle of a compass toward a more powerful magnet. The Capitol building came to supplant the White House as the foremost symbol of power as well as the actual locus of power.

Thus the rage and frustration of the people was not directed at you but at Congress. Speaker of the House Galloway, bravely defying the urgent advice of the Capitol police, sought to confront and calm the mob sacking the Capitol building and beating individual members. The mob, shouting obscenities and references to the speaker's recent press conference - at which he denied new charges of illegality in his solicitation of campaign contributions-used electrical cable from a nearby construction repair site to hang him from a lamppost.

Action

We have got to reunite the country without delay. Already for millions, their faith in government and our way of life has been destroyed. We can keep that from happening to the majority of the population. The present situation serves as an opportunity to do that and to achieve the return of power to the presidency. As a bonus, we can be rid of Communist Nicaragua. The armed forces are intact and functioning. A quick strike by all three divisions of the Marine Corps (the Army will scream, but we need them here to deal with the emergency) will get rid of the comandantes within 90 days. It will focus the public's attention outside and let us get a handle on things domestic. This recommendation is concurred in by all of your Cabinet save the Department of State.

The aim of this action is to divert the country from its domestic woes. This is a perfect job for the Marines-it is the sort of mission that they are intended to perform. The general plan of battle is for one division to land via an amphibious assault on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, and another on the Pacific side, with the third division in reserve. The division landing on the Pacific coast would capture Managua. The Sandinistas are expected to take to the countryside. The two divisions would then employ a classic pincer movement to trap the Nicaraguan forces between them.

The legal scenario that such action would prompt is as follows. Congress passed the War Powers Act, to which no President has yet yielded. Nor has any President tested it, either legally or politically. The legal test for those opposed to this act centers on the theory that if you read it together with the decision of the Supreme Court that struck down the congressional veto, then the War Powers Act is unconstitutional and thus can be ignored by the President. In short, we could just do it and then tell those against our action to take us to court. Strategically, from a legal point of view it is important to note also that because Nicaragua is small, if you use overwhelming power and get the job done and the U.S. troops out within 90 days, the War Powers Act never goes into effect, and the point is moot.

"Delay in the use of force, and hesitation to accept responsibility for its employment when the situation clearly demands it, will always be interpreted as a weakness. Such indecision will encourage further disorder, and will eventually necessitate measures more severe than those which would have sufficed in the first instance."- The United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual

Your father and any other veteran of WWII would remember.

This article orginally appeared in the January 1989 issue of Omni Magazine.

Natasha Sydor
Natasha Sydor

French-born travel enthusiast. Enters the Hamilton lottery everyday (and doesn't want to talk about the results). Maybe one day she’ll be an extra in a Star Wars film... 

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This Fictional Memo to the President from 1989 Predicted Terrorism in the US