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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Volunteers Needed for Field Test, NYC, 8/30-9/02 

As Chief of Staff Andrew Card famously said back in 2002, you don't roll out a new product in August. In this case, though, we suspect he might be persuaded to make an exception. From the Sacramento Bee:
Test subjects can't see the invisible beam from the Pentagon's new, Star Trek-like weapon, but no one has withstood the pain it produces for more than three seconds.
People who volunteered to stand in front of the directed energy beam say they felt as if they were on fire. When they stepped aside, the pain disappeared instantly.

The long-range column of millimeter-wave energy is known as the "Active Denial System" for its ability to prevent an aggressor from advancing. Senior military officials, who plan to deliver the device for troop evaluation this fall, say years of testing has produced no sign it will lead to health effects beyond perhaps causing skin to temporarily redden.

It is among the most potent of a new generation of futuristic, "less-than-lethal" weapons being developed by the Defense Department - tools that could dramatically alter the way police control riots and soldiers fight wars . . . .

[Marine Col. David] Karcher and other military officials are trying to alleviate fears that the device might be misused to harm civilians or converted into a torture machine that leaves no marks . . . .

Introduction of such a device in either noncombat or wartime situations could raise thorny questions: Would it be acceptable to inflict so much pain on unruly protesters? How would such a weapon be viewed if used on crowds in Third World countries? Would it violate international humanitarian principles if used in battle? Might it be used secretly during interrogations to torture suspected terrorists into cooperating?

Karcher 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."
The beam penetrates 1/64th of an inch beneath your skin and heats the water molecules in your body to 130 degrees in less than a second. The current version weighs four tons and is mounted on a Humvee. According to Karcher, though, "researchers are hoping to miniaturize it."

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