Daily Archives: August 2, 2007

Phasers, lasers and death rays: US Navy working on energy weapons

Captain Kirk and Darth Vader may have used them on the silver screen, but the US Navy is working to make death rays a deadly reality in its bid to develop energy and electric weapons.

Aviation and Aerospace | Jul 26, 2007

By Ashwin Tombat

Death rays, phasers, photon torpedoes and lasers that instantaneously vaporise the enemy; we’ve seen them all, in films and on TV serials like Star Trek. But science fiction may soon become fact.

The US Navy has a ‘Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Program Office’ that plans to develop a range of energy and electric weapons, including electromagnetic (EM) rail guns, high-energy lasers (HELs) and high-power microwaves, in the not-too-distant future.

In fact a little-known company called Envisioneering Inc, in Alexandria, Virginia, has received a sole source $9.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract on an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity basis, for systems analysis, system-component design and development, system test and evaluation, data collection and analysis in support of the programme.

While over 90 per cent of the work will be done at Envisioneering’s laboratories in King George, Virginia, 8 per cent will go to its other facilities; 6 per cent to Kauai, Hawaii, and 2 per cent to Kirkland, Washington. The project is expected to be complete only by July 2012. The contract was not competitively procured, as Envisioneering is the only firm with the knowledge and technical capability for the job.

Started in 1982 by a war veteran, the company has 160 employees spread over eight locations in four states in the US. Envisioneering says it specialises in countermeasures, directed energy technologies, photonics, electronic sensors and systems, modelling, simulation and analysis, systems development and integration, test planning and support, laboratory and facility operations, defense and homeland security, and force protection.

Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm Jay Cohen had told defence publication Jane’s in June 2003, that these futuristic ‘speed of light’ energy guns and ‘electric-enabled’ weapons will be able to fundamentally change the nature of war, both on land and from the sea.

Several different streams of research, development and engineering come together in these daring new technologies of war that the Bush administration feels will enable the US military to “leap a generation” of weapons. That is why it set up the Naval Directed Energy Weapons Program Office in 2002, to oversee the development of electric weapons.

Later that year, the programme was expanded to include EM rail guns, when the programme was renamed the ‘Navy Electric Weapons Office’ and later, the ‘Naval Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Program Office’.

Directed energy weapons (DEWs) include lasers, microwave radiation emitters and particle beam accelerators. While conventional weapons rely on kinetic and/or chemical (explosive) energy to destroy the target, DEWs direct large, concentrated doses of energy — photons or particles travelling at or near the speed of light (about 300,000 km per second) — towards targets to destroy them.

Because a DEW beam can travel great distances almost instantly, the complex job of tracking the movement of targets so as to accurately intercept them becomes almost redundant. The target’s chances of evading the beam are also much smaller.

DEWs have the potential for revolutionising warships; there is no longer any need for explosives on board. Instead of magazines, war vessels will have to accommodate the wherewithal to generate the huge bursts of energy that the new weapons will require. The impact on naval warfare will be huge.

The US Navy is already preparing for this. It has decided to install integrated power systems (IPS) and integrated electric drive in its next class of warships, dubbed DD(X).

And while the Navy may be the first frontier, the air force is bound to be next in line. Most interesting, how long will it be before the first handheld energy weapons are developed? Fact has a way of catching up with fiction…

The high-tech future for the Army

CNET News.com | Aug 2, 2007

Today’s incursions by high tech into the ranks of the U.S. Army are just the first wave.

By Jonathan Skillings

The next wave will include a lot more robots and drones, and they’ll be smarter and more autonomous than the current gear. They’ll communicate better with each other and do more and more of the dangerous legwork now done by flesh-and-blood soldiers, and some of them will be as small as insects. Meanwhile, U.S. forces will start to field so-called directed-energy weapons: lasers that can shoot down incoming artillery rounds, and less-than-lethal “heat rays” designed to disperse crowds.

That’s the vision, anyway. The reality isn’t so easy. Getting those lasers to be field-ready, for instance, is “a very hard technical problem,” says Thomas Killion, the Department of the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology–or more casually, chief scientist.

