Hi-tech Torture

…Now the US military directorate charged with developing non-lethal weapons, which has invested more than a decade developing the Active Denial System (ADS), has launched a concerted effort to convince both the public and its own bosses at the defence department of the device’s merits.

With brand new technology like this, perception is everything,” said Col Kirk Hymes, a former Marine artillery officer who heads the directorate.

He added that tests were almost complete and the first ADS, also known as the Silent Guardian, could be deployed early next year if the Pentagon allows. The decision is so sensitive that it is expected to be made personally by the defence secretary, Robert Gates, who sent senior representatives to the demonstrations…
The Telegraph, November 19, 2007

Just when it seems that things cannot get any worse, we learn that U.S. military commanders in Iraq are seeking permission to use a new weapon system. This will be the ultimate torture weapon. Its purpose is to cause excruciating pain, but leave no evidence of wounds on the victim. Imagine this weapon at AbuGhraib or Guantanamo. Imagine this weapon at your local precinct. The Department of Defense has named this weapon system “Active Denial”.

Besides torture, this weapon can also be used for crowd control — a ray gun which could literally make blood boil. It is based on the same technology as a microwave oven. The human body is comprised mostly of water… think of the sensation of boiling blood. The purpose of this weapon system is to cause an unbearable level of pain so that the victim will submit to the will of the US military or police.

The gun produces a 95-gigahertz microwave beam that is designed to penetrate 1/64th of an inch. Hummmm, should the experts be trusted to achieve zero defects with a technology that requires so precise a tolerance?

Raytheon, with headquarters in Waltham, Mass. is listed as the prime contractor on this project. Raytheon reports sales of $20.3 billion in 2006. The development of torture devices brings high profits to the corporation. Profits before people seems to be the accepted practice in the United States.

This project brings to mind some questions. The Raytheon web site states that this weapon will be used for “civilian law enforcement”. Is this system being designed for domestic use against U.S. citizens? Will it be used for “crowd control” at sites of labor disputes and strikes? Will it be coming soon to a war protest near you? Will it be used at the borders to prevent immigration? Does International Law prohibit the use of this weapon on the battlefield? Will the government hide behind Sovereign Immunity when a citizen is injured or killed by this weapon? How will this weapon effect children? Will the NRA lobby for access to this weapon? How will it affect the performance of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker?

The bad news is that this weapon is now operational. The good news is that the weapon system has had some major design problems. The designers have failed to realize that a person is not a potato. Microwaving a human to the exact degree of doneness is proving to be problematic. Is there anyone out there who wants to volunteer as a subject for any further field tests that may be required? What they need is a test subject, with a pacemaker, contact lenses, a lot of amalgam dental fillings, and maybe a few metal surgical staples from an old appendectomy. Will they pay a bonus if the subject is pregnant? When the experiment is completed, if the subject is incapacitated, but still alive with no visible wounds, the field test is a success.

Fifty-one million dollars has already been spent on this weapon system. This gun has killed before the trigger was even pulled. In the U.S., 18,000 die each year because of the lack of health care. If that 51 million dollars had been used to provide health care to our fellow citizens many lives would have been saved. The real enemies of the American people are those whose priorities are so warped that they allocate money for ray guns while ignoring the humanitarian needs of the populace.

The design and production of redundant weapon systems is pushed by the lobbying efforts of the arms manufacturers who have been doing a land-office business. Somehow all of this seems to be OK with the employees of Raytheon. The argument that, “We need the jobs”, is an old one that has been used to justify the development of the most horrific weapons. It is puzzling that the psyche of so many U.S. workers allows them to be engaged in the design and manufacture of a weapon system designed to torture. As the U.S. economy disintegrates, more will be willing to sell their souls for the pay check at the end of the week.

Will those in the legal community speak out against this hi-tech torture system? Its legality under international law is questionable — but then compliance with international law is not a high priority in the US.

Will church leaders give sermons about hi-tech torture? It does not seem to be a hot topic among the clergy.

Will shareholders dump their Raytheon stock? Does Wall Street have a conscience — dumb question, I know.

Will US taxpayers object to having their money used to make weapons of torture? They don’t seem to object to cluster bombs, land mines, or nukes.

Will US citizens be duped by the spin of the Pentagon and State Department into thinking that this is just another “nice” weapon that we need to “protect our freedom”? The propaganda campaign has already begun. Col. Kirk Hymes is quoted as saying, “With brand new technology like this, perception is everything.”

Waterboarding is low-tech torture. Active Denial is hi-tech torture. Torture is torture no matter how it is done. Most people — with the exception of at least one Justice on the Supreme Court — understand that. Torture by any other name is still torture.

