Daily Archives: October 3, 2009

Test of Tactical Laser from a C-130 gunship burns hole in hood of vehicle

Test of laser from C-130H melts hood of car

Air Force Times | Oct 2, 2009

By Bruce Rolfsen

New video released by the Air Force and Boeing Co. show what happens when a C-130H Hercules aims the Advanced Tactical Laser at the hood of car.

In the video recorded Aug. 30 during a test flight at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., the laser melts the hood and sparks a fire. A press statement from Boeing said the laser “killed the vehicle.”


US boasts of laser weapon’s ‘plausible deniability’

Portable pain weapon may end up in police hands

The weapon uses a chemical laser that fills the cargo hold of C-130 to produce a laser beam fired from a turret mounted in the belly of a C-130.

If the size of laser can be reduced, the Air Force could one day fly laser versions of the AC-130 gunships.

The future of the project is in doubt as it competes for funding with other weapons, but a Boeing official said he is optimistic.

“The bottom line is that ATL works, and works very well,” Gary Fitzmire, program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems’ Directed Energy Systems unit, said in a release. “ATL’s components — the high-energy chemical laser, beam control system and battle manager — are performing as one integrated weapon system, delivering effective laser beam energy to ground targets.”

Working with Boeing on the $200 million project, which began in 2002, is the Air Force Research Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate.


Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser In Action

This video shows the effect of the high-energy laser beam from the Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), fired at a stationary truck from a US Air Force NC-130H flying over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on August 30, 2009. The ATL is a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and is a scaled-down version of the megawatt-class high-energy laser in the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL).

The Use of Photographs in Psychological Operations


Secrecy News | Oct 1, 2009

by Steven Aftergood

The Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether it will review a Freedom of Information Act ruling requiring the Department of Defense to disclose certain photographs of alleged detainee abuse to the American Civil Liberties Union.  If it declines to do so, a federal appeals court order that directed release of the photographs will stand.

Though not strictly a legal consideration, there is a potency to photographic images that can make them weapons in the struggle for popular opinion as a foundation and an adjunct to military operations.  In opposing their release, the government contends that the photographs sought by the ACLU could be used to incite violence against U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.

An old 1979 U.S. Army manual on psychological operations (large pdf) observed that images of brutal behavior committed by enemy terrorists can “reverberate against the practitioner, making him repugnant to his own people, and all others who see the results of his heinous savagery.”  Distribution of such images among the population “will give them second thoughts about the decency and honorableness of their cause [and] make them wonder about the righteousness of their ideology.”

“The enemy may try to rationalize and excuse its conduct, but in so doing, it will compound the adverse effect of its actions, because it can never deny the validity of true photographic representations of its acts,” the Army Manual explained (at page I-10, PDF page 252).  “Thus, world opinion will sway to the side of the victimized people.”

This kind of propaganda technique could not be used against the U.S., the now obsolete 1979 Army manual stated, because “The United States is absolutely opposed to the use of terror or terrorist tactics.”  See “Psychological Operations,” U.S. Army Field Manual 33-1, August 31, 1979.

FM 3-05.30, the current U.S. Army Field Manual on Psychological Operations, does not address the tactical use of photographic images.

TSA Body Scanning Technology Strips Away Privacy

One More Step Toward Mandatory Virtual Strip Searches, Says ACLU

commondreams.org | Oct 2, 2009

WASHINGTON – October 1 – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has revealed plans to install 150 body scanning machines for primary security screenings at airports across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the expanded use of this invasive technology, which amounts to a virtual strip search and reveals strikingly graphic images of passengers’ bodies, including intimate medical details like colostomy bags or evidence of mastectomy.

By expanding the use of body scanning technology, the TSA is backing away from numerous assertions that it would use these machines only for secondary screenings. There are no laws or regulations limiting how the TSA uses these virtual strip searches, only policies they choose to adopt, and nothing to prevent the TSA from making it mandatory for all passengers to submit to these invasive and embarrassing searches, having their privacy stripped away in order to board a plane.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel for technology and privacy:

“This new body scanning technology is a frontal assault on personal privacy, with virtual strip searches revealing private body parts and intimate medical details. This degree of examination amounts to a significant – and for some people humiliating – attack on the essential dignity of passengers that citizens in a free nation should not have to tolerate. Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies in order to fly.