And the centerpiece of the Army’s technological makeover, the Future Combat Systems program, looks likely to lose a big chunk of hoped-for funding in the 2008 defense budget, currently being debated in Congress. Critics in general have assailed FCS–with its development schedule stretching well into the next decade–as overambitious at best, and a boondoggle at worst.

In a nutshell, FCS aims for a complete package of fully networked and brand-new gear ranging from unattended ground sensors to manned and unmanned vehicles, common components and a common operating environment, battle command software, next-generation communications systems and more. As it stands, the Army in July set out its schedule for the first FCS spinouts–a “low-rate initial production effort”–of some gear, including a ground mobile radio and the non-line-of-sight cannon, or NLOS-C.

Of course, there have been tech successes along the way, too, such as the robots that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are using to find roadside bombs and other explosives.

Killion–who has a Ph.D. in experimental psychology, a degree from the Naval War College and work experience for the U.S. Air Force–spoke with News.com this week about how FCS fits into the larger scheme of the Army’s R&D efforts, how the Army’s research efforts tie in with similar work throughout the Defense Department, and what’s up with specific tech projects including gear currently serving in Iraq, along with upcoming minirobots and solid-state lasers.

How do you find that the Air Force and the Army compare in the way they use high technology?

Killion: I think what’s interesting is the change over time. The Air Force, in fact, is a technology-based institution. It was built upon the invention of a technology, the airframe and the airplane, that was always a driver and depended very strongly upon technology for the advancement of that capability. The Army has only more recently gone much more of the high-tech route. But I think if you went out today and look at what is in, in fact, the latest version of the Abrams and the Bradley or in the Stryker, and certainly as we’re evolving into Future Combat Systems, you’ll find the same level of computation, display technology, communications systems that you see in the platforms that the Air Force uses. So technology is as key a driver for the Army now as it always has been for the Air Force.

What do you think you bring from your Air Force experience to your job with the Army?

Killion: Interestingly, it sort of follows on two specific aspects that I brought from the Air Force, and then a more general one. One specific aspect is, the work I was doing with the Air Force was in electronic warfare and electronic combat–it was all about air crew survivability. What’s very useful to me today, and very interesting, is the evolution of our ground platforms to where we are dealing with the same issues on how to ensure survivability for our crews in ground platforms–in terms of constraints on weight and volume and yet using all kinds of techniques and not simply heavy armor to protect the crews–as we’ve traditionally done with air platforms. We have to use electronic warfare, you try to do signature management, you enhance situational awareness and use various techniques to survive as opposed to simply putting on more armor, which we can’t afford any more.
army

Second is in unmanned aerial vehicles. I really did a lot of work with the Air Force in that area, and unmanned systems is a major concept for future force operations, both within FCS and elsewhere. And then more generally I think what’s beneficial is, I’ve actually worked for all three services (Air Force, Navy and Army). The good news there is that it really is a DOD/S&T (Department of Defense/science and technology) enterprise, and it’s valuable to have that network of people that I know across the services in terms of looking at how we best utilize all of our capabilities.

Looking specifically now at Future Combat Systems, it seems like for the 2008 defense budget, that program is not going to get all the money that the Pentagon was looking for. How does that affect what’s going on with the movement toward unmanned vehicles and more electronics, more intelligence in the gear the Army is using?
Killion: You’ll have to ask Gen. Cartwright (editors’ note: Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright is program manager for Future Combat Systems, Brigade Combat Team) about the specifics of what the direct impact on this process is. I am not sure of exactly what the contingencies are as to what they will plan to not do given that they don’t get full funding. I know that the marks that we have seen to date have provided full funding for our S&T program. We are working some key component technologies that are feeding into things like unmanned systems and active protection and so on that are feeding the Future Combat Systems program longer-term.

It seems like what’s going to happen in the near future is what has been termed low-rate spin-outs–some of the gear coming out of Future Combat Systems being applied to current machines like the Abrams, the Bradley, the Humvee.

