Monday, July 28, 2008

Neuroscience, National Security & the "War on Terror"

Operating with little ethical oversight, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been tapping cutting-edge advances in neuroscience, computers and robotics in a quest to build the "perfect warfighter."

Dovetailing precisely with other projects to "dominate" the urban "battlespace" of global south and "homeland" cities, DARPA researchers are stretching moral boundaries where clear distinctions between "human" and "machine" are being consciously blurred. (see "Simulating Urban Warfare" and "America's Cyborg Warriors")

As the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics warns,

The right of a person to liberty, autonomy, and privacy over his or her own intellect is situated at the core of what it means to be a free person. This principle is what gives life to some of our most well-established and cherished rights. Today, as new drugs and other technologies are being developed for augmenting, monitoring, and manipulating mental processes, it is more important than ever to ensure that our legal system recognizes and protects cognitive liberty as a fundamental right. (CCLE, "Frequently Asked Questions," September 15, 2003)

Not only is the right to "liberty, autonomy, and privacy" being undermined by militarizing the life sciences, but the legal system itself is ill-equipped to deal with advances--and emerging threats--to "cognitive liberty" as America's corporatist surveillance state seek new means to elicit compliance and control over individuals as biological science is securitized under the rubric of "national security."

In Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense (Dana Press, 2006), bioethicist Jonathan Moreno lays out a frightening scenario where various Pentagon agencies with DARPA leading the charge, have been funding neuroscientific and biological research in the following areas:

Mind-machine interfaces, also called "neural prosthetics." Living robots" whose movements can be controlled via brain implants. Research has successfully been carried out on "roborats" and "robodogs" for mine clearing and other dubious purposes. "Cognitive feedback helmets" that provide commanders or their medical surrogates the ability to remotely view an individual soldiers' mental state. MRI and fMRI technologies for what has been called "brain fingerprinting" as an interrogation tool or airport screening for "terrorists." So-called "non-lethal" pulse weapons and other neurodisruptors for deployment in global south or "homeland" cities as "riot control" tools. "Neuroweapons" that use biological agents to stimulate the release of neurotoxins. Research into concocting new pharmaceuticals that inhibit the urge to eat, sleep, suppress fear, or repress psychological inhibitions against killing.

With a multibillion dollar budget and dozens of projects in the pipeline, DARPA's Defense Sciences Office (DSO) are looking for newer and ever-more insidious means "to harness biology" for military applications. A short list of DSO projects include the following:

* Biological Sensory Structure Emulation (BioSenSE), a program "designed around the concept of understanding biological sensory structures through advanced characterization and emulating, or transferring, this knowledge to the creation of superior synthetic sensors." The majority of biological stimuli are deemed of "great military relevance" by Darpacrats.

* Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CTTWS), the intent of which is to integrate "advances in technology and biology" for a "soldier-portable" visual threat detection device that will utilized "cognitive visual processing algorithms" and "operator neural signature detection."

* Fundamental Laws of Biology (FLB), is described as a mathematical modeling program that "will impact DoD and national security by developing a rational and predictive basis for doing biological research to combat bioterrorism, maintain healthy personnel, and discover new vaccines and medicines"--or to facilitate the design of new biological weapons.

* Nano Air Vehicle (NAV), described by program managers as as a project that "will develop and demonstrate an extremely small (less than 7.5 cm), ultra-lightweight (less than 10 grams) air vehicle system with the potential to perform indoor and outdoor military missions. The program will explore novel, bio-inspired, conventional and unconventional configurations to provide the warfighter with unprecedented capability for urban mission operations." Paging John Anderton, white courtesy telephone!

* Neovision "will pursue an integrated approach to the object recognition pathway in the brain. This fundamental biological research will be accomplished using methods intentionally geared toward computational and modeling approaches that are amenable to hardware- and software-based implementations."

* Peak Soldier Performance (PSP) is designed to "create technologies that allow the warfighter to maintain peak physical and cognitive performance despite the harsh battlefield environment." In other words, develop drugs and nutrients for a "more efficient" soldier.

* Preventing Sleep Deprivation (PSD) is described as seeking to "enhance operational performance," under harsh conditions. Current approaches "under investigation" include "novel pharmaceuticals that enhance neural transmission, nutraceuticals that promote neurogenesis, cognitive training, and devices such as transcranial magnetic stimulation."

* Training Superiority (DARWARS), a suite of programs directly tying the military-industrial and entertainment complexes together into a seamless web. DARWARS seeks to provide "continuously available, on-demand, mission-level training for all forces at all echelons. Specifically, the program is developing, in areas of high military importance, new kinds of cognitive training systems that include elements of human-tutor interactions and the emotional involvement of computer games coupled with the feedback of Combat Training Center learning." Continuous "on-demand training anywhere, anytime, for everyone."

As with all dual-use research conducted by the agency, military relevance trump all other considerations. One need only examine the use of psychological research in the "war on terror" for some very troubling analogies.


If behavioral psychology was handmaid to the horrors perpetrated at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA transnational "black sites," what new nightmares are in store for humanity when advances in neuroscience, complex computer algorithms and a secretive national security state enter stage (far) right? Let's take a look.

Amy Kruse, Ph.D., is described on DARPA's website as the creator of the concept of "operational neuroscience," designing programs that "are helping transform neuroscience from a laboratory discipline to one that is doing advanced research to deliver revolutionary capabilities important to our warfighters."

DSO's "Training and Human Effectiveness" brief claims this suite of programs is "revolutionizing training...for everyone, anywhere, and at any time." Kruse's area of expertise is "AugCog" or augmented cognition, a subset of neuroscientific research seeking models for a "brain-machine interface." Described by the Augmented Cognition International Society (ACI) as

an emerging field of science that seeks to extend a user's abilities via computational technologies, which are explicitly designed to address bottlenecks, limitations, and biases in cognition and to improve decision making capabilities. The goal of AugCog science and technology is to develop computational methods and neurotech tools that can account for and accommodate information processing bottlenecks inherent in human-system interaction (e.g., limitations in attention, memory, learning, comprehension, visualization abilities, and decision making). ("What is Augmented Cognition?" ACI, no date) [emphasis added]

According to DARPA's description of the program, Improving Warfighter Information Intake Under Stress (AugCog):

Military operators must frequently perform cognitively demanding tasks in stressful environments. The AugCog Program has developed technologies to mitigate sensory or cognitive overload and restore operational effectiveness by extending the information management capacity of the warfighter. This is accomplished through closed-loop computational systems that adapt to the state of the warfighter and thereby significantly improve performance.

The exploitation of human and other biological systems by DARPA raise profoundly troubling questions of how these security-related applications will be used by the United States to achieve global dominance at any and all cost. A recent article in Military Geospatial Technology reveal the technophilic preoccupations that obsess securocrats.

Imagine a computer that can read human brain waves to assess the lay of the land. It might seem futuristic, but that's what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA] had partially in mind when they awarded contracts under DARPA's Urban Reasoning and Geospatial Exploitation Technology (URGENT) program. (Cheryl Gerber, "Seeing with Your Brain," Military Geospatial Technology, Vol. 6, Issue 3, June 5, 2008)

One of URGENT's "prime contractors, major defense grifter Lockheed Martin, call their "approach to the program Object Recognition via Brain-inspired Technology," (ORBIT). In conjunction with DARPA's URGENT program, the AugCog project is based on brain-inspired software that seeks to merge neuroscience with computers to create a technology that promises to deliver "situational awareness" to the "warfighter." But building complex 3-D mapping systems is merely the initial jump-off point for what may come once "brain-inspired" algorithms are "perfected."

One "product" that currently aids the "warfighter" and "counterterrorist" officials is called Signature Analyst, designed by corporate grifter SPADAC, a McClean, Virginia defense contractor with close ties to the Department of Homeland Security and the the NGA. According to SPADAC's website, Signature Analyst

delivers enhanced objectivity by discerning subtle yet powerful and actionable insights, maximizing likelihood of success. Combining predictive analytics with spatial information as well as human terrain and social networking elements, the solution delivers effective consequence modeling and improved confidence in decisions for a range of global operational and business challenges.

The program claims it provides "situational awareness" by "finding commonalities" and "relationships" in distinct, seemingly disparate data sources, including past events, as well as "human terrain" and "social networking" information. As we have described previously, Scaleable Social Network Analysis was a data-mining tool designed by DARPA's Total Information Awareness office that worked in tandem with the National Security Agency's illegal spying programs.

One shudders to imagine what "consequences" DARPA and their corporate "partners" are "modeling." A commercial version of the "product" is in the works. One "benefit" of the Signature Analyst software trumpeted by SPADAC is that will "allow fewer analysts to evaluate more data in less time." Why its the perfect "predictive" tool for the current capitalist downturn!

Carrying the mechanistic human/machine model a step further, Lockheed Martin and their "partner" Numenta, a California-based software company, are working on applications for the Defense Department. According to Numenta's website, company founder Jeff Hawkins, author of the 2004 book On Intelligence, has "a deep interest in neuroscience and theories of the neocortex." We bet he does!

Indeed, Hawkins' team has designed a suite of software applications, the Numenta Platform for Intelligent Computing (NuPIC), based on what it calls "hierarchical temporal memory (HTM)," a "computing paradigm" that mimics the structure and function of the human neocortex, the area of the brain that handles high-level thought.

