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MARCH 14, 2020



 "Bitcoins, Tulipmania and Electric Grid Insecurity"

with Dr. Peter Vincent Pry


Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from and

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Dr. Peter Vincent Pry served as Chief of Staff to the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission. He is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a Congressional Advisory Board dedicated to achieving protection of the United States from electromagnetic pulse (EMP), Cyber Warfare, mass destruction terrorism and other threats to civilian critical infrastructures, on an accelerated basis.  Dr. Pry also is Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory board to Congress on policies to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Kazakhstan consult with Dr. Pry on EMP, Cyber, and other strategic threats.    

Dr. Pry served on the staffs of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (2008-2009); the Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the United States (2006-2008); and the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (2001-2008). 

Dr. Pry served as Professional Staff on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) of the U.S. Congress, with portfolios in nuclear strategy, WMD, Russia, China, NATO, the Middle East, Intelligence, and Terrorism (1995-2001).  While serving on the HASC, Dr. Pry was chief advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the Vice Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and to the Chairman of the Terrorism Panel. Dr. Pry played a key role: running  hearings in Congress that warned terrorists and rogue states could pose EMP and Cyber threats,  establishing the Congressional EMP Commission, helping the Commission develop plans to protect the United States from EMP and Cyber Warfare, and working closely with senior scientists and the nation's top experts on critical infrastructures, EMP and Cyber Warfare.   

Dr. Pry was an Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency responsible for analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy, operational plans, military doctrine, threat  perceptions, and developing U.S. paradigms for strategic warning (1985-1995).  He also served as a Verification Analyst at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency responsible for assessing Soviet arms control treaty compliance (1984-1985). 

Dr. Pry has written numerous books on national security issues, including Blackout WarsApocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse CatastropheElectric Armageddon: Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse CatastropheWar Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink Nuclear Wars: Exchanges and Outcomes;  The Strategic Nuclear Balance: And Why It Matters; and Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal.  Dr. Pry often appears on TV and radio as an expert on national security issues.  The BBC made his book War Scare into a two-hour TV documentary Soviet War Scare 1983 and his book Electric Armageddon was the basis for another TV documentary Electronic Armageddon made by the National Geographic.  


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THE HILL: Bitcoins, tulipmania and electric grid insecurity

Are bitcoins, an electronic cyber currency skyrocketing in value — recently trading above $50,000 for a single bitcoin — the next big advancement toward a high-tech future? Or are bitcoins another big vulnerability for electronic civilization, already facing existential threats from nature and man?

In 2013, four years after the invention of the bitcoin, the former president of the Dutch Central Bank, Nout Wellink, compared the bitcoin to the ruinous “tulipmania” afflicting Holland 400 years ago. Wellink said bitcoins are “worse than the tulipmania. … At least then you got a tulip; now you get nothing.”

During the Dutch Golden Age (1600-1720), Holland was a world empire with a mighty navy, the highest per capita income in the world, and the most advanced system of banking, finance and market trading. Tulips, newly introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire, became enormously popular, including with Dutch investors. By 1637, paper trading for scarce tulips drove up the price for a single tulip bulb to 50,000 golden guilders, more than a skilled craftsman could earn in 10 years.

In February 1637, at an auction in Haarlem, when no one was willing to pay real golden guilders for real tulip bulbs, the bottom fell out of the market and paper stocks on tulip bulbs became worthless. Modern historians quibble over whether the Dutch tulipmania is history’s first example of a burst economic bubble, and over the economic consequences to Holland. But the bottom line is: A single tulip bulb having little intrinsic value, once theoretically worth many times its weight in gold, virtually overnight declined in value by 99.999 percent.
Are bitcoins the tulip bulbs of the 21st century? Perhaps not.

Japan’s Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin as the first digital currency, designed deliberately to be scarce so its value could increase. An estimated 18.6 million bitcoins are circulating out of a maximum supply of 21 million, a number that allegedly cannot grow because this limit is “hard-coded” into bitcoins, to create artificial scarcity.

Arguably, bitcoins, unlike tulip bulbs, have significant intrinsic value. As a cryptocurrency, bitcoins can hide wealth and financial transactions from increasingly snoopy and greedy governments. Moreover, as government deficit spending skyrockets across the world — recklessly printing dollars, pounds and yuan to flood the global money supply — the value of traditional money is threatened by looming hyper-inflation, as is the profitability of investment.

Bitcoins have become for the super-rich another hedge against a dystopian future, like gold. However, like gold, even bitcoins can be stolen. Hackers reportedly have stolen billions of dollars in bitcoins in recent years.

In February, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division charged North Korea’s cyber warfare agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, with plotting to steal over $1 billion in cash and bitcoins. North Korean hackers Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il and Park Jin Hyok are accused by the DOJ of stealing “tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency,” and DOJ calls them “the world’s leading bank robbers.”
According to the United Nations, North Korean cryptocurrency thefts are helping to fund Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Bitcoins may not be a good investment, or a good hedge against a dystopian future, when national electric grids and electronic civilization may be on the brink of a new Dark Age.

The Biden administration claims the recent ice storm that crippled the Texas electric grid — causing statewide rolling blackouts, depriving water and heat to millions and inflicting property damage and deaths — is a harbinger of catastrophic climate change.