“The House has already passed language that would instill common-sense protections on the use of these devices, including penalties for screeners who illicitly copy or distribute images and a bar on body scanners as a primary enforcement tool. The Senate should do the same.”

EU mulls carbon tax to fight climate change

www.chinaview.cn | Oct 2, 2009

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) — European Union (EU) finance ministers on Friday discussed the idea of introducing a carbon tax across the 27-nation bloc as a way to help fight climate change.

“Today, there were few reactions, but all the reactions were positive,” Laszlo Kovacs, EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, told reporters after presenting the idea to EU finance ministers at an informal meeting in the Swedish port city of Gothenburg.

Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency, said there had been a constructive exchange of views and that the European Commission was encouraged to make a formal proposal, possibly next year.

He said a number of ministers welcomed the idea of introducing a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from sectors outside the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

The EU currently runs the world’s largest Emission Trading Scheme, which imposes emission caps on certain EU industries, including power generators and some heavy industrial plants, and requires them to buy extra permit if they want to emit more.

The new carbon tax is likely to be applied to transport, agriculture, forestry, households and others.

In fact, several EU member states have already introduced such tax on national basis.

Borg said Sweden’s carbon tax had proved “very successful” since it was introduced at the start of the 1990s.

Denmark, Finland and Slovenia also have taxes on household carbon emissions resulting from heating and electricity use. France is planning to introduce a carbon tax on gasoline or diesel fuel for cars next year, hoping it can bring more revenue for the government.

But Kovacs admitted it would not be easy to reach a deal since taxation is reserved for national sovereignty under EU rules and any change requires unanimity among 27 member states.

“Introducing a new tax in the EU has never been easy, and particularly it is not easy in the time of a financial and economic crisis,” he said.

“But it is evident that the climate change is an even more disastrous global challenge than the current financial and economic crisis. It’s a question of life or death for the population of the globe,” he added.

Kovacs said the tax would not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, but also its revenues could be used in financing the fight against climate change in the developing world.

The revenues “should be used for climate change purposes (and) to finance the climate change efforts of the developing countries, because they need some support and we need revenues to support them,” he said.

EU finance ministers also had an “active and constructive” discussion on the issue of climate financing today, according to the Swedish EU presidency.

World governments are expected to reach a new deal on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012 at a United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen this December, but current negotiations have been deadlocked, with climate financing proving to be a stumbling block.

Developing countries have called for generous financial support from rich countries to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of global warming, for which industrialized nations are historically responsible.

In early September, the European Commission unveiled a blueprint for scaling up international finance to help poor nations, proposing that the EU would contribute some 2 to 15 billion euros (2.9 to 22 billion U.S. dollars) a year by 2020, a sum criticized by developing countries as not enough.

Calling All Transhumanists


Scene from the 1927 film Metropolis where a woman is used by a mad scientist to create a robot replica to serve his evil plans.

Forbes | Oct 2, 2009

by Courtney Boyd Myers

Technology futurists love to talk about the Singularity as the point in time when technology starts to progress so rapidly that machine intelligence melds with and surpasses human intelligence. It is to futurists what the Rapture is to fundamentalist Christians.

Those who welcome or fear this eventuality are gathering this weekend in New York City for the fourth annual Singularity Summit. Speaking at the summit are some of the better-known tech soothsayers, including author and programmer Ray Kurzweil; Steve Wolfram, the founder of the novel search engine Alpha; and Aubrey de Grey, an expert on anti-aging science. Also giving talks are Australian philosopher David Chalmers, whose idea inspired the Matrix film series, and Pay-Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has donated in the six figures to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the organization putting on the event. Last year, the summit drew 1,000 curious academics and entrepreneurs in San Jose, Calif. (See our story on the 2007 Summit here.)