John Darvill ORBIT's chief investigator described Lockheed's relationship with Numenta to Military Geospatial Technology thusly: "Lockheed has been involved with Numenta technology for two years and is a member of the Numenta Partner Program for technical interchange. We have a collaborative technical relationship with Numenta. We use their technology, modify it and apply it."

How? According to Numenta CEO Donna Dubinsky, HTM is designed to "be good at what the human brain can do--inference and pattern recognition even in the presence of noise." In a similar fashion, HTM "learns a model of the world" Dubinsky elaborated, "by exposure through its senses. In the same way, our software is self-learning and has to be exposed to the material that it has to learn. So we train the software. For example, we expose it to a lot of tanks so it learns tank-ness."

And if the software could be applied to an interrogation archetype, will it then "self-learn" how to "model" a sensory deprivation or psychological torture regimen, individually tailored to an "illegal enemy combatant" after it has been "exposed to the material"? Will the software in other words, be exposed "to a lot of torture so it learns torture-ness"?

Technological dual-use is a slippery slope towards atrocity and unimaginable horror, especially if left in the hands of American militarists.

Back to the Future

Here precisely, lies the crux of the problem of exploiting neuroscience and robotics in a quest for newer and ever more insidious military applications. The potential of neurologically interactive technologies to "enhance" human capabilities, indeed to invade the privacy of human thought, and infringe on the independence of our minds for "reasons of state," transform biological/medical research into a subset of weapons development.

To be sure, science, and in particular the cognitive sciences, have been seduced by the Pentagon and the CIA in the past. The literature on unethical CIA and Army research into quixotic quests for "mind control" over "enemy" agents and "target" populations--MKULTRA and their perverse offspring--are replete with the horror stories of their abused victims. Indeed, MKULTRA became the ideologically-charged basis for current interrogation and torture practices by the CIA, the military and their "outsourced" partners.

A perusal of the Company's seminal interrogation manuals, KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation and the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983 drew liberally from the most up-to-date cognitive research of its time. Indeed, many of the sources cited in KUBARK and HRE were leading behavioral psychologists and psychiatrists "under contract" to the CIA, as documented by historians and researchers John Marks (The Search for the Manchurian Candidate), Alfred W. McCoy (A Question of Torture) and Christopher Simpson (Science of Coercion).

Indeed, as Simpson avers in Science of Coercion, the Human Ecology Fund, a CIA cut-out funneling money to prestigious academics such as Albert Biderman, underwrote research on "captivity behavior" and the efficacy "of drugs, electroshock, violence, and other coercive techniques during interrogation of prisoners."

Fast forward to the present. As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson writes regarding current Pentagon interest in neuroscientific research today,

individual scientists will tell themselves that, if they don't do the research, someone else will. Research funding will be sufficiently dominated by military grant makers that it will cause some scientists to choose between accepting military funding or giving up their chosen field of research. And the very real dual-use potential of these new technologies (the same brain implant can create a robosoldier or rehabilitate a Parkinson's disease sufferer) will allow scientists to tell themselves that they are "really" working on health technologies to improve the human lot, and the funding just happens to come from the Pentagon. ("The Militarization of Neuroscience," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 April 2007)

In the final analysis, DARPA, the Pentagon agency that brought us the internet, are now searching for the means to militarize the human mind itself, viewed as the ultimate platform for imperialist domination and social control.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

America's Cyborg Warriors

As the costs of imperialist war skyrocket, securocrats find themselves under the gun so to speak, of corporate and Pentagon masters demanding "results."

No matter that the solutions sought are for "smart" weapons--particularly those that "think"--systems they believe capable of dominating global south and "homeland" cities. This quest for technological mastery has been dubbed by Pentagon theorists as "network-centric warfare" (Rumsfeld's "Revolution in Military Affairs" [RMA]) a "transformational" process that turn cities, any city, into a limitless "battlespace."

Indeed, current U.S. Army doctrine for fighting in urban environments define the problem as central to U.S. "national security,"

As urbanization has changed the demographic landscape, potential enemies recognize the inherent danger and complexity of this environment to the attacker, and may view it as their best chance to negate the technological and firepower advantages of modernized opponents. Given the global population trends and the likely strategies and tactics of future threats, Army forces will likely conduct operations in, around, and over urban areas--not as a matter of fate, but as a deliberate choice linked to national security objectives and strategy, and at a time, place, and method of the commander's choosing. (Urban Operations, Field Manual No. 3-06, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., October 26, 2006) [emphasis added]

Key to RMA is the belief that contemporary military operations aim for defined effects and that it is now possible for U.S. forces to defeat adversaries through a combination of surveillance technologies, devastating firepower and the suppression and degradation of communications networks. Durham University geographer Stephen Graham has deemed such notional irrationality by U.S. war planners "technophilia." Graham avers:

[S]uch technophiliac discourses depicting an RMA ushering new relatively reduced-risk, 'clean' and painless strategy of US military dominance assumed that the vast networks of sensors and weapons that needed to be integrated and connected to project US power would work uninterruptedly. Global scales of flow and connection have thus dominated RMA discourses; technological mastery, omnipotent surveillance, real-time 'situational awareness', and speed-of-light digital interactions, have been widely portrayed as processes which, intrinsically, would usher in US military 'Full Spectrum Dominance', on a planetary scale, irrespective of the geographical terrain that was to be dominated. ("From Space to Street Corners: Global South Cities and US Military Technophilia," Unpublished paper, 2007)

Bloodied by "facts on the ground" in Iraq and Afghanistan however, and despite imperialism's much-vaunted technological superiority, America's techno-warriors continue searching for "Holy Grail" solutions to the political quandary they have confronted since the Vietnam war: how to achieve "victory" in environments that have proven themselves deadly quagmires, humiliating object lessons never learned by the world's sole "hyperpower"?

In a world of supercomputers, complex algorithms and emerging nanotechnologies, the Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the "tip of the spear" that our capitalist masters are banking on to "win" the "war on terror." And in this world, surveillance is the gateway and ubiquitous key to controlling the counterinsurgency "battlespace."

Portrayed in media accounts as a "gee-whiz" agency of nerds and quirky misfits, DARPA researchers were instrumental in designing--or appropriating for military use--the surveillance technologies deployed by the National Security Agency (NSA) under president Bush's so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program."

As Tim Shorrock points out in his essential book, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, DARPA "money...funded some of the NSA's first data mining programs." Indeed, Shorrock reported recently in Salon that the NSA's surveillance program is directly tied into state "Continuity of Government" planning including use of the Main Core database,

According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as "an emergency internal security database system" designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains "copies of the 'main core' or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community." ("Exposing Bush's historic abuse of power," Salon, July 23, 2008)

The secretive nature of the program is so highly sensitive, Shorrock reports, that when a former senior Justice Department official mentioned Main Core to an intelligence analyst stationed inside the White House after the 9/11 attacks "he turned white as a sheet." One can only wonder what role DARPA and their "outsourced" corporate partners played in updating Main Core or programs similar to it.

Like The Minority Report, Only Scarier

Unfortunately, we don't have to look very far to discover traces of these all-encompassing surveillance projects.

One example was  a 2003 DARPA program called "Combat Zones That See" (CTS). The plan was to install thousands of digital CCTV networks across occupied cities in the belief that once the system was deployed they would provide "warfighters" with "motion-pattern analysis across whole city scales." CTS would create a nexus for mass tracking of individual cars and people through algorithms linked to the numeric recognition of license plate numbers and scanned-in human profiles.

The program was denounced by privacy and civil liberties advocates' for its potential use as a mass surveillance system that could just as easily be deployed on the streets of American cities. In theory CTS, or a similar program could be further "enhanced" by Scaleable Network Social Analysis (SSNA), originally designed for DARPA's infamous Information Awareness Office run by convicted Iran-Contra felon John Poindexter.

SSNA's aim is "to model networks of connections like social interactions, financial transactions, telephone calls, and organizational memberships," according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's 2003 analysis. Once license plate numbers are "mined" from raw CCTV footage, investigators could: a) identify a car's owner; b) examine her/his web-surfing habits; c) scan e-mail accounts for traces of "inflammatory rhetoric;" d) monitor recent purchases for "suspicious" items.

After the program was uncovered, all traces of CTS have since disappeared from DARPA's website. However, the program has been farmed-out across the agency. I will explore some of the "innovative" solutions that DARPA securocrats are investigating to "improve" imperialist "warfighting" capabilities, particularly those falling under the purview of Military Operations on Urban Terrain. As should become clear, all of the applications described below are "dual-use," that is, they are readily adaptable for "counterterrorist" purposes here at home.

Lifting the "Fog of War"

The Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) describes its "mission" as one that "will lift the fog of war," in order to "understand the world. From sensing to cognition, we bring the future of computing to the warfighter."

IPTO is divided into six "thrust areas:" Cognitive Systems, Command & Control, High Productivity Computing, Language Processing, Sensors & Processing, Emerging Technologies. Each "thrust area" is further subdivided into a score of projects, the majority of which are concerned with developing technologies to "control the battlespace" of occupied cities.