If true, so-called “green energy” windmills and solar panels, alleged solutions to climate change, proved most vulnerable to the challenge of an unusual, but not unprecedented, Texas ice storm.  Nuclear and coal-fired power plants were least affected. Climate change is not the cause of what may be remembered as the “great Texas blackout of 2021,” which really was the result of politics.    

In 2017, the congressionally mandated Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission warned: “Current institutional arrangements for protecting and improving the reliability of the electric grids … has proven to be ineffectual” because the “power industry is largely self-regulated.” For example, Texas and California electric utilities failed to take commonsense precautions to protect themselves from severe weather. Federal and state governments are letting electric utilities cause deadly California wildfires and an ice age in Texas, essentially getting away with murder.
Government policy that trusts electric utilities to protect the nation from existential threats such as EMP and cyber warfare ultimately could prove to be genocidal, killing millions.

Maybe the super-rich do not care about the lives of 330 million Americans. But if financial wizards do not want their bitcoins to become as worthless as tulip bulbs, they should use their great political influence to advance policies that protect the national electric grid. As the EMP Commission warned: “An EMP attack that disrupts the financial services industry would, in effect, stop the operation of the U.S. economy. … The alternative to a disrupted electronic economy may not be reversion to a 19th century cash economy, but reversion to an earlier economy based on barter.” 

Will the recent SolarWinds cyber attack and Texas ice storm result in real protection for electric grids, or just more studies? Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are watching.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served as chief of staff to the EMP Commission, on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee, and was an intelligence officer with the CIA. He is author of “The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission’s War to Save America.”
Books by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry:

The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission's War To Save America 2001-2020

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) manmade or natural, from solar superstorms, can blackout electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures putting at risk the lives of millions. 9 of 10 Americans could die from starvation, disease, or societal collapse from a nuclear EMP attack that blacks-out the U.S. for a year. A solar superstorm could blackout electric grids worldwide, putting at risk the lives of billions. A small heroic band of scientists and national security experts serving on the Congressional EMP Commission have been striving for 20 years to protect America from the existential threat that is EMP. Their war to save America from ignorant armies that are the government bureaucracy, electric utility lobbies, and an irresponsible press is not yet won, and may soon be lost.

Blackout Wars: State Initiatives to Achieve Preparedness Against an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Catastrophe

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, David Drummond, et al. 2015

Blackout Wars is about the historically unprecedented threat to our electronic civilization from its dependence on the electric power grid. Most Americans have experienced temporary blackouts, and regard them as merely an inconvenience. Some Americans have experienced more protracted local and regional blackouts, as in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, and may be better able to imagine the consequences of a nationwide blackout lasting months or years, that plunges the entire United States into the dark. read more

EMP Manhattan Project

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry 2018 

The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat to the United States is existential and growing. EMPs can occur with a nuclear explosion in space, cyberattacks, terrorist attacks, physical threats or a large coronal mass ejection from the sun, all of which are described in this book. Any of these EMPs could wipe out not only our electric grid, but anything with a computer chip in it, sending the U.S. back to the 1850s. Within a year after grid failure, the EMP Commission tells us that 9 out of 10 Americans will succumb to dehydration, starvation, gang and other violence, murder, suicide, breakdown of society and diseases. The government needs to take action now by forming an EMP Manhattan Project that focuses on hardening our electric grid. If it doesn't, those who survive will be existing in a country unrecognizable. read more

Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe 

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry  

In my long experience, no other single issue has been such a scientific and national security conundrum as electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The phenomenon itself is not easy to explain to non-scientists, be they policymakers, generals, or ordinary citizens. The EMP threat seems like the stuff of science fiction. Yet your life depends upon understanding EMP.  

War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

Why do some American intelligence officials maintain fallout shelters and private contingency plans to evacuate their families in the event of a Russian nuclear strike―even in today's post-Cold War era of U.S.-Russian partnership? The frightening answer lies within the pages of War Scare, a terrifying assessment of the prospect for nuclear holocaust in our day. Written by Peter Vincent Pry, a former CIA military analyst, War Scare provides a history of our country's little-known brushes with nuclear war and warns that, contrary to popular opinion and the assurances of our political leaders, the possibility of a Russian attack still exists. Nuclear deterrence has been the foundation of Western security for the last 50 years, but since the end of the Cold War, Russian military doctrine has become more destabilizing, and much more dangerous, than is commonly believed. read more

Poseidon: Russia's New Doomsday Machine

by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry | Jun 14, 2018   "POSEIDON: Russia's New Doomsday Machine" describes Moscow's unmanned automated drone submarine designed to deliver a 100-megaton warhead to inundate U.S. coasts with nuclear tsunamis, leaving the most populous parts of America radioactive wastelands. Is this the real purpose of POSEIDON? What are the strategic implications of this new doomsday weapon, the latest in a series of Russian doomsday machines? What are the implications of the marriage in POSEIDON of Artificial Intelligence with the most powerful nuclear weapon ever built? Author Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is one of the nation's foremost experts on nuclear weapons and strategy. Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards. He served as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission and the House Armed Services Committee, and in the CIA.