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[liberationtech] Repression Technologies: 6 Creepy New Weapons the Police and Military Use To Subdue Unarmed People (fwd)
davies at stanford.edu
Fri Aug 5 14:08:54 PDT 2011
I like this list, and share many of the underlying goals, but the focus on
liberation should not blind us to technology's double edge. Thus...
6 Creepy New Weapons the Police and Military Use To Subdue Unarmed
By Rania Khalek, AlterNet
Posted on August 1, 2011, Printed on August 5, 2011
The US is at the forefront of an international arms development effort
that includes a remarkable assortment of technologies, which look and
sound like they belong in a Hollywood science fiction thriller. From
microwave energy blasters and blinding laser beams, to chemical agents
and deafening sonic blasters, these weapons are at the cutting edge of
The Pentagon's approved term for these weapons is "non-lethal" or
"less-lethal" and they are intended for use against the unarmed.
Designed to control crowds, clear streets, subdue and restrain
individuals and secure borders, they are the 21st century's version of
the police baton, pepper spray and tear gas. As journalist Ando Arike
puts it, "The result is what appears to be the first arms race in
which the opponent is the general population."
The demand for non-lethal weapons (NLW) is rooted in the rise of
television. In the 1960s and '70s the medium let everyday Americans
witness the violent tactics used to suppress the civil rights and anti-
Todays rapid advancements in media and telecommunications
technologies allow people to record and publicize images and video of
undue force more than ever before. Authorities are well aware of how
images of violence play out publicly. In 1997, a joint report from the
Pentagon and the Justice Department warned:
"A further consideration that affects how the military and law
enforcement apply force is the greater presence of members of the
media or other civilians who are observing, if not recording, the
situation. Even the lawful application of force can be misrepresented
to or misunderstood by the public. More than ever, the police and the
military must be highly discreet when applying force."
The global economic collapse coupled with the unpredictable and
increasingly catastrophic consequences of climate change and resource
scarcity, along with a new era of austerity defined by rising
unemployment and glaring inequality have already led to massive
protests in Spain, Greece, Egypt, and even Madison, Wisconsin. From
the progressive era to the Great Depression to the civil rights
movement, Americans have a rich history of taking to the streets to
demand greater equality.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in the
research and development of more media-friendly weapons for everyday
policing and crowd control. This has lead to a trade-in of old school
weapons for more exotic and controversial technologies. The following
are six of the most outrageous "non-lethal" weapons that will define
the future of crowd control.
1. The Invisible Pain Ray: The 'Holy Grail of Crowd Control'
Source: Pasadena Star News
It sounds like a weapon out of Star Wars. The Active Denial System, or
ADS, works like an open-air microwave oven, projecting a focused beam
of electromagnetic radiation to heat the skin of its targets to 130
degrees. This creates an intolerable burning sensation forcing those
in its path to instinctively flee (a response the Air Force dubs the
The Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWP) says, "This
capability will add to the ability to stop, deter and turn back an
advancing adversary, providing an alternative to lethal force."
Although ADS is described as non-lethal, a 2008 report by physicist
and less-lethal weapons expert Dr. Jürgen Altmann suggests otherwise:
" ... the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of
second and third degree. Because the beam of diameter 2 m and above is
wider than human size, such burns would occur over considerable parts
of the body, up to 50% of its surface. Second- and third-degree burns
covering more than 20% of the body surface are potentially life-
threatening due to toxic tissue-decay products and increased
sensitivity to infection and require intensive care in a specialized
unit. Without a technical device that reliably prevents re-triggering
on the same target subject, the ADS has a potential to produce
permanent injury or death. "
The weapon was initially tested in Afghanistan, but later recalled due
to a combination of technical difficulties and political concerns,
including the fear that ADS would be used as a torture tool making it
"not politically tenable," according to a Defense Science Board
report. The tens of millions of dollars spent to develop the ADS did
not necessarily go to waste, however.
While the weapon may be too controversial for use on the battlefield,
it appears that nothing is too sadistic for use on US prisoners, so
the ADS has since been modified into a smaller version by Raytheon,
for use in law enforcement. Last year, the renamed Assault
Intervention System (AIS) was installed at the Pitchess Detention
Center's North County Correction Facility at the behest of the Los
Angeles County Sheriffs Department (LASD). Former LASD Commander,
Charles Sid Heal had been lobbying for the pain ray for years,
calling it the "Holy Grail of Crowd Control," due to its ability to
make people scatter almost instantly.