Killion: Well, they’re certainly looking at spin-outs from technologies that were going into FCS and how can we bring those forward in the field today, things like some of the unattended ground sensors.

So the FCS then is a long-range vision and the Army is pulling out pieces as it can?

Killion: Yes, and I think there are several reasons for that. One is, of course, because it provides new capabilities and enhanced capabilities to our soldiers. We want to provide that capability to as much of the force as possible and so that’s why you see the spin-outs to the non-FCS brigades, if you will. Another is because we want to allow our soldiers to became familiar with and comfortable with the technology that’s coming in FCS, so by the time FCS arrives, they will have seen a number of the components of that system and it won’t be like a big bang–all of a sudden everything shows up and everybody has to learn about all of its capabilities and how to use it and be trained on it and everything else. They’ll be components that are very familiar to them.

Right now there is the one Stryker brigade in Iraq that’s using some components of Land Warrior–not of Future Combat Systems.

Killion: Right, that’s Land Warrior. But still, it’s a similar concept–you’re trying to get to some component of the force as much of the newer technology as possible. One of the things I always tell people about is I’m very heartened to see the proliferation of robotics today. There are now literally thousands of little ground robots, primarily things like PackBot and so on that our soldiers are using in theater, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that’s important for several reasons. One, because the robots allow us to do tasks without putting soldiers at risk.

Second, it gets people comfortable, it demonstrates the capability of the technology, what can be done with robotics, and as robotics evolve even more will be done with it. And certainly last but not least is that we’re growing a generation of soldiers who see robots as part of their normal way of doing business, and that’s how we’re going to conduct our business in the future, with a mix of manned and unmanned systems. The degree to which our soldiers are comfortable with and see the benefits of utilizing robotics to do their job, it lowers the barriers to implementing that vision in the future.

How do you see the role of robots and drones evolving over the next couple of years and then farther out–say, five or 10 years?

Killion: In the near term, of course, we have them doing a lot of ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) roles. Things like Predator do reconnaissance and so on, and it can even carry lethal weapons in some cases with very clear control over the use of these weapons. That will continue to proliferate. What’s going to happen over the next four or five years is an increase in the level of autonomy those systems are capable of using–that is that they can do more tasks on their own and become less of a burden on the soldier who has to operate them.

Then longer-term–in fact we’re kicking off next year a new collaborative technology alliance at the Army Research Laboratory on microautonomous systems and technologies. That is, to build very small robotic systems on the scale of a hummingbird or smaller than that, things that you can carry in your hand or that can crawl around on the floor–wherever it might be that would provide significant intelligence/surveillance capabilities, particularly in urban environments and in interior spaces–and do it in a very nonintrusive way.

Boeing just got a contract from the Army to work on a high-energy laser on a truck. There are things like Active Denial (the so-called heat ray). Taser has got a deal with iRobot to supply their technology for potential use by soldiers. How does all this mishmash of directed energy and stuff fit in with what you’re trying to accomplish?

Killion: The contract for Boeing on the high-energy laser tech demo came from the Army, from SMDC (the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command). They are lead for our high-energy solid-state laser program, which we are working jointly with the High-Energy Laser Joint Technology Office and the Air Force, investing in the next phase of our solid-state laser program where we are going from a nominal 25 kW laser capability to a 100 kW capability.

Continues…

Police DNA database ‘risks criminalising non-offenders’

London Independent | Aug 2, 2007

by Ben Russell

People are being added to the Government’s national DNA database at the rate of more than one a minute, figures from the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

Their research showed that 547,020 profiles were added last year, the equivalent of 62 an hour, leading to claims that ministers were taking Britain into a “headlong rush” towards a surveillance state as numbers on the controversial police record topped four million.

Yesterday the Human Genetics Commission, a government-backed watchdog, launched a major inquiry into the use of DNA records by police. Due to report in the spring, it will look at the size of the DNA database, the large number of black men whose samples are recorded, and the difficulties in removing samples once they are entered into the system.

It emerged that senior police officers have warned the database might criminalise law-abiding people. Alex Marshall, Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley, said in a response to the Home Office’s review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that “extending the taking of samples to all offences may be perceived as indicative of the increasing criminalisation of the generally law-abiding citizen”.

