By Chris Adams
Ted Koppel stepped away from the daily news cycle in 2005 but is still reporting and writing – including a provocative new book, “Lights Out.”
Koppel spent 42 years at ABC News and was anchor and managing editor of “Nightline” for 25. He was named by New York University as one of the top 100 American journalists of the past 100 years.
He sat down with NPF to discuss his book, as well as his thoughts on changes in journalism since he left “Nightline.”
“Lights Out” sprang from Koppel’s observation that top officials – a former director of the National Security Agency; the president, in State of the Union addresses – had talked about threats to the nation’s electric grid but the media hadn’t picked up on the warning.
Koppel set out to understand the nation’s electric grid – there really are three, covering the East, the West and Texas – and to then understand the threats to it. His reporting alarmed him: The electric grid is connected by the Internet, and therefore susceptible to terrorist hacks; it is populated with thousands of different companies and therefore thousands of different attack points; and it is loosely regulated.
Koppel interviewed a former NSA scientist who told him: “It is literally possible for a hacktivist group, well-trained and well-motivated, to take down major portions of the grid without the industry being able to stop it.”
From there, Koppel set out to discover what would happen if the grid was attacked. His reporting took him from his local fire station, to the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He came away convinced that the U.S. was unprepared to provide food, water and other resources for more than a few days if the lights went out.
“There is,” he said, “no real sense of alarm attached to the prospect of cyberwar.”