Sunday, October 7, 2007

Like tasers? Wait until cops have microwave weapons.

Casual use of tasers by domestic police forces may be a sign of worse to come. When nonlethal military weapons become commonplace- think of tear gas- they are adapted for domestic use against civilian targets. Law enforcement shows a trend toward weapons designed for indiscriminate use by relatively untrained personnel. Recent taser abuse reminded me of something I read long ago. Once I recalled a phrase- "Victor Pirolo and his leetle lights”- I was able to track it down.

It's from a story by Rudyard Kipling. Unfortunately he's known to most only as the author of The Jungle Book upon which the Disney movie of the same name is based. He was a prolific writer. In 1905 he wrote With the Night Mail and followed it in 1912 with As Easy as A.B.C., tales as prophetic and imaginative as any modern science fiction.

The latter story describes the suppression of an insurrection in Illinois in the year 2065. World government forces use nonlethal weapons of light and sound to crush the resurgence of democracy in an apathetic society. The weapons resemble enormous airborne versions of the directed sound, light, and microwave weapons in use today.

The LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) projects sound at volumes loud enough to cause excruciating pain. It was deployed for use against American citizens corralled in the Superdome after hurricane Katrina in 2005 and used by New York City police during protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The Israeli army has used a similar weapon nicknamed Tze'aka (The Scream) that uses directed sound at frequencies and intensities that disrupt the inner ear, creating dizziness and nausea.

The ADS (Active Denial System) uses directed microwaves to heat the top layer of skin, causing intolerable pain in under 5 seconds. As of this summer, the Pentagon was delaying deployment of this weapon in Iraq, apparently fearing public opinion. Development hasn't stopped. Tests are underway on a system for use from an airborne platform like the C-130. Raytheon has developed a civilian version of ADS and is marketing it as the “Silent Guardian” to law enforcement agencies and security providers.

I predict we'll see directed energy weapons abused by domestic law enforcement like tasers are today within 5 years. I don't have a crystal ball. Kipling didn't have one either. He lived when men were first awakening to the possible uses and abuses of technology and was an unflinching witness of the depredations of empire.