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Mr. Vickers is awaiting Senate confirmation on his promotion to be undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Despite his skepticism of the report, Mr. Bracken agreed that financial warfare needs to be studied, and he noted that the U.S. government is only starting to address the issue.

“We are in an era like the 1950s where technological innovation is transforming the tools of coercion and war,” he said. “We tend not to see this, and look at information warfare, financial warfare, precision strike, [weapons of mass destruction], etc. as separate silos. It’s their parallel co-evolution that leads to interesting options, like counter-elite targeting. And no one is really looking at this in an overall ‘systems’ way. Diplomacy is way behind here.”

Mr. Freeman wrote the report for the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program, part of the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which examines unconventional warfare scenarios.

“The preponderance of evidence that cannot be easily dismissed demands a thorough and immediate study be commenced,” the report says. “Ignoring the likelihood of this very real threat ensures a catastrophic event.”

The report concluded that the evidence of an attack is strong enough that “financial terrorism may have cost the global economy as much as $50 trillion.”

Because of secrecy surrounding global banking and finance, finding the exact identities of the attackers will be difficult.

But U.S. opponents in Russia who could wage economic warfare include elements of the former KGB intelligence and political police who regard the economy as a “logical extension of the Cold War,” the report says.

Asked by The Times who he thought to be the most likely behind the financial attacks, Mr. Freeman said: “Unfortunately, the two major strategic threats, radical jihadists and the Chinese, are among the best positioned in the economic battle space.”

Also, the report lists as suspects advocates of Islamic law, who have publicly called for opposition to capitalism as a way to promote what they regard as the superiority of Islam.

Further Pentagon Low Intensity Conflict office research into possible economic warfare or financial terrorism being behind the economic collapse by the Pentagon’s Special Operations and was blocked, Mr. Freeman said.

The Pentagon report states that the evidence of financial subversion revealed that the first two phases of an attack on the U.S. economy took place from 2007 to 2009 and “based on recent global market activity, it appears that the predicted Phase III may be underway right now.”

The report states that federal authorities must further investigate two significant events in the months leading up to the financial crisis.

The first phase of the economic attack, the report said, was the escalation of oil prices by speculators from 2007 to mid-2008 that coincided with the housing finance crisis.

In the second phase, the stock market collapsed by what the report called a “bear raid” from unidentified sources on Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street firms.

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