Military & Police of the
future : more pain, less death?

(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 022707)

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February 17, 2007
http://www.slate.com/id/2159935/
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Excerpts:

If you're worried about terrorism, upset
about the war in Iraq, and depressed by
global chaos, violence, and death, cheer
up.

We've just invented a weapon that fires
a beam of searing pain.

Three weeks ago, the U.S. armed forces
tested it on volunteers at an Air Force base
in Georgia. You can watch the video on a
military Web site.

Three colonels get zapped, along with an
Associated Press reporter. The beam is
invisible, but its effects are vivid. Two
dozen airmen scatter. The AP guy shrieks
and bolts out of the target zone. He says
it felt like heat all over his body, as though
his jacket were on fire.

The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed.

The beam's energy waves penetrate just
one-sixty-fourth of an inch into your body,
heating your skin like microwaves. They
inflame your nerve endings without actually
burning you. This could be the future of
warfare: less bloodshed, more pain.

...

Raytheon, the pain beam's manufacturer,
points out that the weapon "allows precise
targeting of specific individuals" and that
the pain "ceases immediately" when the
beam is diverted or the target flees.

...

Early nonlethal devices, such as rubber
bullets and Mace, often caused injuries
due to abuse by hotheads. When the
pain beam was initially being developed,
somebody accidentally fired it on a high
setting, inflicting a second-degree burn.
The designers responded by program-
ming limits on the beam's power and
duration.

Years of work have gone into making the
beam safe. It's been tested thousands
of times on 600 volunteers. It's been
reviewed and revised by a human-effects
review board, a human-effects advisory
panel, and military surgeons general.

It's been tested for effects on skin cancer,
fertility, jewelry, and drunks. The results
have been published in peer-reviewed
journals.

Never has an organization licensed to kill
jumped through so many hoops to make
sure nobody gets injured.

The nonlethal weapons program is a paci-
fist's dream.

...

But the ability to inflict pain without injury
doesn't just make injury less necessary.
It makes pain more essential to military
operations—and easier to inflict.

To achieve the desired "repel effect," I
have to make you suffer. Knowing that
your agony will be brief and leave no phy-
sical damage makes the weapon easier
to fire.

It's almost as though, like the imagined
flames on the AP reporter's jacket, your
pain isn't real.

The rain of pain falls mainly in the brain.

The long-range acoustic device, for
instance, "can target narrow sound beams
at excruciating decibel levels, but below
the threshold of hearing damage," ...

Four months ago, Congress passed and
President Bush signed legislation to pros-
ecute torture, defined as intentional inflic-
tion of "serious physical or mental pain
or suffering."

But that rule applies only in captivity.

On the street, pain administration won't be
a crime. It'll be a policy.

Two weeks from now, military leaders will
convene in London to discuss the pain beam
and the next generation of directed-energy
weapons, including microwaves and lasers.

Law enforcement agencies are interested.

Raytheon is already advertising the technol-
ogy for commercial applications.

We're even developing a "personnel halting
and stimulation response" system—yes, a
PHaSR—to stun targets instead of killing them.

But don't worry, nobody will get hurt. Sort of.

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