Daily Archives: December 11, 2007

Egypt ‘fabricated terror group’

Emergency rule gives state security sweeping powers of detention

BBC | Dec 11, 2007

A US-based human rights group has accused the Egyptian government of using torture and false confessions in a high-profile anti-terrorism case.

Twenty-two alleged members of an unknown Islamist group, the Victorious Sect, were charged for planning attacks on tourism sites and gas pipelines.

US-based Human Rights Watch says its investigation found the security forces may have fabricated the group’s name.

It also reports claims the arrests were to justify renewing emergency laws.

Although the state prosecutor dismissed the charges against the suspects, 10 of them are still believed to be in detention.

The BBC’s Ian Pannell in Cairo says this is just the latest in a run of accusations by human rights organisations against Egypt’s police and state security.

The Egyptian government has consistently denied that torture is used routinely and rejected what it sees as foreign interference in its own affairs.

‘Pattern of abuse’

The authorities’ claims made headlines in April 2006 when they said they had smashed a previously unheard-of terrorist group plotting a series of attacks against soft targets including tourists and Coptic Christian clerics.

“Beyond coerced confessions, there appears to be no compelling evidence to support the government’s dramatic claims,” HRW says.

“Indeed, it appears that SSI (state security investigations) may have fabricated the allegations made against at least some and possibly all of the them,” its report says.

Detainees quoted by HRW said they had been beaten and kicked by their interrogators, and some were given electric shocks on their bodies, including their genitals.

Most of the testimonies in the report come via third parties, as the detainees themselves were unwilling to talk directly to investigators, for fear of retribution, HRW says.

A spokesperson for the organisation said the case was not unusual, but was part of a pattern of detention and torture by the Egyptian security services in order to obtain false confessions.

The “Victorious Sect” arrests came to light shortly before Egypt renewed its enduring and controversial emergency laws, which give sweeping powers of detention to the security forces.

“State security needs to show that it’s working, that it’s useful, and cases like these are useful politically, around the renewal of the emergency law,” lawyer Muhammad Hashim is quoted saying in the HRW report.

The group says the Egyptian authorities ignored requests for information about the case and there was no immediate response to publication of the report.

Earlier this year, another human rights group released a highly critical report on Egypt’s record on torture and illegal detention.

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Related

Police torture ‘increases’ in Egypt since people started demanding more democracy

U.S. Eyes ‘Pain Beam’ for Home Security, Law Enforcement

 

Sandia non-lethal weaponry researchers Willy Morse and James Pacheco test the small-size Active Denial System in the field.  Photo credit: Randy Montoya.

Wired | Dec 10, 2007

By David Hambling

Burglars break into an apartment, hoping to pick up some expensive electronics or jewelry. But they’re out again, empty-handed, within seconds, howling with pain and surprise. They’ve been driven back by waves of intolerable heat: Entering the apartment is like stepping into a furnace. It’s the Active Denial System, or ADS, at work, the ultimate in home protection … among other uses.

Also known as the “pain beam,” ADS is a revolutionary non-lethal weapon that uses microwaves to cause burning pain without injury. The 95-GHz waves only penetrate a fraction of an inch, heating the outer surface of the target’s skin. According to the Air Force, nobody can tolerate the beam for more than five seconds, and improvised protection such as wrapping yourself in wet towels or tin foil is useless.

There have been repeated calls for ADS to be deployed in Iraq, but the military is bogged down in reviews of the technology. However, now that ADS exists, the pain beam’s manufacturer is exploring domestic U.S. uses, like industrial- and home-security systems. The Department of Energy is looking at employing the technology to protect America’s nuclear stockpile. Meanwhile, some U.S. law enforcement officials are eager to get their hands on the pain weapon, and the Department of Justice is funding a multimillion-dollar research project to give it to them.

“We seem to have no qualms about dropping bombs on people, but are afraid of being embarrassed if we accidentally hurt someone while trying to save their lives,” says Charles “Sid” Heal, a commander at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department “Those restrictions do not apply to the Department of Justice and we are zealously looking for ways of resolving confrontations without having to kill or seriously hurt our adversary.”

A former Marine, Heal has tested Active Denial and believes it could be invaluable in situations like jail riots, where the searing pain could cow rebellious prisoners. His biggest problems are the system’s size and price tag; it’s currently mounted on a Hummer and costs millions of dollars, putting it far beyond the reach of police departments.

That’s where the U.S. Justice Department comes in. The National Institute of Justice, the department’s R&D branch, believes police need a cheaper, lightweight Active Denial system with shorter range. NIJ tested a prototype of such a system earlier this year, but the results of testing have not yet been revealed. A working device is expected to be delivered towards the end of 2008.

“NIJ is working with the developer of the ADS system, Raytheon, to modify its underlying technology for law enforcement and corrections application in a man-portable configuration with a desired range of a hundred feet,” says Department of Justice spokeswoman Sheila Jerusalem.

Mike Booen, Raytheon’s vice president of directed energy weapons, says the handheld version could progress rapidly if the demand is there. So far funding has only amounted to $2.5 million (compared to $100 million on the military version), and more money would speed the process of getting it into the field. Such a device might be a separate unit or might be mounted under a rifle.

Booen says the smaller system may fire short pulses rather than a continuous beam due to power limitations. Beam diameter will be much smaller than the Hummer-mounted version — just a few inches, instead of six feet. But in tests, even one square inch of exposure produced the “repel effect,” forcing the subject to get out of the way as quickly as possible.

A handheld ADS would deliver an intermediate level of force, between verbal commands and more drastic means such as pepper spray or Tasers. But some have concerns that it could be used to punish or torture suspects rather than control them. Pepper spray and Tasers have caused plenty of debate, and any police use of “pain compliance” methods invites controversy. A device that causes intense pain but leaves no physical or chemical traces could easily be abused.

Full Story

New Document Reveals Military Mystery’s Powers


HAARP: The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program located at the HAARP Research Station near Gakona, Alaska

Wired | Dec 10, 2007

By David Hambling

For years, no military program has sparked more fevered speculation from conspiracy theorists than the mysterious High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP. And for years, the Pentagon has been pooh-poohing speculation that the enormous collection of transmitters, radars, and magnetometers in Alaska was some sort of superweapon.

But, it turns out, the conspiracy theorists may not have been entirely off-base, after all.

Since its inception, there’s been a huge range of opinion on what HAARP actually does: everything from a giant mind control facility to a space nuke countermeasure to a weather controller to an ionosphere-boiling mad science experiment to the mother of all pork projects has been suggested. But now that the program is actually up an running, military managers say the electronics array has much more benign use. “HAARP’s main job is to produce radio waves to probe the ionosphere,” an Air Force Research Laboratory officer said in October.

Which is true — up to a point.

A drive by Clifford Stone on the X-Files-esque uber-site Above Top Secret to use the Freedom of Information Act to turn up UFO-related documents has led to the release of a fascinating report, HAARP: Research and Applications. It’s from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research, and it lays out the uses the military see for HAARP. Turns out the Pentagon wants some military bang for their buck from the program.

HAARP can actually perform a lot of militarily important functions, all involving the interactions of radio waves with the high atmosphere, magnetosphere and ionosphere.

Full Story

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Related 

 The Latest HAARP Information