Michael Vassar, the president of the institute, gives the Singularity just under a 25% chance of happening by 2040 and a 70% chance by 2060. When we do cross that line, Vassar says nothing will be the same. “Humans living in the post-Singularity world will be as powerless as jellyfish are in today’s world,” he says. His odds don’t take into account the chances of the world plunging into rapid technological decline due to a nuclear war or a worldwide collapse into barbarism.

Vassar’s six staffers at the Singularity Institute, including Kurzweil, publish papers with titles such as, “Uncertain Future Project,” “Global Catastrophic Risk Project” and “Economics and Machine Intelligence,” and have developed software that supposedly predicts technology’s trajectories and generates odds on the occurrences of global catastrophes like nuclear war and global warming.

Singularists fall into optimist and pessimist camps. Optimists, such as Kurzweil, look forward to living in an age in which human intelligence is enhanced by brain implants that extend our memories, enhance our senses and allow us to solve problems faster and with greater accuracy.

The pessimists, and Vassar is one of them, see threats to humanity from the rise of an unfriendly machine intelligence that will want to enslave humans (think The Matrix) and use our brain matter for endless computation, much as we’ve used computers in the past 60 years.

Vassar says he and his colleagues at the Singularity Institute are working on seeing that a Matrix-like future never happens. Institute research fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky coined the term “Friendly AI” to describe an AI that could be built to have a moral conscience. One of the institute’s chief goals is to encourage other scientists to create this Friendly AI. (Read “Vassar’s Machine Minds” in the AI Report.)

Many computer scientists and engineers remain very skeptical of the Singularity and the cargo-cult enthusiasm that surrounds it. They don’t believe in humanity’s ability to reach a point at which technology will be so complex as to render us inconsequential. It’s also likely that for economic reasons, technical progress and computer hardware performance will never accelerate at the speed required to reach the Singularity.

Will Wright, the creator of The Sims videogame series, has gone on record saying that machines will never achieve the kind of intelligence and creativity of which humans are capable. But he does believe that machines will one day be able to make themselves more intelligent, effectively reprogramming themselves until the first real AI achieves its own sort of sentience, one that is very alien to our own human cognizance.

Ariel Rabkin, a third year Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkley’s Computer Science program, doubts that many technical people take the Singularity seriously. “Human-comparable AI is really hard,” he says, “And we’re nowhere close to achieving it.” He adds, “I can tell you that nobody I work with at Berkeley or elsewhere has ever mentioned it. And just to be clear, I don’t just mean, ‘We don’t talk about it in courses.’ I mean, nobody mentions it, at all, ever. We don’t think about it.”

But the Singularity continues to pique the curiosity of the layman. Over the next 12 months, Hollywood will release several movies with trans-humanist themes, such as Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates, James Cameron’s Avatar, Barry Ptolemy’s Transcendent Man and The Singularity is Near, with a script by Ray Kurzweil. In a time when the publishing industry is struggling, Better Humans LLC has just launched a new magazine called H+ covering the trans-humanism scene for fans of radical technological change.

It’s possible that because the Singularity is a relatively new idea, it’s embraced mostly by the youth and dismissed as a counter-cultural trend by an older generation of professors and scientists. “I’m the older side of the Singularists,” says Vassar, who is 30 years old.

The Singularity probably won’t destroy humanity in our lifetime, but it’s productive to keep asking the question of whether technology is serving us or if things are the other way around.

Montana attorney general probes secretive American Police Force


USA Today | Oct 2, 2009

by Doug Stanglin

We posted an item yesterday about a secretive California security company called American Police Force that was set to take over operation of a never-used jail in Hardin, Mont.

APF raised eyebrows in town after Mercedes SUVs belonging to the company arrived bearing decals that read, “City of Hardin Police Department.”

The company, and the city’s economic development arm that has negotiated a deal with APF, refused to give details about its plans, including where it expects to get prisoners to put in the jail.

Today comes word from The Billings Gazette, which has been following the story closely, that Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has launched an investigation into APF to find out what’s going on.

That came after the newspaper and the Associated Press published stories saying that Michael Hilton, the apparent founder of APF who claims to be a military veteran, has a lengthy criminal record and has served time in prison in California.

The attorney general has sent a nine-page demand letter to Becky Shay, a former Gazette reporter who is now spokesman for APF. The paper says Shay did not respond immediately to its inquiries.