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: “Statistics paint a frightening picture. Black men are four times more likely than white men to have their DNA profiles stored in the police national DNA database. In the interests of fairness we would like to call for DNA profiles to be limited to those that are convicted only.”

The Home Office insists that the DNA database – the largest in the world – is a vital tool in the fight against crime. But critics warn that the system could lead to discrimination against ethnic minorities. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, who obtained the figures, said: “The Government’s onward march towards a surveillance state has now become a headlong rush. They seem determined to hoover up the DNA details of as many people as they can, regardless of guilt or innocence.”

Minnesota bridge deemed faulty 2 years ago

Albuquerque Tribune | Jul 2, 2007

bridge_collapse

WASHINGTON — The White House said on Aug. 2 that an inspection two years ago found structural deficiencies in the highway bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi river in Minneapolis.

The Interstate 35W span rated 50 on a scale of 120 for structural stability, White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

According to a federal database, the 40-year-old bridge that collapsed on Aug. 1 had been rated as “structurally deficient” and possibly in need of replacement.

“This doesn’t mean there was a risk of failure, but if an inspection report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking corrective actions,” he said.

The Transportation Department’s inspector general last year criticized the oversight of interstate bridges. The March 2006 report said investigators found incorrect or outdated maximum weight limit calculations and weight limit postings in the National Bridge Inventory and in states’ bridge databases and said the problems could pose safety hazards. The Federal Highway Administration agreed that improvements were needed.

Incorrect load ratings could endanger bridges by allowing heavier vehicles to cross than should, and could affect whether a bridge is properly identified as structurally deficient in the first place, the inspector general said.

The audit didn’t identify any Minnesota bridges or mention the state beyond noting that 3 percent of its bridges were structurally deficient, placing it at the low end among states with bridge problems. However, it said such bridges were crossed by an average of 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day in Minnesota, ranking it 13th in daily traffic over deficient bridges.

Now Who’s “Bush-Cheney Lite”?

Bottom line is, all these political ponies, both Republican and Democrat including Edwards (who voted for the war), are bought and paid for by the elite establishment (CFR, Bilderberg, AIPAC etc). They run along the same circular track all going in the same basic direction, NOWHERE, as far as real change is concerned. With any of them it will be business as usual, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Perpetual war, police state and the inexorable march toward centralized global dictatorship, with tyranny and microchips for all.

The only maverick and real independent among them is Ron Paul, a real man, that is a real human being who is really on our (humanity’s) side. He is the only one who is not following the lead of establishment agendas and also has a real chance to get nominated.

If you are anti-war, anti-fascist, anti-globalization and anti-establishment, and you have not carefully investigated and listened to RP, I suggest you start looking and compare his libertarian vision with the lies and empty rhetoric of the establishment puppet ponies. Whether you agree with all of his positions or not, you will see that he alone can steer us away from calamity. And even if you strongly disagree with some of his positions, you can relax, because he is anti-authoritarian in accordance with restrictions on the executive in the constitution. Not only that, but his main thrust will be to put the power back into the hands of the people by repealing federal interventions in state’s rights. Then, you will be able to make your own laws in your own states and local goverments and have it your way. Local control is absolutely the only way to excercise freedom and liberty which is at the top of Ron Paul’s agenda.

And finally, his record on the war is spotlessly against the whole thing from day one, unlike most of the Democrats and Republicans. So what’s it gonna be folks? Will you vote for the black man, the woman, the cute guy, the guy with the best hairdo, the guy who wraps himself in the flag or will you vote for a person based on his voting record, on matters that count the most?

PW

Now Who’s “Bush-Cheney Lite”?

Huffington Post | Aug 1, 2007

by Robert Naiman

Just when some folks might have been thinking that Hillary Clinton had been magically transformed into an actual opponent of the neocon Empire project, what with her outrageous suggestion that the Pentagon might consider talking with Congress about contingency plans for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, she and her campaign went and manufactured a controversy about whether or not the U.S. should talk to countries that it doesn’t like, scoring points with the Washington punditry but moving our country further away from a sane foreign policy.

