From Fri Oct 29 07:15:06 2004
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 00:17:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: Edward Hammond <>
Subject: [NL CBW] SFBG: Doping up the rabble
Article: 194579
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Doping up the rabble

By A.C. Thompson, San Francisco Bay Guardian, 28 October 2004

Drugs, microwaves, and the future of policing.

A DECADE FROM now, protesters who mass outside a global trade meeting may find themselves zapped by high-voltage land mines, pacified by wafting clouds of tranquilizing drugs, blasted by incapacitating microwaves, or burned by lasers.

All of these weapons—“less-lethal” or “nonlethal” armaments designed to incapacitate without killing—are under development by the U.S. military. With the increasing crossover between soldiering and policing—witness the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where troops spend a good chunk of their time acting like beat cops—you should expect the sci-fi-inspired techno-toys the Pentagon is dreaming up today to become standard-issue equipment for U.S. law enforcers tomorrow. In fact, many of the companies engineering the weapons for the Defense Department also supply weaponry to police departments.

Already, dissidents are learning that today's less-lethal weapons can seriously maim or even kill, not to mention quell a demonstration in a matter of seconds. So, with the use of less-lethal force on the rise and scary new weapons in the pipeline, the Bay Guardian figured this was a prime time to take a quick look at the gadgetry used for herding humans—both now, and, possibly, in the future.

When will the miracles cease?

Ow! What the fuck was that? Why did they do that to us? He fucking shot me in the ass!

Protester at the Miami free trade meetings after getting tagged by a less-lethal round fired by police

Cops have a huge array of less-lethal weaponry at their disposal: shotgun-fired beanbag rounds (cloth pouches filled with metal or hard rubber pellets) and wooden and rubber bullets (typically eight inches long), concussion grenades (incendiary devices that use sound and light to disorient), and electrified riot shields. And then there's the handy old Taser, which delivers a 50,000-volt electrical jolt, a shock designed to overwhelm the central nervous system. It usually forces the people on the receiving end of the juice to collapse and, in some cases, shit themselves.

Sure this stuff sounds scary, but aren’t these new-breed armaments supposed to reduce bloodshed by giving law enforcers and soldiers an alternative to old-fashioned firearms? That's the view of most others in the less-lethal business, including the makers of the Taser.

“Taser saves lives every day,” Taser International's communications director Steve Tuttle writes via e-mail. “Medical and police studies have shown that Taser technology is among the safest choices available to halt violent situations that pose a safety risk to an officer, suspect or innocent citizens.”

It's a compelling argument—obviously zapping people would seem preferable to filling them with lead. Still, the use of less-lethals so far suggests the story is a little more complicated than that. For one thing, nobody is certain just how dangerous these weapons are. A reporter from the Arizona Republic has tied Tasers to more than 70 deaths, product liability lawsuits are flying, and just last week a coroner in Las Vegas ruled the death of a man shocked by police wielding Tasers a “homicide.”

Besides, while cops are certainly known to shoot and kill people under dubious circumstances, they tend to be a bit more careful when using real live bullets. The evidence to date suggests law enforcement types aren’t so constrained in using the less-lethal alternatives.

For an educational—and stomach-turning—look at how police departments are employing the less-lethal technology already on the market, check out The Miami Model, a feature-length DVD documenting the carnage-laden demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas confab last year.

You’ll see a stunned young woman who's been blasted in the temple by some sort of projectile. She's kneeling, obviously in shock. Blood streams down her face, dripping like maroon paint splashed on a wall, speckling her gray T-shirt. It's unclear what became of her or how serious her wounds were.

You’ll hear the clip-da-clip-clip of gunfire as less-lethal bullets plow into people and see protesters howl after being zapped by cattle prod-like electrified riot shields and Tasers.

You’ll see Carl Kesser, a middle-age filmmaker who took a beanbag round to the cranium while surveying the police-protester havoc from the sidewalk. He looks seriously disoriented, his torso angled forward as he walks unsteadily. Blood is everywhere, fingering across his cheeks, dripping off his nose and chin in thick red tendrils. A welt the size of a Ping-Pong ball protrudes from the right side of Kesser's face. It's the beanbag, which struck him with such velocity that it actually burrowed into his face, becoming lodged beneath his skin. It took a three-hour operation to remove, and Kesser later filed suit saying the attack left his face partially paralyzed.

