Thursday, December 25, 2008

New tools of torture for US police?

I would say that this is something to watch out for:
The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects.

The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System (ADS) - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain.
Presumably these would be "nonlethal", but we know the track history of "nonlethal" weapons has been far from reassuring. Further:
The effect of microwave beams on humans has been investigated for years, but there is little publicly available research on the effects of PHaSR-type lasers on humans. The attraction of using a laser is that it can be less bulky than a microwave device.
Human rights groups say that equipping police with such weapons would add to the problems posed by existing "non-lethals" such as Tasers. Security expert Steve Wright at Leeds Metropolitan University describes the new weapons as "torture at the touch of a button".
"We have grave concerns about the deployment and use of any such devices, which have the potential to be used for torture or other ill treatment," says Amnesty International's arms control researcher Helen Hughes, adding that all research into their effects should be made public.
In all likelihood, such weapons would be used in an attempt to suppress public displays of dissent (given the turbulence caused by the on-going financial meltdown caused by neoliberal policies, such dissent is likely to increase and the ruling class is antsy about that possibility), and that if the Taser's usage history is a reliable indicator, such weapons will be abused, with those who are mentally ill and/or belong to scape-goated minority groups will be the ones victimized, along with citizen watchdogs attempting to document or film police abuse in progress. The potential for people to be literally tortured to death, as with the Taser, is one that should not be dismissed lightly.

See all of my posts on Tasers.

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