Just when some folks might have thought that Barack Obama was a real alternative, given his full-throated defense of the commonsense notion that the U.S. should, in fact, talk to countries that it doesn’t like, he tries to burnish his Empire credentials in response to the attacks by Hillary’s people by saying that the U.S. should invade Pakistan, even without the Pakistani government’s permission. Never mind that (a) this would be a blatant violation of international law (b) it could go very, very badly (c) lots of innocent people would die and (d) such statements actually undermine the Pakistani government’s efforts to suppress violent Islamic militancy.

So today’s bright spot is: Edwards said something reasonable about Iran. He criticized the Bush Administration’s proposal for a massive new arms sales package in the Middle East, saying it would give Iran an incentive to strengthen its nuclear program:

Edwards said the arms deal could backfire by giving Iran an incentive to build its nuclear strength. “They have to try to offset the conventional arms deficiencies that they’re faced with,” Edwards said. “That’s the whole problem with this idea that you deal with these things in terms of what’s helpful at the moment instead of what needs to be done over the long term.”

Unlike most of official Washington, he also called foul on the Bush administration’s coddling of Saudi Arabia — arguably playing a far more disruptive role in Iraq than the government of Iran, which — unlike the Saudis — is actually allied with the same people in Iraq that the U.S. is allied with:

Edwards said the United States should require the Saudi government to shut down the movement of terrorists across its borders, help stabilize the Iraqi government and participate more seriously in regional security before they are offered weapons. “Whether it’s Iraq or terrorism, the Saudis have fallen way short of what they need to be doing,” the 2004 vice presidential nominee told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “And the Bush administration’s response is to sell them $20 billion worth of arms, which is short-term and convenient and not what the United States should be doing.”

Here’s hoping that Edwards doesn’t endure a torrent of Washington pundit abuse for daring to be the voice of reason.

Diebold e-voting flaws could compromise elections

“I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

– Wally O’Dell, the CEO of Diebold, in a letter to 100 of his wealthy and politically inclined friends, which O’Dell wrote shortly after returning from the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he was meeting with a group of “Pioneers and Rangers” (people who raised $100,000 and $200,000, respectively) to discuss Bush’s reelection [in 2004] [From: “Bev Harris on the Perils to Democracy by Electronic Voting” BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW December 4, 2003]

Computerworld | Aug 1, 2007

diebold2

Optical scan voting devices slated to be used in presidential primary elections in Florida next year are significantly flawed and could compromise the outcome of the contest, according to a report released yesterday by Secretary of State Kurt Browning.

The report (download PDF) was compiled by researchers at Florida State University who were hired by Browning in May to conduct an independent review of optical scan and touch-screen devices made by Diebold Election Systems, one of the largest voting machine vendors in the country and a major supplier of gear to Florida.

The report cited a number of security gaps in the Diebold systems.

For example, it said, Diebold’s Accuvote OS optical scan machine is vulnerable to vote manipulation by illicitly inserting a preprogrammed memory card into a voting terminal. The report said that the card could be coded to flip votes from one candidate to another without detection.

In a letter (download PDF) sent to Diebold Election Systems President David Byrd on Tuesday, Browning said that the vulnerabilities cited in the report must be fixed by Aug. 17 or the vendor’s certification would be denied.

Browning cited a number of changes that must be made, including security upgrades that would prevent the surreptitious insertion of preloaded memory cards.

This was a fairly routine test of a new version of the optical scan system, said Mark Radke, director of marketing at Allen, Texas-based Diebold.

This is a way for the state to proactively catch and address any security issues. “We have received the summary,” Radke said. “There are a few items to tighten as far as security goes, and those are being developed. These are minor changes to the system, and we expect those changes to be submitted by the August deadline.”

A spokesman for Browning stated on Wednesday that Diebold had made assurances that the flaws would be addressed and that he was confident the vendor would in fact do so. And, as some of the problems have to do with voting processes, not technology, Browning would issue special advisories to election officials to address those procedural gaps.