The Cognitive Systems office is currently working on a project called Learning Applied to Ground Robots (LAGR), a system "to develop a new generation of learned perception and control algorithms for autonomous ground vehicles, and to integrate these learned algorithms with a highly capable robotic ground vehicle." In other words, ground-based "killer robots" that can act on their own volition and "take out" insurgents independent of any human control. Early, human-controlled versions of these systems have been deployed in Iraq. Corporate and university grifters Applied Systems Intelligence, BAE Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, Florida A&M University, General Dynamics, and SRI International among others are jointly working on the project in alliance with DARPA and the Army Research Laboratory's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.

The Command & Control brief is described as "the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of a mission. Without question the missions faced by our warfighters today (such as counterinsurgency) and the operational environments (such as cities) are more complex and dangerous than ever before." To achieve "situational dominance," the following projects are in the works:

Deep Green, an "innovative approach to using simulation to support ongoing military operations while they are being conducted." According to Wired defense analyst Noah Shachtman, software suites designed include "Blitzkrieg" which will model "battlespace" alternatives and "Crystal Ball," a program that "will take information coming into a headquarters to figure out which scenarios are most likely to happen, and which plans are likely to work best." As if to drive home the importance of Deep Green to Darpacrats, major corporate grifter Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) was awarded a $42 million contract in June for work on the project, according to Washington Technology.

Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team (HART) (formerly known as "HURT"--the acronym says it all!) is described by DARPA thusly: "The complexity of counter-insurgency operations especially in the urban combat environment demands multiple sensing modes for agility and for persistent, ubiquitous coverage. The HART system implements collaborative control of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) assets, so that the information can be made available to warfighters at every echelon." According to its website, major capitalist grifter Northrop Grumman is designing a suite of tools to be used with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of operating below 100 feet.

The Persistent Operational Surface Surveillance and Engagement (POSSE), program "is building a real-time, all-source exploitation system to provide Indications and Warnings of insurgent activity derived from airborne and ground-based sensors. Envisioning a day when our sensors can be integrated into a cohesive 'ISR Force', it's building an integrated suite of signal processing, pattern analysis, and collection management software that will increase reliability, reduce manpower, and speed up responses." According to the Defense Update website, SAIC "was awarded" a $32 million contract to work on the project for the U.S. Air Force.

The Sensors & Processing "thrust area" of IPTO states that since "U.S. forces and sensors" are "networked across" services and domains, new means are required to "manage" these increasingly complex systems. Since "future battlefields will continue to be populated with targets that use mobility and concealment as key survival tactics, and high-value targets will range from quiet submarines, to mobile missile/artillery, to specific individual insurgents," therefore, "sensor processing, sensor fusing and information management" will provide the "warfighter" with the ability for "pervasive and persistent surveillance of the battlespace and detection, identification, tracking, engagement and battle damage assessment for high-value targets in all weather conditions and in all possible combat environments."

One program, UrbanScape claims it will "provide the warfighters patrolling an urban environment with an up-to-date, high resolution model of the urban terrain that can be viewed, manipulated and analyzed. The overall objective of the program is to make the foreign city as 'familiar as the soldier's backyard'." Or perhaps, provide the "warfighter" with a "high resolution model" of his own backyard! The project is a "collaborative venture" of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kentucky, one of whose researchers now sits on the board of SET Corporation's Management "team." Small world (of leveraging DARPA "expertise" into big bucks!)

We turn next to DARPA's Strategic Technology Office (STO). STO's "mission" is "to focus on technologies that have a global or theater-wide impact and that involve multiple Services." Among the more than five dozen projects in the works we find the following:

Integrated Sensor Is Structure (ISIS), whose goal is to develop and deploy a "stratospheric airship based autonomous unmanned sensor with years of persistence in surveillance and tracking of air and ground targets." Essentially a large blimp that can hover at some 70,000 feet for years over a "target" city, ISIS engineers are currently developing ultra-lightweight antennas for the system. According to Defense Industry Daily, major corporate defense grifters who have received tens of millions of dollars in funding for ISIS include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

VisiBuilding will address "a pressing need in urban warfare: seeing inside buildings." This Orwellian project proposes to 1) determine building layouts; 2) find anomalous quantities of materials and 3) locate people within the building. VisiBuilding "will develop knowledge-deriving architectures for sensing people and objects in buildings" in order to "find which buildings should be searched, through detailed assessment of targeted structures for building layouts and behavioral analysis, live updates of building occupancy to support building raids, and finally post-mission analysis to find hidden objects or people."

A perfect tool for "snatch squad" specialists deployed to "render" suspect "targets" during counterinsurgency or police operations! According to Washington Technology, SAIC pulled down a $5.2 million contract for initial work on the project.


As can be seen in the brief survey above, DARPA projects seek to enhance U.S. capabilities for dominating "target" cities. But let's not kid ourselves, cities are viewed by corporate grifters who reap the rewards in "outsourced" multibillion dollar contracts and the securocrats who deploy these systems, as no more than killing fields and occupation zones. What does this say about a predatory system that regard human beings as so much expendable waste to be targeted, tracked and when expedient, killed by machines controlled by other human beings thousands of miles away?

America's techno-warriors and their corporatist masters most certainly plan to field such systems in the "homeland" itself. Viewed as exemplary means to control "restless natives" in the imperialist metropolis, surveillance technologies replete with biometric "smart cards," highly politicized terrorist "watch lists," sensor and tracking equipment are the "speartip" of a technical-scientific counterrevolution, neoliberal globalization's "dark side."

Deployed in U.S. and European cities along with the other accoutrements of an emerging police state--data mining, internet and cell phone surveillance--in the final analysis, these systems represent not the strength, but rather the precarious nature of capitalism's entire geopolitical project. However, that doesn't make them any less deadly--or dangerous--to a functioning democracy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Air Force Cyber Command: Building the Infrastructure for High-Tech War Crimes

What do you get when you combine U.S. militarism, fantasies of domination and an administration that views the internet as a hot-bed of "evil-doers" and "subversives"? Cyber Command, of course! Only this scheme has the potential of inflicting massive suffering on civilian populations across the planet.

Currently situated at the secretive Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, Air Force Cyber Command, the newest Pentagon command since the 1990s, is dedicated to the notion that the "next war" will be fought in the electromagnetic spectrum, one that envisions computers as "network-centric" weapons.

With a unified organizational structure and a $2 billion budget for the first year of operations, Cyber Command is touted as the next "big thing." According to a recent piece in Air Force Times, Cyber Command "has established 17 new enlisted and officer Air Force Specialty Codes -- creating major changes in the career paths of more than 32,000 airmen."

Eventually, if Air Force securocrats have their way, it "will grow into one of the service's largest commands." With a mission to "deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy" an enemy's information infrastructure, the potential for mischief on the part of American "warfighters" and "public diplomacy" black propaganda specialists shouldn't be underestimated.

Although the "Strategic Vision" proffered by the Air Force is couched in defensive language, by its very nature Cyber Command represents a qualitative leap by the Pentagon towards creating an offensive capability, one with far-reaching and potentially catastrophic consequences for societies that fall under the baleful gaze of American cyberwarriors.

This is clearly spelled out by Air Force theorists. In their view, the "strategic environment" confronting imperialism is described as "unpredictable and increasingly dangerous," characterized "by the confluence of globalization, economic disparities, and competition for scarce resources."

And as "economic disparities" grow ever-more glaring, newer and more effective means for obtaining "compliance" are required by our corporate masters and their militarist attack dogs. This is underscored by Cyber Command's stated goal "to achieve situational dominance at a time and place of our choosing." [emphasis added] According to the Air Force,

Global vigilance requires the ability to sense and signal across the electromagnetic spectrum. Global reach requires the ability to connect and transmit, using a wide array of communications networks to move data across the earth nearly instantaneously. Global power is the ability to hold at risk or strike any target with electromagnetic energy and ultimately deliver kinetic and non-kinetic effects across all domains. These cyberspace capabilities will allow us to secure our infrastructure, conduct military operations whenever necessary, and degrade or eliminate the military capabilities of our adversaries. (Air Force Cyber Command, "Strategic Vision," no date)

According to Wired defense analyst Noah Shachtman,

The Air Force wants a suite of hacker tools, to give it "access" to -- and "full control" of -- any kind of computer there is. And once the info warriors are in, the Air Force wants them to keep tabs on their "adversaries' information infrastructure completely undetected." ...

Traditionally, the military has been extremely reluctant to talk much about offensive operations online. Instead, the focus has normally been on protecting against electronic attacks. But in the last year or so, the tone has changed -- and become more bellicose. "Cyber, as a warfighting domain . . . like air, favors the offense," said Lani Kass, a special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff who previously headed up the service's Cyberspace Task Force. ("Air Force Aims for 'Full Control' of 'Any and All' Computers," Wired, May 13, 2008)

How might this play out in the megacities of the global south, identified by Pentagon planners as "the strategic high ground" of the 21st century?

Durham University geographer Stephen Graham describes the ideological mind-set guiding contemporary Pentagon doctrine thusly: On a theoretical level military strategists, particularly proponents of "network-centric warfare"--the Rumsfeldian "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA)--believe that dominance can be achieved through "their increasingly omnipotent surveillance and 'situational awareness', devastating and precisely-targeted aerial firepower, and the suppression and degradation of the communications and fighting ability of any opposing forces."

