Via Teddy Partridge at FDL, the shocking news that military weapons are now being deployed against civilians in the United States, just as many of u
September 16, 2009

Via Teddy Partridge at FDL, the shocking news that military weapons are now being deployed against civilians in the United States, just as many of us predicted:

You think your town hall meeting's law enforcement presence was authoritarian and heavy-handed?

Check this out: San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore deployed (but did not use) military type sonic crowd-control devices at two town hall meetings, one held by GOP Darrell Issa and the other by Democrat Susan Davis. These devices are the same as those used to control crowds of insurgents in the Iraq war theatre and have been linked to ear and brain injury.

Both town halls took place without incident; however the use of the military device concerned San Diegians. The LRAD [Long-Range Acoustic Device] crowd control is primarily used in Iraq to control insurgents and can cause serious and lasting harm to humans.

According to the manufacture, American Technology Corporation, the LRAD provides “military personnel the capability to transition through the rules of engagement to determine a target’s intent and also provides greater assurance that innocent lives on both sides of the device are not lost due to miscommunication.”

[...]“It’s very concerning,” Kevin Keenan, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “ It is fine for the Sheriff’s Department to have new less-than-lethal weapons, but for their interactions with individuals these still-dangerous weapons need to be used only as substitutes for firearms. They can’t be used as just another tool on the tool belt. As we’ve seen with tasers and pepper spray, these types of weapons are being used to subdue people even though they pose the risk of serious physical harm.”

He added, “Even more concerning is having these weapons for public order policing. I can imagine no situation, or am not aware of any situation that’s ever happened in San Diego County or is likely to happen that would justify using these weapons for public order policing to control a crowd.

The main effect of having those weapons at public events is to chill people and chill free speech and free association.”

However, Defense Update, a British defense contracting publication, lists LRADs as “non-lethal directed energy weapons. The publication states: “LRAD works like a highly directional, high power megaphone, able to blast sounds (such as crowd-dispersal instructions in Arabic) in a narrow beam and with great clarity at a deafening 150 decibels (50 times the human threshold of pain). LRAD can also create deafening noises which can incapacitate people within 300 meters by “firing” short bursts of intense acoustic energy.”

Then there was this story in 2006:

It fell off the national media radar awfully quickly, but here's a followup:

The Wynne story came and went so quickly that radio journalist Charles Goyette from KFNX in Phoenix tried to follow up. An interview was scheduled with the Air Force Secretary's spokesman, USAF Major Aaron Burgstein, to get elaboration on the Secretary's remarks. But Burgstein cancelled at the last minute without explanation.

Burgstein's email to Goyette added that "SECAR (Wynne) is not advocating using non-lethal weapons on the American public," just that they be "fully tested first before they're employed overseas" because our enemy "uses any and all opportunities to wage a propaganda war."

Sounds benign enough. Unfortunately, it directly contradicts what Wynne actually said. "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens," said Wynne, "then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation."

"If they are used in the US," Burgstein wrote Goyette, "it would be by the police, not the military." Burgstein equates these energy beams to tasers, perhaps unaware of the controversy surrounding a number of taser injuries and deaths.

Wynne, a major defense contractor turned Pentagon insider, tipped his hand. Pentagon planners intend to use high-tech weapons on Americans before turning them on Iraqis, either directly or by making the technology available to police and other agencies. And that's not a new story, either. ABC News reported in 2004 that there were active discussions to use sonic weaponry against demonstrators during the Republican National Convention in New York. When in "weapon" mode, the "LRAD" (long range acoustic device) "blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting." [...]

As for the microwave beam, New Scientist reported that when it was tested, "experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots."

In other words, this beam doesn't only inflict agony on its targets. If you can't move out of the way quickly enough it can cause serious burns and potentially even fuse contact lenses onto their wearers' eyeballs.

The ACLU is the only group fighting "reasonable" abuses like this. If you don't already belong, you should join.

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