According to the document, Bullock is launching a civil investigation to determine if APF is violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Bullock is demanding that the company provide proof for some of the claims on its website, such as having contracts with the U.S. government and operations in all 50 states.

The newspaper says it has turned up no record of APF contracting with the federal government.

Bullock also requested a copy of the agreement between APF and Two Rivers Authority, the Hardin economic development arm that built the white elephant jail two years ago.

The Gazette also reports that the state’s three-man congressional delegation and the governor have raised concerns about APF project.

Glenn Beck Warns of ‘Reichstag Event’

Glenn Beck Exclusive: Warns of ‘Reichstag Event’

Newsmax | Sep 29, 2009

Media phenomenon Glenn Beck recently sat down with Newsmax for an exclusive interview offering his take on everything from President Obama, to the threat to talk radio and even a worry that our Constitutional government may disappear after a “Reichstag” event takes place.

The candid, wide-ranging interview appears in the October issue of Newsmax magazine, and is included in the special report “Glenn Beck Wants You!” that takes an in-depth look at the TV host whose Fox News show has been breaking ratings records since it burst on the scene in January.

Beck, who is also thriving on the radio, in bookstores and on the comedy circuit, sat down with Newsmax magazine’s Editor in Chief Christopher Ruddy and voiced his concerns about a coming attack on talk radio.

But his real worry is that many Washington elitists really don’t like our form of government and want to see it abolished.

“I fear a Reichstag moment,” he said, referring to the 1933 burning of Germany’s parliament building in Berlin that the Nazis blamed on communists and Hitler used as an excuse to suspend constitutional liberties and consolidate power.

“God forbid, another 9/11. Something that will turn this machine on, and power will be seized and voices will be silenced.”

Beck has also been a fierce critic of President Obama. Still, he said he’s open to a meeting with Obama. Beck doesn’t believe the president “necessarily would” speak directly to him, adding: “I don’t know very many politicians that speak directly.”

Beck also talked to Newsmax about his critics, his best-selling book “Common Sense,” his condemnation of George W. Bush’s presidency, government control of the media and “the only thing that will save this country.”

Robocops Employ Scary Crowd-Stopping Technology at Pittsburgh Protests

After Downing Street | Sep 28, 2009.

By Mike Ferner

An arsenal of “crowd control munitions,” was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during last week’s G-20 protests.

No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies, an arsenal of “crowd control munitions,” including one that reportedly made its debut in the U.S., was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during last week’s G-20 protests.

Nearly 200 arrests were made and civil liberties groups charged the many thousands of police (most transported on Port Authority buses displaying “PITTSBURGH WELCOMES THE WORLD”), from as far away as Arizona and Florida with overreactingand they had plenty of weaponry with which to do it.

Bean bags fired from shotguns, CS (tear) gas, OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, flash-bang grenades, batons and, according to local news reports, for the first time on the streets of America, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), I saw the LRAD in action twice in the area of 25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an old Pittsburgh neighborhood.  Blasting a shrill, piercing noise like a high-pitched police siren on steroids, it quickly swept streets and sidewalks of pedestrians, merchants and journalists and drove residents into their homes, but in neither case were any demonstrators present.  The APC, oversized and sinister for a city street, together with lines of police in full riot gear looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for a scene out of a movie you didn’t want to be in.

As intimidating as this massive show of armed force and technology was, the good burghers of Pittsburgh and their fellow citizens in the Land of the Brave and Home of the Free ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Tear gas and pepper spray are nothing to sniff at and, indeed, have proven fatal a surprising number of times, but they have now become the old standbys compared to the list below that’s already at or coming soon to a police station or National Guard headquarters near you.  Proving that “what goes around, comes around,” some of the new Property Protection Devices were developed by a network of federally-funded, university-based research institutes like one in Pittsburgh itself, Penn State’s Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies.

Raytheon Corp.’s Active Denial System, designed for crowd control in combat zones, uses an energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation, like a hot iron placed on the skin.  It is effective beyond the range of small arms, in excess of 400 meters.  Company officials have been advised they could expand the market by selling a smaller, tripod-mounted version for police forces.