The device is operated by a jail officer with a joystick, and is
intended to break up prison riots, inmate brawls and prevent assaults
on officers. Sheriff Lee Baca added that it would allow officers to
quickly intervene without having to physically enter the area to
The ACLU claims that use of such a device on American prisoners is
"tantamount to torture." The organization even sent a letter to the
sheriff in charge, demanding he never use the energy weapon against
inmates. The idea that a military weapon designed to cause
intolerable pain should be used against county jail inmates is
staggeringly wrongheaded, said Margaret Winter, associate director of
the ACLU National Prison Project. Unnecessarily inflicting severe
pain and taking such unnecessary risks with peoples lives is a clear
violation of the Eighth Amendment and due process clause of the U.S.
The pain rays use in the Pitchess Detention Center is a pilot
program. If successful, the weapon could find its way into other
prisons around the country. The National Institute of Justice has also
expressed interest in a hand-held, rifle-sized, short-range weapon
that could be effective at tens of feet for law enforcement officials.
2. The Laser Blinding 'Dazzler'
Source: Air Force Fact Sheet
The Personal Halting and Stimulation Response rifle, or PHaSR, is a
massive laser shooter. PHaSR technology is being co-funded by the
National Institute of Justice(NIJ), Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program
(JNLWP), and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and is being
developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. While JNLWP is
interested in the technology for military applications, NIJ is
focusing on its law enforcement use.
So what is the purpose of this light-shooting toy? Well, it won't kill
you, but it will temporarily blind you or as the NIJ prefers to say,
it will "dazzle" you into disorientation by shooting you with two
low -power diode -pumped lasers.
Protocol IV, the Blinding Laser Protocol of the United Nations
Convention on Conventional Weapons, states that, "The use of laser
weapons that are specifically designed, as their sole combat function
or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to
unenhanced vision is prohibited."
After the US agreed to the Blinding Laser Protocol in 1995 under
President Clinton, the Pentagon was forced to cancel several blinding
laser weapon programs that were in the works. But the PHaSR rifle can
skirt this regulation because the blinding effect is apparently
temporary due to its low-intensity laser.
According to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet, "The laser light from PHaSR
temporarily impairs aggressors by dazzling them with one wavelength.
The second wavelength causes a repel effect that discourages advancing
aggressors. The JNLWP website says that a significant amount of
research and experimentation is still required to gain a full
understanding of the safety, military effectiveness, and limitations
of these future capabilities.
3. The Taser on Steroids
Source: Taser website
The Albuquerque Police Department now has Taser shotguns in its
arsenal. Most of us are familiar with hand-held Tasers and understand
that they only work if the police are standing pretty close to you
(about 20 feet).
But Taser has developed the Taser X12, a 12-gauge shotgun that instead
of firing lethal bullet rounds, is designed to fire Taser projectile
rounds. Known as Extended Range Electronic Projectiles (XREP), the
XREP cartridge is a self-contained, wireless projectile that delivers
the same neuro-muscular incapacitation bio-effect (a fancy way of
saying electric shock) as the handheld Taser, but up to 100 feet.
According to a July 21 press release, Taser International has taken
the XREP to the next level, teaming up with the Australian electronic
gun company Metal Storm to enhance the 12-gauge Multi-Shot Accessory
Under-Barrel Launcher (MAUL).
The two companies will combine Metal Storm's MAUL stacked projectile
technology to "provide semi-automatic fire as fast as the operator can
squeeze the trigger," which boasts a full weapon reload of up to five
rounds in less than two seconds. Picture five rounds of Taser XREP
cartridges flying out in less than two seconds up to 30 yards away --
that is the plan.
In September 2010 Raw Story reported that the rate of Taser-related
deaths were on the rise. The story cited an Amnesty International
report from 2008 that found 351 Taser-related deaths in the US between
June 2001 and August 2008, a rate of just slightly above four deaths
per month. About 90 percent of the victims were unarmed and did not
appear to pose any serious threat, according to an article in the
Boston Review. The Amnesty report points out that Tasers are
inherently open to abuse as they are easy to carry and easy to use
and they can inflict severe pain at the push of a button without
leaving substantial marks. In Amnesty's US 2010 report, the Taser-
related death toll had increased to 390. If the MAUL-Taser combined
shooter find its way into police departments around the country, it
may not bode well for the rate of Taser-related deaths.
Another project of Taser International, which was unveiled in 2009, is
the Shockwave Area-Denial System, which blankets a large area with
electrified darts, and a wireless Taser projectile with a 100-meter
range, helpful for picking off ringleaders in unruly crowds. In
2007, Taser's French distributor announced plans for a stun-gun-
equipped flying saucer that fires stun darts at criminal suspects or
rioters; however, it has yet to be unveiled. Clearly there is no limit
to Taser Internationals capacity for creativity.
