Todays Sunday Telegraph, published this story about Microwave weapons that are soon to be issued to American troops in Iraq as horror over the increasing number of civilians killed mounts. The weapon will magnify the level of pain and aggression that an individual soldier could inflict on crowds of people and is part of the new military weapons growth sector dubbed “less-lethal weapons”, i.e. they only kill sometimes.

The non-lethal weapons, which use high-powered electromagnetic beams, will be fitted to vehicles already in Iraq, which will allow the system to be introduced as early as next year.

Using technology similar to that found in a conventional microwave oven, the beam rapidly heats water molecules in the skin to cause intolerable pain and a burning sensation. The invisible beam penetrates the skin to a depth of less than a millimetre. As soon as the target moves out of the beam’s path, the pain disappears.

Also known as an active denial system, the weapon can be used on many people at once and operate over far greater distances. The use of the microwave gun raises concerns about safety. Volunteers who stood infront of the gun described the pain as feeling as if one’s skin and hair were on fire.

Military officials believe the intended uses of the Active Denial System do not violate any international laws or treaties and do not cause any permanent health problems.
“You can rest assured that with this system, when it finally is deployed, we will be very, very clear about what the intended uses are and what is clearly outside of bounds,” said Marine Corps Capt. Daniel McSweeney, spokesman for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. “It’s not intended to be used as a torture device. That goes against all the design intentions and parameters.”
Research into side effects of weaponized directed energy began in the late 1990s at the Air Force’s Brooks City-Base in San Antonio. Researchers began by reviewing studies of radio-frequency energy involved in military communications, radar and other technologies, officials say.
Human testing of the Active Denial System began after researchers concluded it could be used without permanent harm. More than 200 volunteers — including some in their 70s — from various military branches and government agencies were zapped with the system, on average about three times each.
The results showed no lingering health problems, officials say.
“This type of device doesn’t penetrate very far,” said Lt. Col. William Roach, chief of the radio frequency branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
But the fact that studies on directed energy’s human effects haven’t been released to the public has some outside the government worried.
Dominique Loye of the International Committee of the Red Cross has pleaded for more disclosure of directed-energy research and independent investigation into possible side effects.
Directed energy may cause “new types of injuries we’re not aware of and may not be capable of taking care of,” Loye said. “The message we try to put across is: ‘We understand some companies are investing money, so maybe it will be worthwhile for you to start the investigation as early as possible and not to invest millions and millions, and then 10 years down the line find out your weapon will be illegal.'”
Research into side effects of weaponized directed energy began in the late 1990s at the Air Force’s Brooks City-Base in San Antonio. Researchers began by reviewing studies of radio-frequency energy involved in military communications, radar and other technologies, officials say.
Human testing of the Active Denial System began after researchers concluded it could be used without permanent harm. More than 200 volunteers — including some in their 70s — from various military branches and government agencies were zapped with the system, on average about three times each.
The results showed no lingering health problems, officials say.
“This type of device doesn’t penetrate very far,” said Lt. Col. William Roach, chief of the radio frequency branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
But the fact that studies on directed energy’s human effects haven’t been released to the public has some outside the government worried.

According to reports, a 2-second burst from the system can heat the skin to a temperature of 130° F. At 50 °C, the pain reflex makes people pull away automatically in less than a second. Someone would have to stay in the beam for 250 seconds before it burnt the skin

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While the Telegraph helps to support the view that these new weapons are safe, there is no research that demonstrates its efficacy – and, more importantly its safety record with civilian targets. It almost seems pointless to mention, in these times, that they have been developed with little moral input from a civilian base that will be at the receiving end.

Studies carried out on rhesus monkeys (poor helpless buggers) showed that exposure to 2 watts per square centimeter for three seconds resulted in blindness, cataracts and cancer have been cited as long-term negative effects of the microwave gun according to researchers at the Loma Linda University medical center.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists, has commented that high-powered microwaves are almost uniquely intrusive. “They do not simply attack a person’s body”, he says. “Rather they reach all the way into a person’s mind”.

Such devices heat up and interfere with human body temperature, including so-called bio- regulators; radio-frequency weapons that interfere with the brain and body’s own electrical circuitry; and laser systems that can either semi-blind or induce so-called tetanising electrical shocks (that paralyse muscles) (9). In January the European parliament called for a ban on such weapons.

If that has left you asking whether you could be subjected to this, join the club. Why relinquish your democratic rights so we can beat terror, surely, this time, more than any other is a call to fight terror whether it is being carried out by our own governments around the world or by the shadowy “terrorists” or by scientists on helpless animals? During the Republican National Congress in New York, many innocent people were rounded up, snared in nets, and imprisoned in less than humane conditions. By the way the Guantanomo on the Bay was paid for by republicans. Google that!

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Could it be used secretly during interrogations to torture suspected terrorists into cooperating? In the light of Abu Ghraib torture scandals the possibility that it could become a new instrument of torture is very real as the beam leaves no tell-tale marks unless used for more than 240 seconds that’s four minutes, you put your hand in a fire and endure searing pain for less than a second and pull it out. Be prepared to sit there for four minutes of unremitting pain. In an effort to alleviate such fears Marine Col. David Karcher, who heads the Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate said the Active Denial System “is absolutely not designed or intended or built” to be a torture device. To use this as any sort of torture device would be in direct violation of” the Pentagon’s definition of nonlethal weapons, he said. “Nor, as professionals, would any of us sign up for it.”

In an attempt to anticipate how the world would greet the new weapon, the Air Force this month asked social science graduate students at the University of Minnesota and other colleges for help.

“Is it torture if it only creates a sensation of pain, but leaves no marks and no long-term damage? I would say yes. Torture is primarily a psychological device, and finding different ways to use the body against the mind has been the struggle of torture technologies for thousands of years.

“It seems fundamentally a weapon that’s designed to create a great deal of pain and fear,” Johnson said. “The concern I would have is … once this kind of technology is available and there’s a perception that it’s safe and nonlethal, it seems like a natural device to be used in interrogations.

“Is it torture if it only creates a sensation of pain, but leaves no marks and no long-term damage? I would say yes. Torture is primarily a psychological device, and finding different ways to use the body against the mind has been the struggle of torture technologies for thousands of years.”

He said “human history would demonstrate” that once a potential torture technology is available, it usually is put into action.

Karcher and other military officials stressed that the device has received interim approvals from international treaty conventions, has twice passed Pentagon legal reviews and will be subject to clear rules of engagement.

This might be a good time to remind people of the 2003 draft report prepared under the direction of the Defense Department’s general counsel, William Haynes II for the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who complained that intelligence agencies were not able to extract information from prisoners using “conventional methods”. As a result Bush was able to to ignore US and international law and order the torture of foreign prisoners; torture is now officially authorised.

“Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn’t bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn’t be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

“The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantánamo Bay complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren’t getting enough information from prisoners.”

There is wide support for this new weaponry in Washington. Even John Kerry has cited this technology as where he wants to focus defense spending should he become the 44th president of the USA. Interestingly Raytheon, who developed the gun for the Pentagon are among Kerry’s top corporate donators. How much will it cost? The Defense Department has nearly doubled its budget and it is estimated $200 million to $400 million per year would be needed to “jump start the deployed capability in Iraq and equip our forces for the new realities of warfare and the pursuit of the nation’s security goals.”

P.S. Countermeasures against the weapon could be quite straightforward: wearing leather, carrying a metallic shield like a trash can lid — as a shield or reflector. Also unclear is how the active-denial technology would work in rainy, foggy or sea-spray conditions where the beam’s energy could be absorbed by water in the atmosphere.

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