Wired’s military technology blog, Danger Room,has video up of the Pentagon’s much ballyhooed Active Denial System – also known as the ‘pain ray’ - being used on a human volunteer. They also have links to the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate home page which features more videos of live subjects being zapped, and a link to a segment from the Discovery Channel program Future Weapons (which they dub “weapons porn”). You should check them out – live reporters step in front of microwave pain ray, get their insides cooked for a couple of seconds,leap away, and everybody has a jolly good laugh over the whole thing. See? Harmless. Heck, it’s no worse than a good nipple twist or a fraternity…um, hazing…
OK, bad analogy.
And for all I know it is harmless – if you can jump out of the way as soon as they turn the thing on. What I’m concerned about is the day they use that thing on someone tied to a post. That won’t happen, you say? What on earth makes you say that?
I still believe using this thing in an actual crowd control situation it will be a disaster. I marched in the big anti-war rally in New York City in February of 2003, right before the invasion of Iraq. NYPD had blocked certain streets with barricades, vehicles and/or mounted officers to concentrate the crowd into the smallest, most controllable area possible. Fair enough, I can see why they’d want to do that. Now, the main rally point was the UN Building on First Avenue and 44th Street; the closest I managed to get was Second Avenue and 49th Street – and it was a solid wall of people in front of and behind me. I could have crowd surfed down to the UN. We’re talking about 100,000 people in that limited area alone. If for some reason the Active Denial System had been employed at the front of a crowd like that, a crowd focused into a tight controllable area, the resulting stampede to get the hell away from it would have been a nightmare.
The weapon itself may be non-lethal, but you can’t always say the same about people who feel like their intestines are on fire.