Browning also said he intends to have the Florida State researchers conduct similar studies of machines from other voting system vendors, including Elections Systems & Software Inc. “We expect all voting systems to be certified and complete by the end of the year,” he said.

Related

Black Box Voting
America’s Elections Watchdog Group

http://www.blackboxvoting.org/

Count Paper Ballots
Count Paper Ballots (CPB) is a nationwide citizen group dedicated to proving that privatized elections lead to mistabulated & fraudulent vote counting. We advocate hand counted, citizen secured, paper ballots as the ballot of record, counted in full view (of citizens
http://countpaperballots.com/

London police getting away with murder

demenezes2

Jean Charles de Menezes, lay in a pool of blood after police murdered him in a gangland execution-style slaying with seven shots to the head at point-blank range

Guardian | Aug 1, 2007

by David Mills

The investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes has cleared all the police officers involved.

The IPCC’s final report into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes will confirm that all police officers involved are to be cleared. The chief antiterrorist officer, Andy Hayman, will merely be “heavily criticised” for not telling his boss what really happened on July 22, 2005. Sir Ian Blair, also cleared, apparently didn’t know the true story until the next day, despite the pair having a briefing just hours after the shooting. This contradicts Sir Ian’s denials that he was kept in the dark when he spoke on the Today programme in December 2005. But then this whole saga is riddled with contradictions, as the police have shamefully attempted to cover up what really happened and clear themselves of any blame.

We were misled to believe that de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket containing explosives and that he leapt over the ticket barriers at Stockwell tube station, and ran down the escalators ignoring police calls to stop. In reality he couldn’t have behaved more normally, even pausing to pick up a paper, before using his ticket to pass through the barriers.

Sir Ian said on the day: “As I understand the situation the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions” and a Scotland Yard statement added: “His clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions.” Of course, it turned out Sir Ian’s understanding was a complete and utter misunderstanding, and that the police’s suspicions were just wrong. Attempts to exonerate themselves by pointing to the “unprecedented challenges” they faced with four suicide bombers on the loose, were not good enough.

For the uncovering of what really happened we have to thank Lana Vandenberghe, who paid the price for revealing the truth, as her leak formed the basis of an ITV News investigation into the shooting of de Menezes. () She lost her job at the IPCC, was evicted by her landlady, arrested and treated harshly by the police. The harassment caused by the whole episode turned her into a recluse. She wasn’t the only one. ITV News producer Neil Garrett and his girlfriend – the link between Vandenberghe and Garrett – were arrested.

They both spent hours in a cell and were bailed on a few occasions. While inside, Garrett’s pregnant girlfriend was deprived of food and drink, and given a blanket full of lice. Unknown to him at the time, Garrett’s flat was raided and turned upside down. But thanks to these individuals, and despite the police’s attempts at obfuscation, the public now know that de Menezes looked anything but a terrorist, and was just an innocent man like anyone of us, caught up in the irresponsible actions of the police.

The 11 other police officers involved were cleared in May this year. In this final report, three officers have ensured the IPCC have re-edited it, removing criticisms made against them, after complaints about the IPCC “breaching procedural rules”. Officers involved also edited the official log, but the CPS is not going to press charges. A police source said: “There is a sense that the IPCC, having failed to recommend any action against any of the officers involved in the shooting, itself needed a scapegoat.”

Try telling this to the mother and father of Jean Charles de Menezes. The suggestion there was no scapegoat for July 22 is yet another example of the police shirking responsibility in this case. Try telling them that criticisms of three officers had to be withdrawn because the IPCC hadn’t correctly followed its guidelines. What guidelines did the police follow on that July 22 morning and in its aftermath? What guidelines did they follow when dealing with Vandenberghe, Garrett, and his girlfriend?

This miscarriage of justice will blow over soon, once the dust quickly settles on this final report. The shrine to de Menezes at Stockwell tube station must remain, so people will never forget how an innocent man was killed, and that those responsible are continuing to police the streets of London.

. . .

Related

CCTV proves police lied: de Menezes behaved normally before being murdered