An integrated process in other words, that draws from contemporary corporate management theory to create "continuous, always-on support for military operations in urban terrain." Call it the deranged "battlespace" where Wal-Mart morphs into The Terminator. Graham writes,

The overwhelming rhetoric in such efforts emphasises that new military techno-science, specifically developed to address cities, will turn global south urban environments into areas that US forces can completely dominate, using their technological advantages, with minimum casualties to themselves. New weapons and sensor programmes, specifically designed to enhance the ability of future US forces to control and dominate global south cities through network-centric means, are already emerging from the wider efforts at physical and electronic simulation, wargaming, and the evaluation of the experience of the Iraq insurgency. These centre, first, on unveiling global south cities through new sensor technologies, and, second, on developing automated and robotic weapon systems linked to such sensors. ("From Space to Street Corner: Global South Cities and US Military Technophilia," Unpublished paper, 2007)

How might Cyber Command fit into the mix? Under the heading "Cyberspace Attack Operations," Air Force theorists aver,

Cyberspace effects gained from emerging technology, such as directed energy, include: sensor disruption, data manipulation, decision support degradation, command and control disruption, and weapon system degradation. Cyberspace attacks can be conducted on an adversary's terrestrial, airborne, and space-based communication infrastructure as well as his forces, equipment and logistics.

Indeed such operations are fully theorized as a means of achieving "full-spectrum dominance" via "Cyberspace Offensive Counter-Operations,"

Cyberspace favors offensive operations. These operations will deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy, or deceive an adversary. Cyberspace offensive operations ensure friendly freedom of action in cyberspace while denying that same freedom to our adversaries. We will enhance our capabilities to conduct electronic systems attack, electromagnetic systems interdiction and attack, network attack, and infrastructure attack operations. Targets include the adversary's terrestrial, airborne, and space networks, electronic attack and network attack systems, and the adversary itself. As an adversary becomes more dependent on cyberspace, cyberspace offensive operations have the potential to produce greater effects. ("Strategic Vision," op. cit.) [emphasis added]

"Greater effects" in this context mean nothing less than the capability of rendering "target" societies completely vulnerable to imperialist attack. Nearly a decade ago, NATO forces dropped what was described as a graphite "blackout bomb," the BLU-114/B "soft-bomb" on Belgrade and other cities during its aggressive war against the remnants of the former Yugoslavia--with devastating effects. Marty Mclaughlin wrote:

A particularly dangerous consequence of the long-term power blackout is the damage to the water systems in many Yugoslav cities, which are dependent on pumping stations run by electrical power. Novi Sad, a city of 300,000 which is the capital of the Vojvodina province of Serbia, has been without running water for eight days, according to residents. Families have been compelled to get water from the Danube river to wash and operate the toilet, and a handful of wells to provide drinking water.

Sewage treatment plants have also been shut down, with the result that raw, untreated sewage has begun to flow into the network of rivers that feed into the Danube, central Europe's most important waterway. ("Wall Street celebrates stepped-up bombing of Serbia," World Socialist Web Site, May 5, 1999)

With technological advances, imperialist cyberwarriors believe they can simply turn an adversary's networked infrastructure into a "zombie" system under its control to achieve the same, if not greater, devastation. As Marty Graham reported in Wired,

Comparisons between nuclear and cyberweapons might seem strained, but there's at least one commonality. Scholars exploring the ethics of wielding logic bombs, Trojan horses, worms and bots in wartime often find themselves treading on ground tilled by an earlier generation of Cold War nuclear gamesmen.

"There are lots of unknowns with a cyberattack," says Neil Rowe, a professor at the Center for Information Security Research at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, who rejects cyberattacks as a legitimate tool of war. "The potential for collateral damage is worse than nuclear technology.... With cyber, it can spread through the civilian infrastructure and affect far more civilians." ("Welcome to Cyberwar Country, USA," Wired, February 11, 2008)

Which is precisely why the Air Force has expressed an interest in building a robust Cyber Command!

According to an Air Force Fact Sheet, "Cyberspace 101," they conceive their "mission" as one that will "afford us offensive capabilities and deliberate target sets."

With an official launch date set for October 1, 2008, Cyber Command as yet has no permanent home but one can predict that the congressional "leader" who can deliver the goods for his "constituents" will reap the rewards of a long-term basing agreement. From Hampton, Virginia to Yuba City, California, local "leaders" are falling all over themselves with sweetheart deals negotiated behind the backs of their citizens.

And according to Wired, prospective local "stakeholders" are "throwing in offers of land, academic and research tie-ins, and, in one case, an $11 million building with a moat."

With billions of dollars in "outsourced" government contracts hanging in the balance, Cyber Command is no laughing matter. Back in December, Aviation Week reported that "U.S. Air Force leaders working on the nascent cyber command believe there will be a 'huge' need for contracted services to support the embryonic effort as it faces personnel, technology and funding headwinds." Michael Bruno wrote,

"There's going to be a huge contracting requirement," said Maj. Gen. Charles Ickes II, Air National Guard special assistant to the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

"I don't think anyone can tell you how big," he told the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Air Force information technology conference Dec. 5. ("New Cyber Command to be 'Huge' Business Opportunity," Aviation Week, December 6, 2007)

In May, Washington Technology reported that the Air Force "is calling for white papers on how it might conduct successful offensives against cyberspace adversaries." And to back-up its call, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is offering $11 million in funding for the proposed two-year project.

If past Pentagon projects are any indication of where AFRL proposals may lead, the estimated $30 billion cost for its initial 5-year project has the all the hallmarks of another massive taxpayer-funded black hole for enterprising defense contractors.

Indeed, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will play a critical role for the Air Force and is currently designing a "National Cyber Range" that "will create a virtual environment where the Defense Department can mock real warfare, both defense and offense," according to Wired defense analyst Sharon Weinberger.

According to an announcement posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the project, designed by DARPA's Strategic Technology Office, is described as a test zone that will enable the state "to conduct cyber operations by providing a persistent cyber range." Many of the program details are classified.

Envisioned as a force conducting "sustained offensive and defensive operations throughout the electromagnetic spectrum fully integrated with air and space operations," Air Force Cyber Command will "leverage...cyberspace all domains, to create global and theatre effects in support of the Joint warfighting team."

War crimes at the push of button? The future is now and its looking mighty grim.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Simulating Urban Warfare

In Planet of Slums, socialist historian Mike Davis mapped the brutal urban realities shared by more than one billion of the earth's inhabitants, unmoored by neoliberal globalization from the "formal" world economy. From Baghdad to Karachi and from Lagos to Los Angeles and beyond, as ever-broader segments of the world's population are transformed into "a surplus humanity," the master class presents "no scenario" for ameliorating the immiseration it has itself designed through the "normal" functioning of a grotesque system of exploitation and injustice.

The vast expansion of planetary slum zones amid sumptuary wealth and dystopian high-rise palaces of glass and steel patrolled 24/7 by armed sentries, are future portents of a regime where the savage inequalities of the "free market" go hand in hand with the terminal vacuousness of the "Real Housewives of Orange County." As economist Michel Chossudovsky points out, the current economic crisis gripping late capitalism is hardly an accident of history:

...downsizing, corporate restructuring and relocation of production to cheap labor havens in the Third World have been conducive to increased levels of unemployment and significantly lower earnings to urban workers and farmers. This new international economic order feeds on human poverty and cheap labor: high levels of national unemployment in both developed and developing countries have contributed to depressing real wages. Unemployment has been internationalized, with capital migrating from one country to another in a perpetual search for cheaper supplies of labor. (The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, 2nd edition, Shanty Bay, ON: Global Outlook, 2003, p. 6)

Under existent conditions, a racist discourse of "feral cities" haunts the imagination of military theoreticians. Considered a "breeding ground" of subversion by ruling class economists, politicians and sociologists, the urban battles of the future are being "wargamed" today.

Military Operations on Urban Terrain and Other Horrors of a Horrible System

Pentagon strategists refer to their doctrine of urban warfighting as Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT). But urban warfare pose multiple risks and challenges for military planners; not least of which are recognizing "targets" across a complex environment of multistory apartment blocks, small- and large scale industrial infrastructure, power grids, political and cultural centers, sports complexes, houses of worship and transportation hubs.

Fraught with problems not readily amenable to technological "fixes," Durham University geographer Stephen Graham cites one military theorist's view of the conundrums faced by 21st century "warfighters",

"Urban operations represent a black hole in the current Revolution in Military Affairs pantheon of technological advantage [...]. The technologies traditionally ascribed to the current Revolution in Military Affairs phenomenon will have negligible impact on Military Operations in Urban Terrain." (cited in Stephen Graham, "From Space to Street Corners: Global South Cities and U.S. Military Technophilia," Unpublished paper, 2007)

Indeed, there is a powerful imperative driving military strategists and their political masters: the stark recognition that capital's economic/political project for domination is an acute failure, one which is creating conditions for chronic "low-intensity warfare" campaigns in cities against a panoply of "insurgent forces."