Rosemarie Jackowski is an advocacy journalist living in Vermont. Read other articles by Rosemarie.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. AJ Nasreddin said on November 21st, 2007 at 10:17am #

    You know how you get some dried out, leathery pizza when you leave it in a microwave oven too long? That’s what happened to a family friend’s hand once as she stood too close to a defective microwave. She had to have her hand amputated because the internal tissue got fried and was dead. From the outside – yeah – she looked fine, but she was in a lot of pain.

    I heard they already tried out this thing in Iraq and the Isrealis have used it in Gaza.

  2. Eric said on November 21st, 2007 at 10:49am #

    The age old problem of how much suffering you’re willing to inflict on others to accomodate yourself or how many people you’re willng to kill in order to save your own life…A truly universal problem, really. And the opportunity is in everyone’s hand. How are we doing lately? To be willing to die as a martyr for the belief of universal unity is widely ridiculed in every single live example. As long as a child in Africa is willing to kill dozens with a machete on threats of torture or that a family man keeps his 401K in armament stocks to dream of his retirement, we’ll never be able to hope in human beings for a change. So keep on dreaming, the rats aren’t done running the race.

  3. rosemarie jackowski said on November 21st, 2007 at 11:08am #

    AJ…I know some medical professionals who will not allow a microwave oven in their homes. It was reported, when they first hit the market that some of them “leaked” microwaves?

    Eric…I pretty much agree with you, BUT I have known people who have put themselves on the line because of their conscience. Would you work in a factory that made weapons? I would not, but I am complicit in war crimes because I participate in the war economy of the US. Anyone who buys a pair of socks or pays taxes is complicit.

  4. Lynne said on November 21st, 2007 at 11:12am #

    I wonder how many dogs Raytheon has cooked in developing this.

  5. rosemarie jackowski said on November 21st, 2007 at 2:27pm #

    I don’t understand why it is socially unacceptable to smoke in public but perfectly alright to work for companies like Raytheon – or worse yet, be a stockholder of Raytheon. Maybe someone can explain the logic there. Can you imagine going home from work at night and explaining to your kids when they ask what you did at work and you say, “I made torture devices today.”

  6. Ekosmo said on November 21st, 2007 at 3:45pm #


    I’ll file this article alongside the comments of a DV “contributor” I wrestled with in here last week — ex-US army Gulf-war 1 veteran [so he said] who posts by the name of ‘Richard’…

    After informing me just how much

    “[I’m] safe because thousands [[of regular, good ol’ boy army folks like him presumably]] have died for your safety and continue to!”

    he then went on to state — in all seriousness …

    “Sooner or later the world as we know it can not sustain its populations, food and resources .Wars seem to be a natural solution because its a partial remedy that can be created over and over.It does create jobs and growth ,More money for research and techknowledgy and advancement in knowledge and health!”

    …the SAIC, Boeing, Blackwater, Raytheon etc. philosophy of ‘logic’ — all contained in the words of a once-sentient homo sapien…

    I’d suggest to Rosie — that that’s exactly the kind of utterly indoctrinated moral degenerate who’s perfectly capable of telling his kids, “I made torture devices today”…

  7. Deadbeat said on November 21st, 2007 at 6:01pm #

    We live in an unjust society that uses coercion to keep everyone in line. So I reject the assertion that ordinary working people are “complicit” because they pay taxes. They pay taxes due to coercion. To blame workers IMO is just engaging in “blame the victim” rhetoric.

    What is sorely needed is solidarity. Unfortunately I don’t think the U.S. citizens even want solidarity. That’s the problem as I see it. People cannot find ways to get beyond identity politics to tackle issues of racism, exploitation and militarism.

    So long as U.S. citizens continue to “blame the victim” they will never see how the ruling class divides them. Fortunately the there are places in other parts of the world where they’ve managed to build solidarity and are making progressive changes to reconstruct their society.

  8. dan elliott said on November 21st, 2007 at 9:52pm #

    well, looks like whenever the insanity gets too much I can usually go to DV & open a piece by Rosemary, & read the comments. Promising group you’re attracting here, Ms. J!

    Re La Tortura –which incidentally was the title of a film by Saul Landau, came out in the mid sixties about events in Brazil & Argentina, don’t watch it, will keep you awake nights — I wonder if everybody’s seen Judge Andrew Napolitano’s speech about Bush’s assaults on the Constitution & the Geneva Convention etc? That’s right, Napolitano from Fox News. But it was a hell of a speech. Said no president since Lincoln so freely violated the Constitution ( Lincoln also cancelled the right of Habeas Corpus, that’s a fact), and re the Patriot Act, no legislation since John Adams’ Alien & Sedition Acts was more alien to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. I fwdd the link to the video, (it was on CSpan) & still have it if you want it.

    BTW, I think it was “Neal”, mebbe “Jaime”, who said the USS Liberty was in a war zone? Sorry, no stogie: the attack occurred in International Waters. It’s all been documented for years. Wash Report on Mid East Affairs has been publishing the basic facts for decades: wrmea.org.

    I guess these Ziotrolls figger nobody does their homework? Surprise!