M5 Modular Crowd Control Munition, with a range of 30 meters “is similar in operation to a claymore mine, but it delivers…a strong, nonpenetrating blow to the body with multiple sub-munitions (600 rubber balls).”

Long Range Acoustic Device or “The Scream,” is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can emit sound “50 times greater than the human threshold for pain” at close range, causing permanent hearing damage.  The L.A. Times wrote U.S. Marines in  Iraq used it in 2004.  It can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone…”[For] most people, even if they plug their ears, [the device] will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine,” says Woody Norris, chairman of American Technology Corp., the San Diego firm that produces the weapon. “It will knock [some people] on their knees.”  CBS News reported in 2005 that the Israeli Army first used the device in the field to break up a protest against Israel’s separation wall.  “Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds…A military official said the device emits a special frequency that targets the inner ear.”

Full Story

The Criminal Behavior of G-20 Police in Pittsburgh

A disintegrating set of morals are allowing American cops to become the Gestapo and Stormtroopers of yesterday.

Salem-News.com | Oct 1, 2009

by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) – U.S. media outlets are writing about the new LRAD or “audio cannon” device used on demonstrators Thursday at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in a way that only brain-dead sold out scoundrels can. LRAD stands for “Long Range Acoustic Device” and the name does not betray the weapon’s objective.

It is a “hands off” tool that blasts out an extremely high pitched sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually has the ability to drive people stark raving mad. It’s a futuristic fascism device if described accurately.

Americans, especially journalists writing about this, should be horrified by this new form of police abuse. I predict that it will ultimately be the last straw in a society that has too high of a threshold for this type of torture. The device disburses crowds by emitting a high decibel sound so painful that it causes people to freeze and try to run. Apparently they can not always do this.

Picture your fellow Americans, they could be any age, in a state of pain that is “excruciating”, according to those who have experienced it. Like the Taser, which is frequently present when suspects die, (even though the company claims it is very safe), there is no way the LRAP is good for people, at minimum, how could it not cause permanent hearing loss?

It is only the latest weapon that police are drawing to use against us, our children, and theirs. Rogue cops all over the nation abuse people with Tasers on a regular basis, and that company profits and profits. Good thing, their team of lawyers is very busy wrestling with death-related claims, even if they beat most of them.

Then you have the American gestapo (translates to secret police) movement of unmarked police cars sneaking around, nailing the unsuspecting through trickery and deceit. California bans the practice, it is taking place every day in Oregon, and Washington’s fleet of poser police cars are everywhere in that state. Unmarked means, among other things, they can abuse people and not be identified. They want to keep you confused and guessing, that is the new police approach in the United States.

Unmarked traffic enforcement allows criminals to replicate police very easily and strike victims. The police don’t care, almost across the board, and they will tell you that. Why should they? They love using your tax money to sneak up and nab you in a spendy traffic violation.

Considering the hypocrisy of a nation that constantly lauds its supposed “freedoms” so damned often, especially while justifying wars like the one in Iraq, the U.S. government is as criminal, dangerous and immoral than any other in the world. Oh, but how we go on about our greatness, and we are so quick to criticize other nations when their police roll in and control crowds.

Full Story

Police Buy Military-Style Sonic Devices

Washington Times | Oct 2, 2009


With the help of Homeland Security grants, police departments nationwide looking to subdue unruly crowds and political protesters are purchasing a high-tech device originally used by the military to repelbattlefield insurgents and Somali pirates with piercing noise capable of damaging hearing.

Police acknowledge that they deployed the so-called Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) as a safeguard at recent political conventions,protest-plagued international summit meetings and this summer’s volatile town-hall meetings on health care.

Officers were captured last week on video using the devices against protesters at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, causing many tocover their ears or disperse to escape the shrieking sound.

San Diego-based American Technology Corp. insists the devices it manufactures and sells are not intended to be used as sonic weapons but rather to influence the behavior and gain compliance from people.

But the company stated in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in September 2008 that the device is capable of sufficient acoustic output to cause damage to human hearing or human health, expressing concern that its misuse could lead to lawsuits.

