The WoodwardGate super-secret-weapon saga continues and the blogosphere is “abuzz”, pardon the pun – couldn’t resist, with speculation about what the “secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders” may consist of.
Fortunately, we’ve got a bunch of brainiacs here at Future Blogger that have helped us separate the more plausible wheat from the ultra-theoretical chaff. Some of their best guesses include:
Tiny Unmanned Aerial Drones:tk421 and a few other contributors have ventured that small, or even microscopic, automated drones or insects could contribute to the secret program. After all, the American govt has been hard at work figuring out how to either build microdrones or embed chips directly into actual insects.
Smart Dust the Size of Pepper Grains: According to commenter CheechWizard (gotta love the handle): It’s smart dust: RFID tags the size of small pepper grains, packaged in grenades, mortar rounds, artillery shells. Their cases are modeled after seeds and pollen that sticks effectively to animals & such, colored to match local dirt and grime. How it works:
Your unit is taking fire, so you call in a couple of rounds of artillery that cover the enemy position in tags. As your guys advance, the attackers fade away as usual. That night, helicopters scan the town, and within a couple of hours, the door kicker squads are rounding up your attackers and their friends at home.
Authority figures sure have gotten a lot smarter in dealing with public protests. In the 60’s and 70’s, public protests were greeted with iconic backlash from police and national guard alike. With the television and camera able to record these protests, they became icons for whatever movement they were fighting for.
There was the Kent State shootings immortalized by the picture of Mary Ann Vecchio screaming over the body of slain protester Jeffrey Miller. Or the famous video of police blasting protesters with fire hoses as well as sicking their dogs on high school students in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
It was due to these images that the traditional way of dealing with protesters had to change radically. In his paper titled “From Escalated Force to Disruption Control: The Evolution of Protest Policing,” Alex Vitale, a former consultant to the ACLU and Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, states the following:
“Prior to the 1970’s police relied on a doctrine of “Escalated Force” in responding to demonstrations. Following numerous reports, civil law suits, and media coverage criticizing the violence that often resulted form this approach, many departments developed a doctrine of “Negotiated Management,” which attempted to minimize violence through improved communication with demonstrators and greater tolerance of disruptive activity.” -Alex Vitale.
Tactics had to change — police could no longer use any force necessary in order to quell a public protest. It’s especially true in this day and age when even videos of earthquakes are posted on the internet within minutes of their occurrence.
A great report by the ACLU (co-authored by Alex Vitale) on the protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention detail how police used mass arrests, detentions, cheap zip-ties, horse charges, intense surveillance and limited access to combat the possible threat from protesters (no one wanted a repeat of the infamous Battle of Seattle of 1999). Tactics have changed, and as a result the voice of the protester is getting fainter and fainter.
Here are some nifty gadgets people are working on in order to limit casualties in war and even at home. Check out my article on how these devices are killing the art of protesting here.
The StunRay™: Coming in a hand held device (range about 100 meters) or vehicle/ship mounted (range about 500 meters), this device delivers a blinding light that incapacitates a person anywhere from five seconds to three minutes. “Application of the 2-second or less stun beam causes a photo-chemical reaction resulting in temporary loss of sight and neural signal overload of the optic nerves.” The best thing about it? Full recovery takes 15-20 minutes, it only requires a battery, and it allows someone to use it from a great distance, keeping them from the threat.
The Dazzler: Another light weapon, it was used in the British and Argentinian war over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas for you Argentinians, sorry you lost) against low-level flying aircraft. The devices temporarily blind and disorient those targeted. Although hated by many advocacy groups due to it’s potential to cause permanent damage, they have even been issued in Iraq to soldiers at checkpoints in order to find a less lethal way of stopping cars that fail to follow directions.
The Vortex Ring Gun: Basically, an explosion is made in a barrel which accelerates air through the barrel towards whatever you’re pointing it at (kinda like in kung-fu movies where a guy stops his punch a few inches from the victim but the air from his fist still knocks the victim down). “The weapon has demonstrated its capability to knock-down a 75kg man-sized mannequin from a distance of 10 meters.” This allows people to get mowed down by air (a modern day fire hose?). And while injuries will probably occur, it’s still fairly non-lethal.
Long Range Acoustic Device: Developed by NORUS Crisis Assessment and Intervention (NORUSCAI) in the UK, you may have heard them in the news a few years back when the ship Seabourn Spiritbeat off Somali pirates with their own LRAD. “After dragging his injured colleague Som Bahadur Gurung to safety, he saw off the heavily armed mercenaries by hitting them with a hi-tech sonic cannon.” The device has the ability to rupture ear drums of those it’s directed at. If it can beat away pirates, that is one tough machine.
An important element of the loss of U.S. global prestige and influence has been this country’s snubbing and flouting of international law and conventions.The latest example of this is the Cluster Munitions Treaty, which was signed in Oslo, Norway earlier this month by 94 countries, not including the United States. One of the 94 signatories was Afghanistan, which agreed to the treaty at the last minute in the face of intense pressure from Washington.