Homeland Security commissions new human incapacitation device
Nick Langewis and David Edwards
Published: Saturday February 16, 2008

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One company has received an $800,000 contract from the Department of Homeland Security to develop a new "non-lethal" method of human incapacitation for use by law enforcement.

By 2010, Intelligent Optical Systems hopes to be selling a sort of high-powered flashlight, the "LED Incapacitator," which would act by not only effectively blinding its target, but overloading his or her brain, with rapidly flashing lights at varying colors and frequencies. In addition to disorientation, headache and nausea are also likely.

The device, designed with help from the Los Angeles Police Department, could end up in the hands on the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Secret Service and air marshals.

"It really doesn't do any damage to you," says Homeland Security's David Throckmorton. "For them, it would be to stop a terrorist--or whoever--from advancing...or somebody who's out of line on an airplane--would be able to stop them from moving forward."

"Let's not pretend these are anything less than a weapon," contends the ACLU's Michael Soller. "Tasers," he uses as an example, "were sold to police departments and police officers were trained that they were non-lethal. We have 300 deaths over the past few years that show that that claim was not true."

"We've been very careful to design this so the maximum permissible exposure limit for human eye safety is never exceeded," says IOS' Robert Lieberman on the risk of blindness from being subjected to the device.

Any applicable risk of other phenomena, such as seizure, is not covered in the accompanying reports, nor has data been made available on IOS' website.

CBS 13 News has more here.

A recent report from CBS 3 News in Philadelphia is available here.

The accompanying video below was broadcast on CBS 13 News on February 4, 2008.