It is that fact that has health and civil rights advocates concerned that the devices could fall into untrained hands and cause physical harm.

Police should not be using military weapons that are likely to cause permanent hearing loss on demonstrators or anyone else, said Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania who objected to the Pittsburgh police’s use of the device.

The dish-shaped device generate tones that are higher than the normal human threshold for pain, according to the device’s own data sheet. They can be aimed in a narrow beam at specific targets with what the company has described as extreme accuracy.

The American Tinnitus Association said Wednesday that protesters at the G-20 summit were acoustically assaulted with sound of over 140 decibels, which it described as like the kind of sound pressure members of the armed services might face from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The association said that at 130 to 140 decibels, damage to the ear can be instantaneous, adding that the 145 to 151 range of the LRADSis the kind of sound that can cause tinnitus and hearing damage immediately. Tinnitus is a condition that causes ringing in the ears, sometimes permanently.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said permanent hearingloss can result from sounds at about 110 to 120 decibels in short bursts or at 75 decibels with long periods of exposure. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders said regular exposure of more than one minute of 110 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss.

The U.S. military has used the devices successfully since 2003 andthey have been available domestically since 2004.

The purchase of LRADs by police agencies in the U.S. is approved by the Homeland Security Department, making the departments eligible for millions of dollars in federal grants. Federal and state officialssaid the grant money is turned over to the states, which decide how to spend it.

Homeland Security officials said they don’t have a list of the lawenforcement agencies that have obtained LRADs through its grant programs because the money is administered by the states.

Authorities in California, where at least five police departments have acknowledged having the devices, said information about the locations of devices was not readily available and it would take several days to compile.

American Technology declined a request from The Washington Times to identify which police departments have purchased the devices, but its most recent SEC filings show sales are rising. In the first nine month of 2009, sales of the device generated $12.8 million, a 74 percent increase over the same period in the previous year, the filing stated.

The first acknowledged public use of the LRADs in the United States occurred at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, during which police activated one of the devices to disperse what they said were protesters seeking to march without a permit on the city’s convention center.

The dish-shaped device was mounted atop a military-style police vehicle and the piercing sound it emitted caused the protesters to stop, cover their ears and back up, at which time they faced nonlethal tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Other law enforcement agencies will be watching to see how it was used, Nate Harper, the Pittsburgh police bureau chief, told reportersat the time. It served its purpose well.

More than 190 people were arrested during the G-20 demonstrations.No serious injuries were reported.

American Technology spokesman Robert Putnam said the company’s LRAD system was successfully deployed by Pittsburgh law enforcement agencies to support their peacekeeping efforts at the G-20 summit, but hedenied that the devices are weapons.

There’s no truth to the claims that these devices are ‘death guns’or ‘sonic cannons,’ and the only people saying that are those who have not experienced the LRAD themselves, Mr. Putnam said. They are communication devices and their point is to communicate with people who are not interested in complying with lawful orders.

He said the LRAD enabled law enforcement authorities in Pittsburghto communicate clearly with an unruly crowd at a safe distance to peacefully resolve an uncertain situation without injury or a loss of life on both sides of the device without resorting to the use of nonlethal or lethal weapons. He said the device was used to deliver critical information, instructions and warnings.

Mr. Putnam said LRADs can cause damage to hearing if used improperly or if you stand in front of it for several minutes, but he said American Technology trains those who purchase the devices.

He said law enforcement personnel have full control of the audio output through a prominently positioned volume control knob and that the broadcasts can be easily and quickly adjusted based on their intended use.

We give them instructions. We give them training. We give them a manual, he said. It needs to be properly used and we do what we can toeducate the people.

When pressed about guarding against potential harmful effects, he said, Put your fingers in your ears.

The company has said the devices are intended to be used for only a few seconds at a time, and that there should be no lasting effects from brief exposure. Mr. Putnam said the devices can broadcast up to 152 decibels at a distance of three feet.

Raymond DeMichiei, Pittsburgh’s deputy director of emergency management and homeland security, said he thought the devices worked well without hurting anyone.