4. Calmative Agents for Riot Control
Calmatives are chemical or biological agents with sedative, sleep-
inducing or similar psychoactive effects. Although the 1997 Chemical
Weapons Convention prohibits the use of riot control agents in
warfare, JNWLP and NIJ have long considered calmatives for both
military and law enforcement applications, such as dispersing a crowd,
controlling a riot or calming a noncompliant offender.
The most well-known and widely used riot-control agents are tear gas
(CS) and chloroacetophenone (CN), also known as mace. A few ways that
more advanced non-lethal calmatives might be administered, depending
on the law enforcement environment, would include a topical or
transdermal skin application, an aerosol spray, an intramuscular dart,
or a rubber bullet filled with an inhalable agent.
In the March 2010 issue of Harper's magazine, Ando Arike gives an
extensive overview of riot control technology in his article "The Soft
Kill: New Frontiers in Pain Compliance." He wrote:
Pentagon interest in advanced riot-control agents has long been an
open secret, but just how close we are to seeing these agents in
action was revealed in 2002, when the Sunshine Project, an arms-
control group based in Austin, Texas, posted on the Internet a trove
of Pentagon documents uncovered through the Freedom of Information
Act. Among these was a fifty-page study titled The Advantages and
Limitations of Calmatives for Use as a Non-Lethal Technique,
conducted by Penn States Applied Research Laboratory, home of the
JNLWD-sponsored Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies.
Penn States College of Medicine researchers agreed, contrary to
accepted principles of medical ethics, that the development and use
of non-lethal calmative techniques is both achievable and desirable,
and identified a large number of promising drug candidates, including
benzodiazepines like Valium, serotonin-reuptake inhibitors like
Prozac, and opiate derivatives like morphine, fentanyl, and
carfentanyl, the last commonly used by veterinarians to sedate large
animals. The only problems they saw were in developing effective
delivery vehicles and regulating dosages, but these problems could be
solved readily, they recommended, through strategic partnerships with
the pharmaceutical industry.
Little more was heard about the Pentagons advanced riot-control
agent program until July 2008, when the Army announced that
production was scheduled for its XM1063 non-lethal personal
suppression projectile, an artillery shell that bursts in midair over
its target, scattering 152 canisters over a 100,000-square-foot area,
each dispersing a chemical agent as it parachutes down. There are many
indications that a calmative, such as fentanyl, is the intended payload
a literal opiate of the masses.
5. Screaming Microwaves That Pierce the Skull
Researchers are in the process of developing the Mob Excess Deterrent
Using Silent Audio or MEDUSA (that's right, from Greek mythology),
which uses a beam of microwaves to induce uncomfortable auditory
sensations in the skull. The device exploits the microwave audio
effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue, causing a
shockwave inside the skull that can be detected by the ears. MEDUSAs
audio effect is loud enough to cause discomfort or even
incapacitation. It may also cause a little brain damage from the high-
intensity shockwave created by the microwave pulse.
MEDUSA's intended purpose is deterring crowds from entering a
protected perimeter, like a nuclear site, and temporarily
incapacitating unruly individuals. So far the weapon remains in
development and is funded by the Navy.
6. Ear-Splitting Siren
Source: Associated Press
The Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, built by American Technology
Corporation, focuses and broadcasts sound over ranges of up to
hundreds of yards. LRAD has been around for years, but Americans first
took notice when police used it in Pittsburgh to ward off protesters
at the 2009 G-20 summit. It is generally used in two ways: as a
megaphone to order protesters to disperse; or, if they disobey, as an
ear-splitting siren to drive them away. While LRAD may not be
deadly, it can permanently damage hearing, depending on how its used.
Similar sonic blasters have proven deadly. One is the Thunder
Generator, an Israeli-developed shock wave cannon used by farmers to
scare away crop-threatening bird. According to a Defense News report
last year, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has licensed a firm called
ArmyTec to market the Thunder Generator for military and security
It works using gas from a cylinder of domestic liquid petroleum, which
is mixed with air and then detonated, producing a series of high-
intensity blasts. Patented pulse detonation technology ensures high-
decibel blasts. With an effective range of up to 50 meters, the makers
say it is extremely loud but will not do any lasting damage. They
warn, however, that within 10 meters the Thunder Generator could cause
permanent damage or even death.
The application of pain to control or coerce people into submission
helps achieve the desired aims of perception management, while
sheltering the public from the brutality of such devices.
Perhaps these less-lethal tactics for crowd control do result in fewer
injuries. But they also severely weaken our capacity to enact
political change. Authorities have ever more creative ways to manage
dissent, at a time when the need for change by popular demand is vital
to the future of our society and the planet.
Rania Khalek is a progressive activist. Check out her blog Missing
Pieces or follow her on Twitter @Rania_ak. Contact her at raniakhalek at gmail.com
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