Published on WIRED MAGAZINE - March 24, 2008 - by David Hambling
Category: Weapons and Ammo
Telepathic Ray Guns’ and Vaporized Shoes: The Truth is Weirder Than You Think
‘Telepathic ray guns’ that beam voices into the target’s skull. Weapons to disrupt balance or cause artificial fevers. Devices to trigger epileptic-type seizures from afar. Those are just a few of the exotic items described in a 1998 Army document, describing the "Bioeffects Of Selected Nonlethal Weapons." I give my take in this week’s New Scientist.
The document is a run-down of the state-of-the-art at the time of the different directed energy technologies (laser, microwaves and acoustics) that might be developed into effective nonlethal weapons.
It took a few weeks get the article out –- Sharon descibed it in Danger Room earlier — because my editors wanted to confirm that the document was for real. It looks as though it was released under the Freedom Of Information Act – but how could we be sure? Under other circumstances there might not be any issue, but in the area of directed-energy nonlethals there are a lot of wild claims.
The FOIA document came from Donald Friedman, one of a large number of ‘targeted individuals’ who believe that they are secretly being harassed by such weapons. This court report indicates the depth of Friedman’s conviction:
On January 30, 2003, Donald Friedman walked into an
FBI field office with a two-page letter signed by him and addressed to
Special Agent Jack Murmylo of the United States Secret Service.
Friedman’s letter states, in part:
"Agents of the U.S. Secret
Service, as you already know, have been committing very serious crimes against me and other members of my family for a very long time, and I’m taking more direct action to prevent it from continuing."
"I am going to get an admissible confession from at least one of your agents one way or the other, and if I don’t get what I am demanding from you today, I will use the method of torture described in the attached pages to obtain that confession and to punish the agent for his or her involvement in the illegal acts that your agents have perpetrated against me and my family."
The report notes that the method of torture described (copied from a Robert Ludlum novel)
involved putting electric shocks through the victim’s spinal column.
After he was arrested, the court found the evidence for the alleged electromagnetic assaults unconvincing:
The district court then held a competency hearing at which Friedman testified, inter alia, that the back of a pair of his shoes were vaporized by an electromagnetic weapon fired at his feet in
2001. Friedman presented the shoes in question to the district court, but it appeared to the court that the heel of the shoe had simply worn out due to ordinary use.
Inevitably, Friedman’s mental status was questioned:
After receiving this report, Friedman requested that he be examined by a medical professional of his own choosing. The psychologist chosen by Friedman concurred with the government’s psychiatrist that Friedman "is clearly psychotic and… precisely fits the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia."
On this basis, it looks like an open-and-shut case. It’s very easy to poke fun at people like Friedman. On the other hand, it does show that if a nonlethal device ever was developed which could cause symptoms associated with madness, it would be completely deniable. The device would completely destroy the target’s credibility, neatly ensuring it remained covert. The military utility would be low, but it might be very hand for some three-letter agencies.
However, in this case, we have a bit more to go on. The US Army Intelligence And Security Command Freedom Of Information/Privacy Office confirmed that Friedman’s FOIA request was real. And the while the contents certainly don’t reveal any shoe-zapping beam weapons, they did turn up a much higher level of interest in unusual technology than anyone had seen before.
How had Friedman managed to get this information when many other more conventional researchers had failed? Targeted individuals and their supporters might argue that it shows Friedman is close to the truth. But perhaps the problem is that the rest of us are not paranoid enough, and that when it comes to military research, the truth is not only stanger than we imagine — it is stranger than we can imagine.