Every police officer I talked to thought it worked famously, said Mr. DeMichiei, who ordered the devices for Pittsburgh. “The bottom line is we could maintain order with the protesters without hurting them.

It is designed to get people to do what police want. It makes themuncomfortable but does not hurt them, he said, noting that Pittsburgh police had been trained to use the devices properly.

Mr. DeMichiei said his office first began looking at the devices when it learned the G-20 was coming to Pittsburgh and the city wanted a less aggressive means to control protesters.

He said the city and Allegheny County each bought two – a large and a small device – for use by their SWAT teams. The devices were purchased with a $101,000 Homeland Security grant, approved by the state of Pennsylvania.

In addition to Pittsburgh, the devices previously were set up – but not used – by police in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention, put in place last month during at least two healthcare town-hall meetings in the San Diego area and were at the ready for police in Miami in 2003 for a free-trade conference in that city.

The devices, described by the company as nonlethal weapons, are now in the possession of police agencies across the country.

We think the use of the LRAD devices to gain control of the publicis inappropriate and excessive, said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego. “They can cause severe damage to people’shearing but, as importantly, they represent a degree of police control that is borderline science fiction.

Do we want to live in a society where police use military-style weapons to stifle public dissent? Mr. Keenan said. The main effect of having those weapons at public events is to chill people and chill free speech and free association.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department had LRAD devices ready to control crowds at separate Republican and Democratic town-hall meetings last month – one in Spring Valley, Calif., hosted by Rep. Susan A. Davis, California Democrat, and at a later town-hall session in Vista, Calif., co-hosted by Reps. Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa, California Republicans.

The LRAD in San Diego was purchased for $31,000 by Sheriff WilliamB. Gore with a Homeland Security grant as a means to issue safety advisories, warnings and other emergency-related notifications, according to a department bulletin.

Joe Kasper, spokesman for Mr. Hunter, said the congressman was notaware of any type of technology being used at the event but, in thisparticular case and in similar situations, he said it was “entirely reasonable to question the practicality of LRADs.

Of course, the town halls that occurred across the country differ from the G-20 in size and scope, so there might be better reason to position LRADs, Mr. Kasper said. “Law enforcement always stands to benefit from more advanced equipment but, regardless of the system, these tools should be utilized in a manner that is both safe and responsible.

More importantly, there are certain systems that should only be used when absolutely necessary, he said. But in San Diego, where a couple hundred residents turned out to talk health care on a Saturday morning, it’s hard to understand why these resources would ever be needed.

The devices were initially developed for the U.S. Navy after the USS Cole was attacked in October 2000 in the Yemeni port of Aden – killing 17 U.S. sailors and injuring 39 others. LRADs are now deployed by the U.S. Navy, Army, Marines and Coast Guard. In addition to keeping operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships, they are being used to disperse hostile crowds and ward off or control potential enemy combatants with earsplitting noise in a directed beam.

Dubbed the Sound of Force Protection in a company brochure, the devices have been used by troops in Fallujah, a center of insurgency west of Baghdad, and other areas of central Iraq to deal with crowds inwhich lethal foes intermingle with civilians.

The devices can broadcast sound files containing warning messages or can be used with electronic translating devices for what amounts to narrowcasting, in which specific groups are targeted.

If crowds or potential foes don’t respond to the verbal messages, company records show that the LRADs can direct a high-pitched, piercing tone with a tight beam. Navy News has described the devices as being louder than a jet engine, saying they overwhelm their targets withsound so loud they hear it inside their heads.

LRADs also have been used by cruise ships and freighters to repel attacking pirates off the coast of Somalia, using narrow-beam sound waves with great clarity at 150 decibels – about 50 times the human threshold of pain – and short bursts of intense acoustic energy that can incapacitate people within 1,000 feet of the device.

The Department of Homeland Security also has put the LRAD technology to work in securing the nation’s borders, according to its Web page, providing the devices to the U.S. Border Patrol to give agents theability to communicate with persons at a long distance and to do so in any language.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Jenny L. Burke saidCBP has tested the LRAD but has not seen that the device is a highlyeffective tool for securing the border in most operational situations encountered. At this time, she said, the agency is not looking at expanding its use.