In Venezuela for example, autonomous groups such as the 23 de Enero People's Army, the "Tupamaros," La Piedrita, Militia Zero, the Zapatista Collective or the Revolutionary Movement of Bolivarian Defense, neighborhood organizations of battle-hardened veterans who have at best, a strained relationship with Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian government, will form the backbone of armed resistance to any outside intervention or internal counterrevolution by Venezuela's CIA-NED-financed elite "opposition." As George Ciccariello-Maher describes:

It was in [the] context of repression that the Venezuelan popular militia movement was born. Neither entirely clandestine nor fully open, small groups began to spring up to defend local barrios from both the state and the burgeoning parallel violence of narcotrafficking. Small groups, masked and armed, began to make semi-public appearances, giving an ultimatum to local drug dealers: either you stop selling drugs or you'll be killed. The police, too, found themselves all the more frequently victims of armed ambushes and shootouts with masked militias. In order to explain this phenomenon, the police, government officials, and even more appreciative local residents adopted a single moniker, derived from the Uruguayan urban guerrilla struggle: in mythical fashion, these militias were deemed "Tupamaros." (George Ciccariello-Maher, "Embedded with the the 'Tupamaros'," MR Zine, 23 April 2008)

Masters and mistresses of American barrios and "ghettoes," Brazilian favelas and South Asian chawls where even police fear to tread, rapid urbanization has radically undermined the high-tech advantages built-up by the U.S. since the dawn of the Cold War, thwarting American fantasies of "dominating the battlespace" through "network-centric warfare" (NCW).

According to NCW theory, an alleged "information advantage" is leveraged into a competitive warfighting upper hand through "robust networking" of well-informed, though geographically dispersed forces. But as the U.S. military discovered in Iraq, the high-tech systems built at a cost of tens of billions of dollars were brought to ground by disposable cell phones, garage door openers, twenty year old ordnance and the will to resist. Multiply radical neighborhood militias such as the "Tupamaros" on a planetary scale and it becomes abundantly clear that imperialism has its work cut out for it!

The political realities of urban combat inhibit the tactical requirements necessary to "secure" an urban "battlespace." Short of obliterating a city as the United States did during its series of destructive campaigns in Fallujah in 2003-2004, military options are fairly limited. Resorting to overwhelming force in the absence of broad political support in the area is hardly the way to win "hearts and minds," as the Pentagon discovered much to its horror in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, when the U.S. simultaneously achieved a fleeting tactical victory and a devastating strategic defeat.

As a result of recent urban combat debacles, MOUT strategists are building simulated cities in the American outback as a "living laboratory" for protracted combat operations in an urban environment.

Mainly as a consequence of widespread opposition to 1999 "Urban Warrior" exercises when the Marine Corps' Urban Warfighting Laboratory and U.S. Army Special Forces staged "realistic" war games on the streets of American cities, the Pentagon is creating entire pseudo landscapes and ghostly architectures: the urban space transformed into a militarist simulacrum.

Bryan Finoki, the editor of Subtopia: A Field Guide to Urban Militarism writes:

Somewhere out there in the restricted strata of Defense real estate the Marine Corps is taking over cities in an imaginary Third World that have been grafted and turned into some sort of urban template for a spectacularly unseen militarized stage show. There are multiple MOUT facilities all over the world, but in addition to two that already exist at Twentynine Palms, there is a brand new site cropping up along the fringes that's being called CAMOUT, or Combined-Arms Military Operations in Urban Terrain. Pronounced "K-MOUT", it is expected to be the Mecca, so to speak, of the entire MOUT program. ("MOUT Urbanism," Subtopia, February 23, 2008)

Covering some 280 acres, a half-hour's drive from the Marine Corps' Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center the training facility is "roughly the size of downtown San Diego," journalist Kelly O'Sulllivan writes. CAMOUT "will feature an Olympic-size soccer stadium, a hospital, airport, large marketplace, prison, police compounds, schools, an industrial center, extensive underground tunnel systems and two embassies."

And at a cost of some $250 million, CAMOUT is slated to be the largest such facility owned by the Defense Department. Orbiting somewhere between war and entertainment, the Pentagon is designing a disquieting netherworld, a series of Potemkin villages whose sole purpose is to perfect its apparatus of death and destruction.

Stephen Graham writes:

The global complex of urban warfare training cities involve a different relationship to political violence to the atom-bombed suburban homes or fire-bombed tenements and rice-paper structures of the 20th century. For here, the simulation is not designed to sustain attempts at outright urban annihilation through total war. Rather, its purpose is to hone skills of occupation, counter-insurgency warfare, and urban remodelling via expeditionary, colonial war. ("Theme Park Archipelago: Simulating War in an Urbanizing World," Unpublished paper, 2007)

Constructed for the maximum recreation of war's nightmare and horror, these simulated cities are filled with dazzling special effects courtesy of Hollywood. In addition to "realistic" settings and "culturally accurate" renditions of Middle Eastern architecture, these deranged spaces feature an array of olfactory sensations such as "...dead bodies, burning rubber, diesel fumes." According to special effects wizard Manuel Chaves who runs the urban warfare site at Fort Wainright, Alaska: "I can do nine different buildings, nine different smells. Generally, if it's a burning building, we put something really nasty in there like burning bodies."

A $13 million facility built on a 30 acre site in Fort Knox, Kentucky named Zussman village is able to accommodate "hundreds of role-playing 'insurgents,' who dress in keffiyehs and are armed with AK47s and RPGs." According to Graham, "a 'Third World' slum is being constructed near the railroad."

To emphasize the importance of urban warfare simulation in current military doctrine, in 2006 Congress commissioned the RAND Corporation to produce a report on the efficacy of current training facilities. RAND did, and with a characteristic racist subtext to boot.

RAND researchers evaluated training facilities for their architectural and infrastructural "realism" in mirroring conditions allegedly present in the "megaslums" of the global south. Those with "clutter/debris/filth," "slums/shanty towns/walled compounds," "subterranean complexes" and simulated "government, hospital/prison/asylum structures," scored highest according to Graham.

Adding to the mix, RAND researchers recommended that U.S. military planners consider the possibility of "appropriating" entire "ghost towns" within the continental U.S., in other words, cities that have been deindustrialized and largely abandoned. RAND "specialists" conclude: "the use of abandoned towns has moved beyond the concept phase into what might be considered the early test and development phase."

Graham reports that attention was focused on the virtually abandoned copper-mining town of Playas, New Mexico. The town has also been used extensively by the Department of Homeland Security for training anti-suicide bomb squads. Apparently, the destruction of U.S. manufacturing, mining and industrial infrastructure under the pressure of neoliberal globalization is viewed as a "plus" in some quarters.

"Over the course of time, towns and cities eventually die," writes Steve Rowell of the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City, California. "Despite this and despite the receding U.S. economy, the industries of defense and disaster preparedness are flourishing, reversing this trend in some of the most remote areas of the nation. The war on terror is redefining the American pastoral in an unexpected way." In the case of Playas, its new role is "as a generic American suburb under simulated attack." And, in future, as a simulated "Arab city" where U.S. "warfighters" come to hone skills for expeditionary war, Graham reports.

Despite adverse publicity generated by "Urban Warrior" exercises, RAND analysts insist they continue. Indeed, such displays of militarist omniscience will be even more necessary in the future because "no purpose-built urban training site and no simulation for many years to come will be able to present the heterogeneity and complexity of a modern megalopolis."


But wargaming isn't the only front where simulated urban battles are being fought and refought. Enter the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Under contract to DARPA, capitalist grifter Computer Science Corporation, combined electronic mapping and satellite image technology to create purely electronic representations of cities that are, or may in the future, come under the purview of U.S. military occupation. Scores of cities around the world are being electronically mapped by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in order to create a "virtualized reality" for U.S. "warfighters."

Within complex simulation models, the structures of Middle Eastern or indeed, any city, have been classified using "Urban Terrain Zones" based "on international databases of the construction materials and practices used in the different parts of target cities: steel, glass and concrete in city cores, older brick, stone or mud in casbahs," Graham informs us.

And even larger simulations of global south megacities are providing grist for the murderous mill of U.S. military "gamers" as they imagine full-scale counterinsurgent warfare well into the future. One electronic simulation, "Urban Resolve," has actually mapped an eight square mile swathe of Jakarta, Indonesia in three dimensions! According to Graham, "this has been done down to the interior of the (1.6 million) buildings, and also involves 109,000 mobile 'vehicles' and 'civilians,' as well as the subterranean infrastructures."

Such projects are expanding exponentially. Under the heading, Urban Reasoning and Geospatial Exploitation Technology (URGENT), DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), is searching for "new technologies" to defeat urban insurgencies. According to IPTO's "Mission Statement" on the program

The recognition of targets in urban environments poses unique operational challenges for the warfighter. ... Today's urban missions involve analyzing a multitude of urban objects in the area of regard. As military operations in urban regions have grown, the need to identify urban objects has become an important requirement for the military. Understanding the locations, shapes, and classifications of objects is needed for a broad range of pressing urban mission planning analytical queries.

A related program, Building Labels for Urban Environments (BLUE),

seeks innovative approaches that exploits surveillance video data to classify buildings automatically. In addition to visual feature data such as color and line orientation, video captures data concerning motion over time. The latter affords the opportunity for automated recognition of patterns in moving objects in the vicinity of buildings. These motion patterns may be reliable indicators of a building's function. BLUE technology should be able to learn patterns that distinguish building types and to process video from surveillance video data, such as that collected from high-endurance military UAV platforms, to label buildings correctly.

As we have seen, the U.S. ruling class is intent on deploying its entire high-tech arsenal against the global south and perhaps someday soon, on the streets of American cities. Tied intimately into the defense, computing, entertainment and "homeland security" industries, the Pentagon's quixotic quest to "dominate the battlespace," is reflective of the precariousness of the entire U.S. neocolonial project in the post-Cold War world.

