Let’s Zap Iraqis with Rumsfeld’s Ray Gun

The scene: a street in Fallujah crowded with angry civilians and lurking insurgents. A Humvee stops a quarter-mile away. A Marine aims what looks like a television radar dish receiver at the crowd. Suddenly, people start screaming and running away in panic. The Humvee proceeds into the now-empty street, thanks to the Active Denial System.

According to Kelly Hearn, writing on AlterNet, that scenario could start being played out in 2006, when the first ADSs are deployed in Iraq.

The Active Denial System is a Pentagon-funded, $51 million crowd control device that rides atop a Humvee, looks like a TV dish, and shoots energy waves 1/64 of an inch deep into human skin. It dispenses brief but intolerable bursts of pain, sending bad guys fleeing but supposedly leaving no lasting damage. (During a Pentagon press briefing in 2001, this reporter felt a zap from an ADS prototype on his fingertip and can attest to the brief but fleeting sensation that a hot light bulb was pressing against the skin). ADS works outside the range of small arms fire.

Of course, as with any gubmint-developed (by Raytheon Corp., appropriately enough) secret weapon, there are many questions about the short- and long-term health effects of ADS.

What millimeter waves (MMW) do to the body depends on the dose. And about that, Davison and other experts have questions, lots of them. How do operators control the dose that an individual receives? What is the safety margin, rather, the difference in exposure time between it being an effective weapon and it being harmful? Does the weapon cut out after a certain time to prevent overexposure? What about people targeted at different distances? How do operators avoid unintentionally overexposing people at short ranges when aiming at long range? And what of individual differences in health, age, and sensitivity to MMW?

More alarming still is the fact that the devices are being developed for use on Americans by local police forces.

As key scientific questions go unanswered, a version of the Active Denial System is being developed by the Justice Department for use by U.S. police departments. The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, has issued a half-million dollar grant to Raytheon Corporation for a “Solid-State Active Denial System Demonstration Program,” according to the NIJ website. Alan Fischer, a Raytheon spokesperson, said the company is “working on a number of active denial projects, with various ranges. ADS may some day be miniaturized down to a hand-held device that could be carried in a purse or pocket and used for personal protection instead of something like Mace. The potential for this technology is huge.”

Rumsfeld’s Ray Gun — dispersing demonstrators from Fallujah to Philadelphia.


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