The 60 Minutes TV show has joined the push to deploy the Active Denial System (ADS), a millimeter-wave transmitter that causes intense pain but doesn’t kill or cause burns with short exposures.
60 Minutes has covered the pain ray several times, but today aired a complete endorsement and argument for its immediate deployment. A parade of military, government, and ex-military police officers lauded the pain gun, said it was safe, harmless, and would save lives.
It was so over the top it got creepy. An assistant secretary of the Air Force, the woman in charge of buying the weapon, said the pain ray works so good that anyone that doesn’t run away is a ‘determined adversary’ and can be considered a ‘hostile’, a ‘terrorist’. The direct implication of that is anyone who doesn’t run away can be shot dead. Of course it has a range of half a mile, so if a person doesn’t see where it is coming from and runs the wrong way he or she will get killed. The weapon looks to have a small focus area, so if used on a crowd it would need to be waved around or several pain rays used. This also makes it hard to know the expected or ‘safe’ direction to run. And of course, the use of an intermittent pain ray in a crowd is likely to start a panic, with people trapped in the crowd running every which way.
Also creepy was the military’s test footage provided to 60 Minutes. People carrying anti-war and peace signs in English walking around peacefully were the targets of the pain ray. Err, so why exactly does the military think a demonstration on how the pain ray can disperse peace rallys is a great demonstration? The US does have a long history of peaceful demonstrations disrupted by illegal police actions, but doesn’t seem to suffer from a lack technology…
So what’s the plan? The 60 Minutes episode pushed the pain ray as a US/Iraq War weapon. This is no doubt mostly hype–every new weapon being pushed today is no doubt sold as an Iraq War weapon. But exactly why would the US Army be called out to disperse political protests in Iraq? Isn’t that exactly the role the US has been training the Iraqi police to handle for the last five years?
No doubt the end game has US police departments equipped with the pain ray and using it mainly on peaceful protests. Of course after the police starts firing the pain ray, I’m sure people will be running around screaming–a ready made riot for TV news condemnation.
After a few years to accommodate the US public to the pain ray it will likely get shopped out to foreign governments and used primarily for suppressing protests.
Of course the pain ray is just the most prominent of the anti-democracy technologies in the pipeline. There are many ways being developed to monitor and disrupt democracy activists and their efforts.