Welcome to the Future

Posted in Crazy Weapons, War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 6:51 am by George Smith

Predictably, Raytheon’s pain ray has generated quite a bit of bad publicity along with the usual brief corporate news pieces in which a local TV station or paper sends a reporter to be a trial gimp.

The reporter invariably giggles and jumps out of the way as Raytheon technicians or jailers look impishly on. See the wonder that’s taken a decade for the US military, in conjunction with an arms developer, to come up with! It’s a revolution.

From Associated Press:

A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is “tantamount to torture.”

The mechanism, known as an “Assault Intervention Device,” (or AID) is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California criticized Sheriff Lee Baca’s decision in a letter sent Thursday, saying that the technology amounts to a ray gun at a county jail. The 4-feet-tall weapon, which looks like a cross between a robot and a satellite radar, will be mounted on the ceiling and can swivel.

It is remotely controlled by an operator in a separate room who lines up targets with a joystick.

The ACLU said the weapon was “tantamount to torture,” noting that early military versions resulted in five airmen suffering lasting burns. It requested a meeting with Baca, who declined the invitation.

What much of the news has missed is that Raytheon has been trying to peddle the pain ray into prisons for years. And it has long had a big influence in the LA Sheriff’s Department, where Sid Heal presided over a long career as the local point man for bringing stupid applications in cutting edge technology, rays and various gadgets, into the force.

Mostly unsuccessfully.

For instance:

The folks who keep planes from crashing into one another over at the FAA were none too pleased to read about that little UAV demo conducted by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department this weekend, with the agency telling Sheriff Lee Baca and company to keep their drone grounded pending the result of an investigation. What’s more, the department could actually face disciplinary action for the SkySeer’s inaugural flight — FAA spokesperson Laura Brown commented that although the agency wasn’t “peeved,” they were “definitely surprised” that authorization had not been requested for the trial. Commander Sid Heal, point man for this program tasked with spying on Angelinos locating criminal suspects …

In 2008, Heal retired but not before indicating to New Yorker magazine that he was interested in a Raytheon consulting offer, based on peddling the pain ray. Here, from earlier this week.

Those who’ve followed the ADS story know that Heal and, by extension — the Sheriff’s Department, have longed for the pain ray for some time.

If you read the AP piece to its conclusion, you see the now standard assertions — built up over the years — that the pain ray can’t possibly hurt anybody. Plus it will only be used by people who are trained to exquisite fineness in its use, never afflicted with the cloudy or bad judgment which is usually part of the human condition.

Sure they’re intelligence-insulting, but it’s the way of the p.r. campaign for the thing.

Many authoritarian Americans are always keen to believe whatever rubbish is presented to them, as long as its couched in magical terms which assure that breakthroughs in technology have made a burning weapon something that doesn’t physically burn. It’s all in your mind. Or your nerve endings. Or the top layer of your skin.

Whatever, who cares, its prisoners we’re talking about and if you’re in jail in the US, you deserve everything bad that comes your way. And this is a good flavor of bad, its chief scientists/engineers at Raytheon — all of them — say so.

The pain ray is a weapon for using in cases where people can’t shoot back or launch any kind of counterattack. It’s critical the target be helpless. Like many reporters sent by news agencies for testing.

The ADS — or AID — is not a survivable piece of gear and it’s why it was peddled to the US military for use against unarmed crowds. The US military brought it back from Afghanistan without firing a shot, for logical reasons.

Winning hearts and minds is not the pain ray’s strong suit.

Paradoxically, when the Active Denial System was first marketed it was called the Sheriff and part of the idea was that it was great because it wouldn’t actually kill people, thus pissing off victims and civilians less.

“Sell the Sheriff to the sheriffs!” was probably on a Raytheon sales memo somewhere.

All you need to know about the delirious history of the pain ray — at Globalsecurity.


  1. Nishimiya said,

    August 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Something else that’s been sold to the sheriffs: http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2010/08/24/full-body-scan-technology-deployed-in-street-roving-vans/

    Don’t know why, but this actually surprises me. Do these people really think the Patirot Act renders the fourth amendment obsolete? And isn’t there any fear of radiation exposure?

  2. George Smith said,

    August 28, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I’d wondered about that, too. They probably have a sales brochure that says, “A daily X-ray is good for people.”

  3. Nishimiya said,

    August 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I’d be interested in the science behind this. Hopefully the X-ray is diffused by the distance/scope of view, or of lesser intensity than in a regular X-ray. Or does it have to be stronger to get good useful images? Plus I assume that if something looks suspicious, they sit there zapping the car and the people in it for a while. How about an hour long X-ray?

    The back scatter X-ray used in terminal security is worrisome because, among other things, it focuses radiation on a smaller area (the skin) than a regular X-ray, increasing the chance of damage. I’d assume it’s a similar story here.

    Or, hopefully, someone just decides it’s better to run the risk of the occasional car bomb than to flush the Fourth Amendment down the toilet and run around irradiating ourselves.

  4. Wardog72 said,

    August 28, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    It does not use X-rays. It’s a type of microwave. If it’s good enough to test on over 10000 US airman, soldiers and military working dogs (yes, dogs as well) it’s good enough to use on prisoners and other criminal elements. In all of those tests there was no lasting damage. I know a few people and dogs that it was tested on and they are completely fine…

  5. Mark said,

    August 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    One type of the full body scan definitely does use x-rays, another type does not. Any long term consequences from the exposure would probably not be immediately seen.

    It is a violation of the Nuremberg Code about human experimentation to force people to participate in medical experiments against their will. Anyone remember the reason that Code was written by the US government? It’s probably more important than the nonsense about celebrities and football that dominates television “news.”

    The Active Denial System is the perfect system of extreme torture. Sadists all over the world are delighted, including the sadists in the management of prisons in this country. Small doses of this “human microwave oven” would be extremely painful for those restrained and forced to endure it, and if the system wasn’t dialed up to full strength the only limit would be how long someone could tolerate it before the stress would induce a heart attack.

    “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
    — Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967

  6. George Smith said,

    August 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Re the “I know a few people and dogs it was tested on” stuff:

    That’s not what’s being discussed in the comments. See Nishimiya’s post.

    We already know all the corporate pr on the pain ray and how thousands of gimp subjects — like soldiers and reporters — let the thing test shoot them to show everyone how fun and harmless it was. Old news.

    You’ve missed the obvious distinction between use it on volunteers, cheerleaders, and/or people publicizing it — and prisoners.

  7. perivale benway said,

    August 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

    Similarly, using gadgets against innocent people – (remember the golden thread of justice? It’s the presumption of innocence.) – this unmerciful infernal device damns the user.