Remember this story from last week? "The Air Force secretary says nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield." It's worse than we heard ... much worse. These weapons, which cause "intolerable pain" and have been condemned by scientists as mass torture devices, may be coming soon to a demonstration near you. And there are stranger and more lethal weapons where these came from.
The Secretary, Michael Wynne, is a longtime exec at defense contractor General Dynamics - a fox now in charge of the henhouse. The weapon he was describing is "intended to cause heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds," as described in this Australian newspaper account.
And guess which company is one of the world's leaders in military microwave technology? General Dynamics. So you can rest assured that Wynne's very knowledgeable about this technology's intended use here and abroad, both by the military and other agencies.
Microwave beam devices are just one of a number of new weapons under development that could be used against US crowds. This article in Defense Update magazine describes the variety of anti-personnel energy weapons being developed by the Department of Defense. These include the Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) pictured above, which can "work like 'artificial lightning' to disable human targets" and "can be adjusted for non-lethal or lethal use."
Other weapons being developed include the "Pulsed Energy Projectile" (PEP) device which, as New Scientist explains, "delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away." New Scientist observes that "pain researchers are furious that (medical research) aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon," adding that "they fear that the technology will be used for torture."
The Wynne story came and went so quickly that radio journalist Charles Goyette from KFNX in Phoenix tried to follow up. An interview was scheduled with the Air Force Secretary's spokesman, USAF Major Aaron Burgstein, to get elaboration on the Secretary's remarks. But Burgstein cancelled at the last minute without explanation.
Burgstein's email to Goyette added that "SECAR (Wynne) is not advocating using non-lethal weapons on the American public," just that they be "fully tested first before they're employed overseas" because our enemy "uses any and all opportunities to wage a propaganda war."
Sounds benign enough. Unfortunately, it directly contradicts what Wynne actually said. "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens," said Wynne, "then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation."
"If they are used in the US," Burgstein wrote Goyette, "it would be by the police, not the military." Burgstein equates these energy beams to tasers, perhaps unaware of the controversy surrounding a number of taser injuries and deaths.
Wynne, a major defense contractor turned Pentagon insider, tipped his hand. Pentagon planners intend to use high-tech weapons on Americans before turning them on Iraqis, either directly or by making the technology available to police and other agencies. And that's not a new story, either. ABC News reported in 2004 that there were active discussions to use sonic weaponry against demonstrators during the Republican National Convention in New York. When in "weapon" mode, the "LRAD" (long range acoustic device) "blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting."
Sounds like waterboarding, doesn't it? It too would pass the Gonzales test of not "duplicating the pain associated with major organ failure" (assuming anyone has done a study comparing the two levels of pain.) As it turned out, there were no reports of LRADs being used against demonstrators in 2004, although many citizens were illegally detained during a temporary suspension of civil liberties on the streets of New York. (The city was eventually fined for mass violations of due process.)
As for the microwave beam, New Scientist reported that when it was tested, "experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots."
In other words, this beam doesn't only inflict agony on its targets. If you can't move out of the way quickly enough it can cause serious burns and potentially even fuse contact lenses onto their wearers' eyeballs.
Goyette stayed on this story long enough for me to realize that I had missed its real significance. He's understandably struck by how quickly the Secretary's remarks seem to have been forgotten. I am, too, but I think I understand. This government is dismantling the world as we know it at an unprecendented rate. The suspension of civil liberties and the codifying of torture into law are only two examples. It's becoming increasingly difficult for many people to keep up with the pace of change while its happening, either psychologically or cognitively.
These revelations about mass "torture technology," and the Secretary's remarks, need to be viewed in the context of our collective "future shock." This Administration - which illegally uses the military to spy on Quaker peace demonstrators, violates laws and the Constitution with impunity, and degrades its country through torture - is literally capable of anything.
The idea of subjecting demonstrating Americans to group torture may seem unthinkable today. Yet a few years ago we couldn't have imagined that our government woul ban public demonstrations by forcing protesters into "Free Speech Zones" behind fences, miles away from other Americans. The unimaginable has now become real. This is only the next logical step, and it could happen soon.
Welcome to the Brave New America. Be careful out there.
Follow Richard (RJ) Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow