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ACLU: ‘Pain ray’ in California prison amounts to ‘torture’ of US prisoners



The American Civil Liberties Union is outraged over the application of a “pain ray” recently installed in a Los Angeles County Jail — a technology first seen used by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which relies upon beams of microwave energy to inflict an intense burning sensation upon anyone in its path.

Inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center’s North County Correctional Facility will likely soon know what it is to face the “Assault Intervention System,” according to reports by local media.


According to The Pasadena Star-News

fires a directed beam of invisible “millimeter waves” that cause an unbearable burning sensation by penetrating 1/64 of an inch into the skin, where pain receptors are located, said Mike Booen, Raytheon’s vice president of advanced security and directed energy systems.

The beam, which is about the diameter of a compact disc, causes an instant and intolerable burning sensation when it touches skin, but the sensation stops instantly when the device is turned off or the target moves out of the beam.

At a news conference, several people volunteered to feel the effects of the machine first-hand.

Sheriff’s Deputy David Judge manned the controls and fired the beam, using a joystick and a monitor, not unlike a video game, to aim the ray gun’s camera.

“The idea that a military weapon designed to cause intolerable pain should be used against county jail inmates is staggeringly wrongheaded,” said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, in a media advisory. “Unnecessarily inflicting severe pain and taking such unnecessary risks with people’s lives is a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment and due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

The group mailed a letter (PDF link) to the sheriff in charge, demanding he never use the energy weapon against inmates.

Speaking to trade publication Government Technology, Sheriff Lee Baca presented the counter argument…


“We believe that technology can help solve problems facing the corrections community, including addressing issues of inmate violence,” Sheriff Lee Baca said in a statement. “This device will allow us to quickly intervene without having to enter the area and without incapacitating or injuring either combatant.”

The technology, developed by Raytheon Co., stems from a family of bigger, more powerful military solutions created for the battlefield. These larger versions work the same way, but on a grander operational scale, such as creating a protective zone to safeguard aircraft or using lasers to disrupt shoulder-fired missiles from combat helicopters. In L.A. County, the device will be installed near the ceiling in a dormitory that houses about 65 inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center’s North County Correctional Facility (NCCF).

This suppression tool appeals to law enforcement agencies because when inmates fight in a dormitory, dining room or exercise yard, jail officials often have to wait for backup before they can intervene. The technology would allow them to act sooner, potentially reducing injuries and curbing violence.

“You don’t want to send one deputy in with 65 fighting inmates,” said Bob Osborne, commander of the Sheriff’s Department’s Technology Exploration Program, “which means he’s restricted to watching them fight and waiting for backup to show up to do something about it. We thought it would be better to do something a little more proactive.”

The ACLU, for its part, adds in the letter to Sheriff Baca…

As we are sure you are aware, the military incarnation of this device (the Active Denial System) (“ADS”) was briefly fielded in Afghanistan in June and then withdrawn in July without ever being used. The military version can be mounted on a truck and was intended to be used against protesters outside American
military bases. While the device was being tested by the Air Force, a miscalibration of the device’s power settings caused five airmen in its path to suffer lasting burns, including one whose injuries were so severe that he was airlifted to an off-base burn treatment center.

According to a 2008 report by physicist and less-lethal weapons expert Dr. Juergen Altmann, “the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of second and third degree . . . over considerable parts of the body, up to 50% of its surface,” and “without a technical device that reliably prevents re-triggering on
the same target subject, the ADS has the potential to produce permanent injury or death.” As the report also points out, “the possibility of re-triggering the same target subject puts avoidance of bums at the discretion of the weapons operator.”


The microwave tech has been in development for years, and while it was first deployed in warzones by the U.S. Department of Defense, the technology seems to be better suited to this type of crowd control.

Back when it was better known as the “Active Denial System,” a report [PDF link] by the German Foundation for Peace Research noted…


Concerning use of the ADS against combatants in armed conflict, there seem to be no technical arguments that would result in its exclusion, given that the weapon would be lethal only after relatively long exposure, and considering that flame-throwers – which can produce severe burn injuries and death much faster – are an accepted means of combat. Thus, specific limitations under international humanitarian law do not seem appropriate. (Of course, the general rules – avoid unnecessary suffering, do not attack combatants hors de combat or surrendering etc. – would apply here as with all other means of warfare.)

However, use of the ADS in armed conflict is not very probable: the system presents a large, relatively immobile target that due to its line-of-sight propagation cannot take cover easily. It seems vulnerable to many kinds of light weapons, above rifle range a machine gun may be needed to attack it. A second reason is that armed forces could prepare for millimetre-wave weapons of an opponent relatively easily by adding electromagnetic shielding material to the battle dress, covering the hands, and providing a transparent, but conductive face shield. The latter will be not so easy to achieve for non-state actors.

The down-scaled version being installed in Los Angeles County has the impact radius of roughly “a DVD,” according to Sheriff Baca.

Regardless of its size, the ACLU insists use of such a device on American prisoners is “tantamount to torture.”


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Congress still has one big tool left to rein in Trump’s corruption: Oversight Committee Democrat



Senate Republicans may have managed to quash the impeachment trial without calling forth any new witnesses or seriously considering the evidence against President Donald Trump. And the president may feel vindicated and largely invulnerable as a result.

But, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, that doesn't mean Democrats don't have one last big play to rein in the president's abuses of power. They can use the first and strongest authority delegated to them: the power of the purse.

"What can Democrats really do when it comes to oversight of the president?" asked Cooper. "I mean, now that impeachment is over, does seem like there are fewer and fewer guardrails, if any."

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Breaking Banner

Trump said he ‘loved’ the fact that America is more divided than ever: ex-GOP congressman



President Donald Trump bragged about increasing divisions in America during a White House meeting, a former Republican congressman explained on MSNBC on Monday.

Former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) told host Joy Reid that "Donald Trump has intentionally tried to create the anxiety" that Americans are explaining.

"Garry Kasparov, the Russian freedom activist, has said the point of disinformation isn't to manipulate the truth, it's to exhaust your critical thinking," Jolly explained. "To exhaust your critical thinking, that's what we're experiencing as voters."

"I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and he said he heard Trump say, 'Have you ever seen the nation so divided?' My colleagues and others said, 'No, we haven't.' Trump said, 'I love it that way.' This is the currency that he's peddling as political strategy, but it's not one we have to accept," Jolly explained.

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2020 Election

Bloomberg and Biden attack Sanders supporters’ ‘Trump-like’ tactics



On Monday, The New York Times analyzed the state of the Democratic presidential primaries heading into the Nevada caucuses. One of the key new developments is a fresh volley of attacks on the behavior of supporters for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which is being characterized as "Trump-like" by former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, which has largely focused its attacks on President Trump, on Monday mounted a frontal offensive against one of his Democratic rivals for the first time, comparing Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign tactics with those employed by the president," wrote Thomas Kaplan, Kate Conger, and Reid Epstein.

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