  9. rosemarie jackowski said on November 22nd, 2007 at 5:01pm #

    Ekosmo, dan, and Deadbeat…Am I blaming the victims? Maybe, but then you could say that we are all victims and no one would ever accept responsibility for their actions. In my view, there is a continuum of guilt – from the least guilty (those who support the war economy by buying a pair of socks), to the most guilty. Those would be the ones most directly involved with the war machine.
    Sure we are victims of the ruling class, but does that justify the slaughter of civilians? I no longer accept the dog-ate-my-homework type of reasoning because I don’t think that society can operate that way. At some point everyone must accept responsibility for their actions. To me the-dog-ate-my-homework reasoning is the same as saying I shot the Iraqi child because I was ordered to do it. Under an ethical system like that it is a free for all – survival of the most well equipped. Only the guy with the biggest bomb gets to survive.

    While you are trying to build solidarity and make progressive changes to reconstruct society people are dying. All who are responsible for the killing, no how small their part is, should be reminded that their actions have caused the deaths of innocent civilians. No one should get a free pass on this. I would like to see solidarity in the condemnation of war and killing. As long as some find it “socially acceptable” to engage in war related activities, such as working for arms manufacturers, the slaughter will continue.

  10. Ekosmo said on November 23rd, 2007 at 3:31pm #

    my 2nd “Oh dear” today…
    — my 1st was ‘next door’ at Prof. Leupp’s “History class” [lol] where I encountered…er… ‘Neal’ — in all his glory…

    Rosie — I search but cannot find any reference of mine to your “blaming the victims.”
    I did find a reference to someone highly capable of telling his kids, “I made torture devices today”…

    Kim P. also conflates my posts with others I sure as hell do not wish be conflated with… Its a little bewildering… lol
    seriously: “Only the guy with the biggest bomb gets to survive.”

    the Darwinianism of this reminds me of 2005 Nobel prize-winning playwrite Harold Pinter’s video-address to the committee whilst he was recovering from throat cancer…

    “Mr. Pinter “uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms,” the Swedish Academy said in announcing the award…” [NYT]

    His speech included the following:

    “…I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation…

    ‘God is good. God is great. God is good.
    My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God.
    Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off.
    We believe in freedom. So does God.
    I am not a barbarian.
    I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy.
    We are a compassionate society.
    We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection.
    We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is.
    I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are.
    I possess moral authority.
    You see this fist? This is my moral authority.
    And don’t you forget it.’

    full text at http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,1661516,00.html

    visual at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY2Z27Y-HJE

    if you aren’t already aware of him — Enjoy…!

  11. Pierre said on November 25th, 2007 at 5:14am #

    Well, I think this weapon will initially have great “success” on the battlefield and on the many protests which will happen in the US in the following years as the financial crisis turns global. I have no doubts that police will use it without hesitation, as with Tasers.

    However, a mudjahidin dressed in aluminum foil (!), or any kind of conductive garment or metallic fabric (like the ones used by electricity workers to work on high voltage lines, readily available at many reputable delears of this kind of equipment), will be essentially immune to this weapon… Just add a RPG, and good riddance.

    Hence, this weapon will only be effective against unarmed, unprepared civilians…

  12. rosemarie jackowski said on November 25th, 2007 at 8:58am #

    Pierre…thanks for the comment. Yes, the usa never met a weapon system that it didn’t like. The present administration in Washington has already assassinated a US citizen and claims to have the legal right to assassinate more. There is no outrage. Maybe everybody is too busy shopping or watching the ball game.
    Deadbeat (above) says we are divided. In a way I agree with his comment – but I would word it differently. How can we be divided when 95% of us vote for the dems/repubs? 95% of us like things the way they are and don’t want real change. I would say that we are totally lacking in empathy. Until it happens to us we don’t care. Recently I posed this question, what do you think would happen if someone came up with absolute proof that the government caused 9/11 and was planning more attacks against civilians. I think most people would go on with life as usual. As a society, we just don’t care about each other.

  13. Mike McNiven said on November 26th, 2007 at 2:26am #

    Thank you Ms. Jakowski!

    Gandhi , in support of your position: ” …we are totally lacking in empathy…,” mentions the cause as :”unearned wealth!” As we benefit from the imperialist loot, we all become complicit, and, we have to show lack of empathy — or confess the guilt! (which one is easier? )

    A united front of the conscientious residents of the G-7 countries, against imperialism, is long overdue!

  14. rosemarie jackowski said on November 26th, 2007 at 12:21pm #

    Great comment, Mike… Yep, too many of us are benefiting from the imperialist’s wealth. Our silence is bought. I think that the answer will have to come from outside the usa – where there is a little more freedom of information and a little less complicity in the war crimes. As the value of the dollar drops, there will be increasing opportunities for economic blowback against the USA empire. If the rest of the world does not act, it may soon be too late.