Despite its abject failure against urban insurgents in Iraq, the U.S. military's obsession with building simulation models of urban landscapes and electronic mapping suites of real cities tell us a great deal about the masters' preoccupation--and fear--with the direction things are heading.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Calmative Before the Storm

Ours is a social system spinning wildly out of control. Wherever one glances, the political-economic-ecological crises engulfing late capitalism are insolvable in terms of structural reforms that might mitigate the system's approaching zero hour. Call it the proverbial band-aid over gangrene syndrome; a plethora of terminal "fixes" that fix nothing.

During periods of extreme crisis, ruling class elites and the technocratic "wizards of armageddon" who serve them--bankrupt authoritarians without authority--harbor a not-so-secret longing for "magic bullets" that will put things right.

Thus, the quixotic crusade by politicians, military planners and corporate grifters out to make a buck to discover what they hope will be an antidote to the spreading virus of desperation and anger gripping the planet as the alleged "beautiful world" promised by neoliberalism morphs into an unlimited--and endless--low-intensity "war on terror" waged against the world's poor.

A futile quest to be sure, while the immense, untapped social potential for resolving humanity's most pressing needs--food, shelter, healthcare, repair of the environment--are grimly shuttled "off world" to various "green zones" and "secure, undisclosed locations" where science, and scientists, function as the equivalent of nerdy call-girls in the "Pentagon Madame's" little black book of atrocities.

In "'Non-Lethal' Weapons: Where Science and Technology Service Repression," I began a preliminary inquiry into "less than lethal" weapons research; that investigation continues.

Calmative Agents

For six decades, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have explored ways to harness biochemical substances as incapacitating weapons of war. During 1977 congressional hearings, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published material on "Project MKULTRA, The CIA's Program of Research in Behavioral Modification."

While the media focused on the sensationalistic dosing of unsuspecting "subjects" with LSD and other psychoactive substances during unethical CIA and Army experiments, purportedly as a means to gain "control" over the minds of "enemy agents" or "target populations," the demise of MKULTRA supposedly signalled that research into these forbidden zones were a closed book.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. While "mind control" as a weapon of war has proven chimerical, the Pentagon has hardly neglected its search for biochemical agents as mechanisms for repressive domination. Under the broad heading "calmatives," such research continues to this day. The now-defunct Sunshine Project offered a preliminary assessment and defined calmatives as,

chemical or biological agents with sedative, sleep-inducing or similar psychoactive effects. Chemical calmative weapons such as BZ (3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, a compound related to scopolamine) were developed during the Cold War. Proponents of calmatives are creating a new and alarming legal ambiguity surrounding their use. ...

The US Department of Defense (DoD) arguments imply the creation of two loopholes in the Chemical Weapons Convention: the possible definition of psychoactive substances as riot control agents, and a distinction between "military operations other than war" [MOOTW] and armed conflicts. In the latter, DoD argues that even toxic chemicals would be of operational utility. ("Non-Lethal Weapons Research in the U.S.: Calmatives and Malodorants," The Sunshine Project, Backgrounder Series #8, July 2001)

In other words, while deploying these agents in the "battlespace" is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, their use on civilian populations during MOOTW, "if classified as riot control agents, can be acceptable."

As Neil Davison, a researcher at the University of Bradford's Disarmament Research Centre (BDRC) describes,

From a military perspective, specific characteristics of such agents have been seen as follows:

(1) Highly potent (an extremely low dose is effective) and logistically feasible.
(2) Able to produce their effects by altering the higher regulatory activity of the central nervous system.
(3) Of a duration of action lasting hours or days, rather than of a momentary or fleeting action.
(4) Not seriously dangerous to life except at doses many times the effective dose.
(5) Not likely to produce permanent injury in concentrations which are militarily effective.

However, contemporary definitions emphasise rapid onset of action and short duration of effects, characteristics which reflect the current preoccupation with counter-terrorism and the associated convergence of military and policing requirements. Generally for reasons of politics and public relations rather than accuracy these weapons have also been referred to as "calmatives" and "advanced riot control agents". (Neil Davison, Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, 'Off the Rocker' and 'On the Floor': The Continued Development of Biochemical Incapacitating Weapons, Bradford Science and Technology Report No. 8, August 2007) [emphasis added]

As Davison narrates, BDRC's title refers to the nomenclature assigned these substances by Cold War researchers.

Broadly speaking agents were colloquially divided into "off the rocker" agents having psychotropic effects and "on the floor" agents causing incapacitation through effects on other physiological processes. "Off the rocker" agents prevailed since the safety margins for other agents, including anaesthetic agents, sedatives, and opiate analgesics, were not considered sufficiently wide for them to perform as 'safe' military incapacitating agents.

This is hardly an academic exercise considering that the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) is carrying-out on-going experimentation into what it euphemistically calls "Human Effects Research" to develop an "Advanced Total Body Model (ATBM) for predicting the effects of non-lethal impacts."

The JNLWP non-lethal human effects community has begun to increase its focus on improving the characterization and quantification of NLW effectiveness. In other words, researchers are attempting to better answer the question of how well the human response relates to desired mission outcomes. This area of research is critical to ensuring that the end user will get reliable, repeatable, and safe results from future non-lethal capabilities. ("Human Effects Research," Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, April 10, 2008)

Perhaps, the JNLWD "human effects community" should ponder the "living laboratory" on display during the October 2002 Moscow Theatre siege. Under "real world" conditions, 50 Chechen terrorists (some allegedly linked to the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda) and 129 hostages were killed when Russian OSNAZ forces pumped an aerosolized fentanyl derivative through the ventilation system. A KGB-developed "psycho-chemical gas" known as Kolokol-1 was the suspected calmative used during the "rescue." Kolokol-1 has been described by medical experts as being 1000 times more potent than morphine.

When a normal dose of fentanyl enters the brain, it is quickly redistributed throughout the body and acts as a short-lived anesthetic. A larger, more concentrated dose however, is not so easily redistributed and remains concentrated in the brain and shuts down normal respiratory functions. This was the mechanism that caused the Moscow deaths; hostages were chemically suffocated by their "rescuers."

The former Soviet Union however, wasn't alone in looking at fentanyl derivatives as "non-lethal" incapacitating agents. In 1987, the U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) had established a "Less-Than-Lethal Technology Program," and awarded its first contract to the U.S. Army's Chemical Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CREDEC, [rebranded as the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center [ECBC)] ) at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, "for a feasibility assessment of a dart to deliver an incapacitating agent to stop a fleeing suspect," BDRC reports.

According to Davison, "the requirement for rapid immobilization apparently led to consideration of fentanyl analogues, in particular alfentanil. ... However, its' low safety margin was a major problem." The prototype delivery system was a failure and NIJ moved on.

But "mission creep" being what it is the military, perhaps "inspired" by NIJ's pursuit of incapacitating agents for civilian police use, quickly adopted the "less-than-lethal" terminology and rekindled its own interest in fielding such weapons. By 1990, Davison writes, the "Army terminated their 'Incapacitating Chemical Program' and reinvented it as the 'Riot Control Program'."

Through slight-of-hand tricks designed to circumvent the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the Pentagon sought to place incapacitating agents in the same category as irritant riot control agents (RCA) such as pepper spray.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) in its 2007 report, "The Use of Drugs as Weapons," raised serious ethical concerns for healthcare professionals' involvement in what they term "tactical pharmacology" as deployable "non-lethal" weapons. To wit,

The use of a drug as a method of warfare would constitute a violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Ambiguity in the text of the CWC leaves open the possibility of the use of a drug as a weapon for the purposes of 'law enforcement including domestic riot control'. There is also a question as to whether some drugs fall within the definition of a biological weapon as defined in the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). It is vital that the international community makes every effort to ensure that these weapons conventions remain intact. The development and deployment of drugs as weapons for whatever reason risks undermining the norms these conventions represent.

Serious questions are raised by the BMA over the state's proposed use of drugs as weapons. Indeed, the use of these agents by military and security forces "is simply not feasible without generating a significant mortality among the target population." The BMA concludes, "it is and will continue to be almost impossible to deliver the right agent to the right people in the right dose without exposing the wrong people, or delivering the wrong dose." But over and above "tactical" considerations, the BMA avers,

From an ethical perspective, healthcare professionals need to begin a deeper examination of their roles in relation to such use of biomedical knowledge and medical expertise for hostile purposes. This is, ultimately, a matter relating to health because the lives and wellbeing of humans are at stake.

But as we have seen in the anemic response by many American healthcare professionals to CIA and U.S. military torture policies at Guantánamo Bay and transnational "black sites," biomedical knowledge has been perverted for devilish "national security" considerations. Indeed, some doctors, nurses and psychologists--military officers and/or "outsourced" contractors--like their Argentine and Chilean colleagues during the "dirty war" period of the 1970s and 1980s have been complicit in U.S. war crimes. This too, seems to be the case as Pentagon specialists transform drugs into "tactical" weapons.

By 2000, the Pentagon's JNLWD was pressing for a range of programs to develop new incapacitating agents, rechristened as we have seen, as "non-lethal" weapons. Indeed, Davison reports that the U.S. Army issued a "solicitation under its' Small Business Innovation Research programme...that included a request for proposals on 'Topic# CBD 00-108: Chemical Immobilizing Agents for Non-Lethal Applications."