“It was obvious in Miami that the cops got all this loot and bought all these new toys and wanted to try them out,” said Ali Tonak, a San Francisco videographer who belongs to the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, the loose-knit outfit behind The Miami Model. “The mind-set of cops changes when they feel like they’re using toys instead of real guns.”

Kesser and the other folks who took shots to the dome are lucky to be alive. After Oakland Police Department officers unleashed a massive fusillade of projectiles at anti-warriors in April 2003, we uncovered some fairly shocking info about the stuff Oakland is using - primarily wooden and rubber bullets and beanbag rounds manufactured by a Wyoming-based company called Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories.

We got a copy of the firm's 1999 training manual, which states, “Areas such as the head, neck, spine and groin” shouldn’t be targeted “unless it is the intent to deliver deadly force.” Of course, in Oakland, as in Miami, cops managed to hit protesters in all of those spots; miraculously they didn’t kill anybody.

The manual also cites a startling San Diego Police Department study that concluded that less-lethal munitions killed people in 2 percent of the instances in which they were deployed and broke bones 5 percent of the time.

‘Neutralize individuals’

One piece of futuristic weaponry has already hit U.S. streets. A 150-decibel Long Range Acoustic Device, or “sonic disruptor,” designed to disperse crowds via directed beams of screeching feedback, was on hand during this summer's Republican National Convention protests in New York City. The 45-pound device, which didn’t get a full-volume workout in New York, was used by the Marines in Iraq and on ships in the Persian Gulf.

Clearly, the war has indeed come home—and more armaments designed for military peacekeeping missions are likely to end up here. In the future, pharma weapons could become a key tool for crowd control. Defense Department propeller-heads have been batting around plans to use tranquilizing drugs to mellow out mobs since at least 2000, when they commissioned scientists at Pennsylvania State University to study the concept.

The ideal “calmative” drug, the Penn State researchers wrote in a 49-page report, would produce a spectrum of reactions “ranging from a less agitated, groggy, sleepy-like state to a stunned state of consciousness” and could be delivered via “drinking water,” “topical application to the skin,” an “aerosol spray,” or through a “drug-filled rubber bullet.” Among the drugs the researchers looked at were Valium, Zoloft, Prozac, and Ketamine.

More recently, in early 2004, the Defense Department generated a study titled “Future Strategic Strike Forces,” which includes a note that “calmatives might be considered” to “neutralize individuals.”

(It's not just the Dr. Strangelove crew who’re intrigued by the prospects of doping up the rabble: the U.S. Department of Justice has also done research on the subject. Of course—just so you know— drug weapons are banned by the international treaties on chemical and biological warfare.)

Other less-lethal systems mentioned in “Future Strategic Strike Forces” include “directed energy” weapons. “Lasers or high-power microwaves (HPM) provide an effective less-than-lethal capability,” the report states. “The HPM approach termed ‘active denial’ may be used to produce an autonomic burning response in the targeted individual. Laser devices may be used at lower powers to dazzle eyesight or burn the skin or objects.”

We can thank the Sunshine Project, a weapons-monitoring group with offices in Austin, Texas, and Hamburg, Germany, for using Freedom of Information laws to unearth the plans for these new technologies. In an interview, Edward Hammond, the group's U.S. director, described the microwave weapon: “It's like a Humvee with a DISH network antenna that's aim-able. But the dish isn’t pulling down ESPN—it's broadcasting microwaves and heating up your skin to 150 degrees.”

Among scientists developing microwave weapons, Hammond said, “the presumption is that you’ll immediately get out of the way. What if you don’t get out of the way?”

Hammond and colleagues have also unearthed a paper trail showing the U.S. Army has embarked, in its own words, on “an engineering program to design an 81mm mortar cartridge, with the goal of being capable of delivering nonlethal payloads.”

And we can’t forget the land mines Taser International has dreamed up. While the firm won’t say much about the project, documents filed with federal regulators earlier this year indicate that Taser is teaming with military contractor General Dynamics to create “area denial systems or ‘land mines' using TASER core technologies.” Taser has also received $479,000 in funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research for undisclosed research and development, and has admitted to working on “long range” electrical weapons.

“There are tight research connections between the U.S. Department of Justice” and the “nonlethal” weapons wing of the Pentagon, Hammond said, adding, “Conceivably, these weapons could be used here first.” —

“Thus, what is needed is a method to readily manipulate the [Ebola] genome.” —Kawaoka, et al., US Patent Application 20030215794, 20 Nov 2003 —Another fine product brought to you by the US Biodefense Program.