The Truth is Closer Than Fiction
Whilst the logic of tagging is difficult to resist, critics argue that the recipients of this technology appear not to be offenders who would have been imprisoned, but rather low risk offenders who are most likely to be released into the community anyway. Because of this, the system isn’t cheaper since the authorities gain the added expense of supplying monitoring devices to offenders who would have been released anyway. Electronic tagging is however beneficial to the companies who sell such systems. Tagging also has a profitable role inside prisons in the US and in some prisons, notably, DeKalb County Jail near Atlanta, where all prisoners are bar coded. ‘Non-Lethal’ Technology of Control The increasing militarisation of police forces throughout the world is reflected in the spread of “less lethal” weapons such as pepper gas. Benignly referred to by the media as “capsicum spray”, pepper gas was recently used by Australian police in the state of Victoria to subdue a man. According to media reports, the Victorian police also used “a weapon they don’t want to disclose”. The effects of pepper gas are far more severe than most people realise. It is known to cause temporary blindness, a burning sensation of the skin which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes. For those with asthma or subject to restraining techniques which restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. The Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has documented 27 deaths in custody of people sprayed with pepper gas in California alone, since 1993. The US Army concluded in a 1993 Aberdeen Proving Ground study that pepper spray could cause “Mutagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neuro-toxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. “The existing arsenal of weapons designed for public order and control will soon be joined by a second generation of kinetic, chemical, optico-acoustic, and microwave weapons, adding to the disabling and paralysing technologies already available. Much of the initial work on these new technologies has been undertaken in US nuclear laboratories such as Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos. The European Parliament Report “An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control” lists a Pandora’s box of new technologies including:-
Ultra-sound generators These cause disorientation, vomiting and involuntary defecation, disturbing the ear system which controls balance and inducing nausea. The system which uses two speakers can target individuals in a crowd.
Visual stimulus and illusion techniques These include high intensity strobes which pulse in the critical epileptic fit inducing flashing frequency and holograms used to project active camouflage.
Reduced energy kinetic weapons Variants on the bean bag philosophy which ostensibly will result in no damage (similar claims were once made about plastic bullets).
New disabling, calmative, sleep inducing agents mixed with DMSO enables the agent to quickly cross the skin barrier and an extensive range of pain causing, paralysing and foul-smelling area-denial chemicals. Some of these are chemically engineered variants of the heroin molecule. They work extremely rapidly, one touch and disablement follows. Yet one person’s tranquillization may be another’s lethal dose.
Microwave and acoustic disabling systems.
Human capture nets, These can be laced with chemical irritant or electrified to pack an extra disabling punch. Lick `em and stick `em technology such as the Sandia National Laboratory’s foam gun which expands to between 35-50 times its original volume. Its extremely sticky, gluing together any target’s feet and hands to the pavement.
Aqueous barrier foam which can be laced with pepper spray. Blinding laser weapons and isotrophic radiator shells which use superheated gaseous plasma to produce a dazzling burst of laser like light.
Thermal guns which incapacitate through a wall by raising body temperature to 107 degrees. Magnetosphere gun which delivers what feels like a blow to the head.
“An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control” says “we are no longer at a theoretical stage with these weapons. US companies are already piloting new systems, lobbying hard and where possible, laying down potentially lucrative patents.” For example, last year New Scientist reported that the American Technology Corporation (ATC) of Poway, California has used what it calls acoustical heterodyning technology to target individuals in a crowd with infra-sound to pinpoint an individual 200-300 metres away.
The system can also project sonic holograms which can conjure audio messages out of thin air so just one person hears them. Meanwhile, Jane’s reported that the US Army Research Laboratory has produced a variable velocity rifle for lethal or non lethal use - a new twist to flexible response. Other companies are promoting robots for use in riot and prison control. Advances in Biometric Identification Through the inevitability of gradualness, repression technology, in the form of biometric identity systems, is permeating our every daylife. Biometry involves using a physical characteristic such as a fingerprint, palm print, iris or retina scan to identify individuals. These unique identity characteristics are digitally stored on a computer system for verification. This way, the identity of each person can be compared to the stored original. Christians will be interested to note that with biometric systems, the original print is stored not as a `picture’ but as an algorithm. The number of your name will be literally in your hand (thumb print) or in your forehead (eyes). Biometric identification is not something that we just see at the movies.
It is here, it is with us now. Governments in the UK, Australia and the USA are planning its widespread introduction by 2005. Both the Dutch and Australian public rejjected plans for a national information and identification scheme en masse several years ago, but have reacted more passively to equally intrusive (but less blatant) schemes in the 21st Century.