"Phase I" sought "to identify new agents and agent combinations including an analysis of '...recent breakthroughs in pharmacological classes such as Anesthetics/analgesics, tranquilizers, hypnotics and neuromuscular blockers'," Davison reports.

Program design and testing regimens would lead to the development of an appropriate delivery system(s) and the consideration of "dual-use" applications of the technology by the military and civilian law enforcement agencies.

Potential military uses, according the JNLWD solicitation included "meeting US and NATO objectives in peacekeeping missions; crowd control; embassy protection; rescue missions; and counter-terrorism" whereas law enforcement applications cited were "hostage and barricade situations; crowd control; close proximity encounters, such as, domestic disturbances, bar fights and stopped motorists; to halt fleeing felons; and prison riots." In other words, military/law enforcement deployment of "calmatives" are envisaged as weapons for social control.

The JNLWD awarded its initial "Phase I" contract to Ann Arbor, MI-based capitalist grifter OptiMetrics Inc., for work on the program at ECBC. As of this writing, there is no available information on "Phase II" or "Phase III." If the program panned-out, the JNLWD isn't saying. However, research continues at Pennsylvania State University's (PSU) College of Medicine and the Navy's Applied Research Laboratory (ARL). The ARL/PSU study sought to,

* Define the advantages and limitations of pharmaceutical compounds as calmatives with potential use in non-lethal techniques.
* Provide a comprehensive survey of the medical literature utilizing pharmaceutical agents to produce a calm state with potential for use as a non-lethal technique. This information will provide a current database of the relevant literature on calmatives.
* Provide an in-depth review of selected calmatives identified by the literature search with high potential for further consideration as a non lethal technique.
* Identify and recommend promising new areas in pharmaceutical drug development that are poised to uniquely meet the requirements of calmatives as non-lethal techniques. (emphasis added)

Davison notes that the October 2000 ARL/PSU report, The Advantages and Limitations of Calmatives for Use as a Non-Lethal Technique, concludes ominously that "different chemical agents would be required for different scenarios with '...different mechanisms of action, duration, of effects and different depths of 'calm'."

While the report doesn't specify a delivery system, Davison writes "the authors envisage a variety of delivery routes including '...application to drinking water, topical administration to the skin, an aerosol spray inhalation route, or a drug filled rubber bullet'." Perhaps the authors' propose drugging municipal water systems to suppress "anti-social behaviors" such as a general strike or mass antiwar protests to achieve their goal of effecting "different depths of 'calm'"!

The ARL/PSU report concludes: "The extensive survey of the literature conducted on calmatives serves to emphasize that the 'time is right' with respect to considering pharmaceutical agents..." as new a new class of "non-lethal" weapons. (emphasis added) The time is "right" indeed as the JNLWD considers newer and ever-more insidious methods of repression!

Currently under development are programs that employ unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as a delivery system for calmatives as well as other "non-lethal" weapons. With tens of billions of dollars invested by the Pentagon in UAVs since the 1990s, a small, though significant area of interest is the use of UAVs as a "non-lethal" dispersal platform. One 1998 study concluded that a "UAV-dispenser system could be used with any UAV with a 40 lb or more payload capability."

The JNLWD has funded development of an "unmanned platform" to "spray liquid payloads" by remote control at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). According to Davison,

SwRI engineers developed a computer-controlled unmanned powered Para foil (UPP) equipped with a payload that dispenses liquid spray while in flight. Developed for the Marine Corps Non-Lethal Directorate, the system is intended to provide non-lethal crowd control options for the U.S. military. The UPP was fitted with a pan-tilt camera to continually locate the impact point of the liquid spray. Using computer-assisted flight modes and the camera image, a remote operator can direct the UPP over a target at low altitude and release the spray.

Similarly, Raytheon was "tasked" with "assessing the feasibility" of delivering "non-lethal" payloads, including chemical agents from its Extended Range Guided Munition. Another "major recommendation" was for "further development of unmanned vehicles to deliver 'non-lethal' weapons including chemical agents at long distance with greater accuracy," Davison reports.

Just this week, The Guardian reported a new "tool" appeared in the Pentagon's "non-lethal" weapons arsenal. The U.S. Army's XM1063 155mm howitzer launched projectile is capable of scattering "152 small non-explosive submunitions over a 1-hectare area; as each parachutes down, it sprays a chemical agent."

Designed by major corporate grifter General Dynamics for the U.S. Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, the XM1063 is touted as the latest in a series of "non-lethals" which will "'suppress' people without harming them."

The Guardian reports,

Testing of the XM1063 was completed successfully last year and it is due for low-rate production from 2009. Ardec says that the production decision is on hold awaiting further direction from the program manager. It seems the decision on whether to enter a new age of chemical warfare now rests with the military rather then civilians. Unless put under pressure, the US Army seems unlikely to give any details of what's in the surprise package until it is used. And maybe not even then. (David Hambling, "U.S. Weapons Research Is Raising a Stink," The Guardian, July 10, 2008)

As we have seen in this outline, there is no question that research into these appalling weapons systems will continue. The Defense Science Board (DSB), which advises the Pentagon on science and technology issues, have recommended that work on "non-lethal" weapons--including so-called "calmatives"--move forward.

In 2004, the DSB concluded that "Applications of biological, chemical or electromagnetic radiation effects on humans should be pursued." Davison notes that in the section on "strategic payload concepts" the report states:

* Calmatives might be considered to deal with otherwise difficult situations in which neutralizing individuals could enable ultimate mission success
* The principle technical issue is the balance between effectiveness (i.e., the targets are truly "calmed") and margins of safety (i.e., avoiding overexposure and resulting fatalities of neutral bystanders)
* The treaty implications are significant

But as with other treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory, notably the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the now-renounced Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, "national security," in the Orwellian sense understood by the United States, always trumps human rights and the rule of law.

The democratic Republic which most Americans have long-cherished is rapidly falling by the wayside as economic crisis, endless wars and ecological collapse fuel moves by the U.S. ruling class to complete constructing their corporatist police state. It within this context, that "calmatives" and other "non-lethal" weapons technologies arise: both as metaphor and method for an ever-more sinister rebranding of fascism.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Non-Lethal" Weapons: Where Science and Technology Service Repression

Acoustic microwave armaments? Laser induced plasma channels? Vortex ring guns? Are these high-tech MacGuffins spiffing-up the latest Hollywood near-future thriller? Regrettably, no. Welcome to the twisted world of "non-lethal" weapons research brought to you by the "fun" folks at the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD).

Like a newborn's proud parents, the JNLWD is heralding the successful phase two testing of Raytheon's Active Denial System (ADS), a directed energy weapon used for "crowd control." Known for its "goodbye effect," it functions as a primitive, though highly-effective "pain ray" by heating the skin to around 130 degrees F.

According to a blurb on the JNLWD website, the ADS is "helping to fill the gap between the 'shout' and 'shoot' alternatives faced by our troops." ADS "represented the first integration of the key technology elements such as the millimeter wave source, cooling system, and antenna, among other things." With a range of some 550 yards, the ADS can penetrate clothing. Its effects have been described by test subjects as "excruciating."

A domestic version of the system known as the Silent Guardian is being hawked to law enforcement by Raytheon for its alleged ability to provide "a zone of protection that saves lives, protects assets and minimizes collateral damage." According to some reports, ADS has "been present" at some public events in the United States. How comforting.

But as disturbing as Raytheon's ADS may be, there are systems about to come "on-line" that are far, far worse. New Scientist recently described how one enterprising outfit of capitalist grifters, the Sierra Nevada Corporation, is "ready to build a microwave ray gun able to beam sounds directly into people's heads," David Hambling reports.

Touted as the "next big thing," MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio) will eventually be deployed for "crowd-control" applications in U.S. military "operations other than war." According to Hambling, MEDUSA

exploits the microwave audio effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue, causing a shockwave inside the skull that can be detected by the ears. A series of pulses can be transmitted to produce recognisable sounds. ("Microwave Ray Gun Controls Crowds with Noise," New Scientist, July 3, 2008)

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Lev Sadovnik is working on the latest in a series of "active denial systems" under contract with the U.S. Navy which said in a preliminary report that the device "was shown to be effective."

According to its manufacturer, MEDUSA involves an "auditory effect" loud enough to "cause discomfort or even incapacitation."

While the technology is ballyhooed by weapons designers as an "advance," its effects are wholly insidious since "normal audio safety limits do not apply since the sound does not enter through the eardrums." Sadovnik told New Scientist, "The repel effect is a combination of loudness and the irritation factor. You can't block it out."

Another technological "breakthrough" that greatly impressed Sierra Nevada's Pentagon "customer" is "a new reconfigurable antenna developed by colleague Vladimir Manasson. It steers the beam electronically, making it possible to flip from a broad to a narrow beam, or aim at multiple targets simultaneously."

In other words, a "target" could be one person, say a union leader speaking outside a plant gate to "disruptive" strikers challenging the corporatist paradigm, or a range of "targets" engaged in "anti-social behavior" such as nonviolent civil disobedience by concerned citizens blocking the entrance to a major polluter's factory--or weapons manufacturer, for that matter.

With one eye on his corporate masters' bottom line while the other is focused on potential adverse publicity that might accrue from fabricating a product that creates a shockwave inside someone's skull, Sadovnik resorts to the old "dual-use" public relations ploy to cover his ass-ets, so to speak. Without skipping a beat, Sadovnik claims the technology could have "non-military" applications such as scaring away pesky flocks of birds or even as a means to "help" people with impaired auditory functions!

