Monday, December 29, 2008
New Scientist - A modified version of this laser rifle created to dazzle enemies by the US Air Force has been adapted by the Department of Justice to inflict pain from a distance. The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects.
The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain.
Like the ADS, the new portable devices will also heat the skin, but will have beams only a few centimeters across. They are designed to elicit what the Pentagon calls a "repel response" - a strong urge to escape from the beam. . .
The effect of microwave beams on humans has been investigated for years, but there is little publicly available research on the effects of PHaSR-type lasers on humans. The attraction of using a laser is that it can be less bulky than a microwave device.
Human rights groups say that equipping police with such weapons would add to the problems posed by existing "non-lethals" such as Tasers. Security expert Steve Wright at Leeds Metropolitan University describes the new weapons as "torture at the touch of a button".