While the system may be feasible, James Lin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago told Hambling that a high-power system such as MEDUSA "would mean much more powerful--and potentially hazardous--shockwaves."

"I would worry about what other health effects it is having," says Lin. "You might see neural damage."

Damaging or not, the next phase in acoustic weapons development will almost certainly entail human testing. According to Wired, a military-funded lab "is pushing to get approval to conduct human testing at 130Db to see if, in that range, sound could have a 'deterrent effect'."

At a "non-lethal" weapons conference back in December, Nicholas C. Nicholas, the Chief Scientist at Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory, told his audience that "Behavior modification is next logical step [in testing]." Sharon Weinberger reported,

You would think for all the talk of acoustic weapons, there's tons of data. Not true, says Nicholas. There isn't really any reliable data on the effects on human as you move up the decibel range. The big problem is safety standards. "Current standards are far too conservative," argues Nicholas, whose lab works on a number of projects for the Pentagon's Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate. OSHA standards, Nicholas says, are for occupational hazards that cover up to 30 years of exposure, and shouldn't be used for testing weapons. ("Lab Pushes for Sonic Blaster," Wired, December 12, 2007)

Despite the potential of acoustic weapons inflicting permanent injuries, Nicholas was not concerned in the least: "Some injury has to be tolerated or you cannot develop nonlethal weapons." Nevertheless, their implicit dangers are already well-known.

When the U.S. Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) was forced to release a study under the Freedom on Information Act, it did just that, documenting a multitude of hazardous side-effects. Under the heading, "Incapacitating Effect: Microwave Hearing," we discover the following:

Microwave hearing is a phenomenon, described by human observers as the sensations of buzzing, ticking, hissing, or knocking sounds that originate within or immediately behind the head. There is no sound propagating through the air like normal sound. This technology in its crudest form could be used to distract individuals: if refined, it could also be used to communicate with hostages or hostage taken directly by Morse code or other message systems, possibly even by voice communications.

The mechanism described by INSCOM analysts refer to the so-called "Frey effect," named after Allan H. Frey, a Cold War neuroscientist who first published his 1962 findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology. While some of the technologies are still in the conceptual stage, how does INSCOM view their possible deployment as a "crowd control" weapon? The following passage sets the tone (if you'll pardon the pun) of the sinister nature of these systems and those who design them. Under the heading, "Microwave Hearing: Possible Influence on Subject(s)," INSCOM analysts hypothesize:

Application of the microwave hearing technology could facilitate a private message transmission. It may be useful to provide a disruptive condition to a person not aware of the technology. Not only might it be disruptive to the sense of hearing, it could be psychologically devastating if one suddenly heard "voices within one's head." ("Bioeffects of Selected Nonlethal Weapons," U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), 17 February 1998)

Although "non-lethal" microwave acoustic weapons have yet to be deployed, they have been field tested. According to New Scientist,

It is claimed that the so-called "Frey Effect"--using close-range microwaves to produce audible sounds in a person's ears--has been used to project the spoken numbers 1 to 10 across a lab to volunteers'. ... In 2004 the US Navy funded research into using the Frey effect to project sound that caused "discomfort" into the ears of crowds. (David Hambling, "U.S. Army Toyed with Telepathic Ray Gun," New Scientist, March 21, 2008)

While Hambling may believe such systems are "outlandish," given time--and virtually unlimited resources courtesy of their intended "targets"--U.S. citizens, I'm far less sanguine.

Despite all the hoopla, it should be clear by now that descriptors such as "non-lethal" or "less-than-lethal" are, strictly speaking, Orwellian constructs that mask their application as repressive tools for domination. Their primary purpose is not to "save lives" but to be used as instruments of social control.

What other horrors are Pentagon contractors literally cooking-up? According to Wired, the Wattre Corporation has created an "active denial system" called Hyperspike. Sharon Weinberger reports,

Imagine being hit by a nonlethal blast that seems to explode in front of you--a deafening and blinding combination of light and sound. As the battle for "sonic blasters" heats up, a number of companies are looking at innovative ways to combine light and sound into new, nonlethal devices. ("Sonic Blaster + Laser = New Weapon," Wired, March 31, 2008)

According to Wattre's president Curt Graber, Hyperspike combines a "collimated beam of sound" with corporate grifter Stellar Photonics "dynamic pulse detonation" laser to create a combined effect that Graber describes as a "psycho-acoustical event."

The new weapon creates a "mid-air plasma ball" that that "basically ignites the air in front of the person," Graber says. "It creates fireworks right in front of you."

What will they think of next! A fireworks show just before the cops bash your head in. How's that for American innovation and know-how!

With a multitude of uses in the coming period as the American economy tanks and "restless natives" in the "homeland" take to the streets in protest against endless imperial wars and assaults on our economic and social rights, Hyperspike seems just the thing to "keep the rabble in line." As touted by Wattre Corporation, the Plasma Accoustic Shield System (PASS) "will eventually combine a dynamic pulse detonation laser with a high power speaker for hailing or warning, and a dazzler light source."

But Keith Braun of the U.S. Army's Advanced Energy Armaments Systems Division, based at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, told New Scientist last year that the PASS is not quite ready for prime time. According to David Hambling,

Braun puts the maximum range of the system at around a hundred metres. But he says the PASS laser is unlikely to be used as a weapon, in its current format, since it lacks sufficient power. Unlike other high-power lasers which burn a target, the DPD relies on a shockwave. Braun says it would take several minutes to burn through a piece of paper using the laser.

"It is fair to say that any stunning or disabling of a target individual would require additional force on target," says Braun. "The current state-of-the-art in portable, rugged laser systems is not at the point of sufficient power." ("Plasma Shield May Stun and Disorient Enemies," New Scientist, April 26, 2007)

Indeed, PASS and other combinations such as Wattre's Hyperspike "may be the first step towards a man-portable, tuneable laser weapon that could be used in both non-lethal and lethal modes."

Stellar Photonics, which has a $2.7 million contract to build PASS for the Defense Department, is pitching a portable laser rifle "which would be lethal," according to Army researchers. Hambling reports,

It would weigh about fifteen kilograms, would have a range of more than a mile, and could have numerous advantages over existing rifles--better accuracy and the ability to hit a moving target at the speed of light.

It could also be used in non-lethal mode, "offering the individual soldier a first response non-lethal alternative, with the capability to go lethal should the situation call for that level of response", says Braun. But extensive testing of its effects on humans would need to be carried out before it could be legitimately used as a non-lethal weapon.

One shudders to think what "extensive testing of its effects on humans" would entail and what "metrics" would determine its "effectiveness."

Fear not, the Defense Department is busily exploring this for us. According to its website, Picatinny Arsenal, "the Home of American Firepower," has a brief to "establish strong partnerships with many agencies...and academia that are exploring advanced technologies." Some of the "advanced technologies" under development by Picatinny include:

Advanced Energy Weapons Systems employ advanced technologies that may completely change the way military missions are organized and executed in the future. These systems include, but are not limited to, charged particle beams, neutral particle beams, antiparticle beams, low and high energy lasers, high-power microwaves (HPM), acoustics, plasma, and substantial potential with nanotechnology. ("Products and Services," Picatinny Arsenal, no date)

As we have seen in this brief descriptive overview, American militarism is extending the boundaries of "pacification" directly into the human body and mind, viewed by military planners and their corporatist paymasters as necessary accoutrements for dominating the "battlespace." And in this brave new world, science and academia are playing pivotal roles in the development of "non-lethal" weapons systems for the American Empire's "up-armored" war fighters and mercenaries.

According to researcher Nick Turse, since World War II academia has come to rely on Pentagon funding for research and development, a devilish relationship that has "the money and muscle to alter the landscape of higher education, to manipulate research agendas, to change the course of curricula, and to force schools to play by the rules."

As Turse documents in his valuable book, The Complex, one institution, MIT and its spun-off "not-for-profit" research powerhouse The MITRE Corporation, brought in a cool $883,832,277 in research and development dollars from the Pentagon. "Heavy-lifting" such as this "would move MIT out of the military-academic ranks and within striking distance of the military-corporate megagiant General Dynamics."

Researcher and activist Frank Morales described the sinister convergence of science, corporate power and the military's development of "non-lethal" weapons technology as one where "the Pentagon and Justice Department, along with their private and academic appendages are spearheading new ways to control, hurt, torture and kill people, here and abroad." Indeed, Morales writes,

Within this context, a well-funded sadistic science, searching literally for the "magic bullet," weaponizes anything that can "disable." This new fascism attacks the body utilizing bio-determinist ideology and advanced technical means, necessarily widening its potential targets with each new technological advance and/or political requirement. ... No longer content to withstand the annoying pressures of democracy, the corporate game plan calls for a more direct action approach, more repression and less concession. This is the context for so-called non-lethal weapons. ("Non-Lethal Warfare," in Police State America, edited by Tom Burghardt, Toronto/Montreal: Arm The Spirit/Solidarity, 2002, p. 120)

There is nothing "gee-whiz" about such appalling technologies. Serving as instruments for waging the American Empire's new class war, the well-paid "little Eichmanns" busily designing an uninhabitable world of corporatist nightmare and horror should be denounced--and their "research" shut down.