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Report Urges U.S. To Pursue Nonlethal Weapons

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 736 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... REPORT URGES U.S. TO INCREASE ITS EFFORTS ON
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6, 2002
      NHNE News List
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      By William J. Broad
      New York Times
      Wednesday, November 6, 2002


      he American military should redouble its efforts to develop and deploy
      nonlethal weapons, an expert panel reported on Monday. Written before the
      recent hostage crisis in Moscow, the report backed drugs similar to the
      knockout gas used in Moscow to free hundreds of people, as well as other

      The Pentagon insists it has stopped all work on incapacitating chemicals, an
      assertion that critics dispute. The issue is controversial because work on
      some chemical incapacitants can violate arms control treaties.

      The new report, An Assessment of Nonlethal Weapons Science and Technology,
      was done at the Pentagon's request by the National Research Council, the
      research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Incapacitating chemicals
      and other types of nonlethal arms "should be given a higher priority," it

      The military already uses some forms of nonlethal or humane arms ‹ tear gas,
      for example ‹ in some peacekeeping operations. The report said these weapons
      were likely to become important in defending ships and singling out
      terrorists hidden among civilian populations. The terrorist attacks of Sept.
      11, it said, have added urgency to the acceptance and carrying out of the
      report's recommendations.

      The report was critical of what it called several obstacles to progress,
      including limited research, few new ideas and poor understanding of weapons
      effects. It said such problems could preclude nonlethal weapons "from
      becoming an integral force option."

      The report was written by a panel of 17, including its chairwoman, Miriam E.
      John, head of the California branch of the Sandia National Laboratories,
      which helps maintain the nation's nuclear arsenal.

      The government has, at relatively low levels of financing, explored an array
      of technologies that can immobilize people and machines, including loud
      noises, bright lights, horrific odors, electrical shocks, dense smoke,
      superglues, rigid foams, slippery greases, blunt projectiles and bursts of
      microwave radiation.

      The new report said that mind-altering or sleep-inducing chemical agents,
      which the military calls calmatives, offered "strong potential" as weapons
      meant to dissuade, temporarily inhibit, incapacitate or otherwise impede
      dangerous crowds and individuals.

      It said future research on calmatives needed to focus on quantifying their
      effectiveness, increasing their margin of safety and developing the means of
      rapidly delivering the appropriate dose. These problems, and the lack of
      sufficient antidotes, became large factors in the Moscow hostage crisis,
      where 118 people died, roughly one in seven of the 763 hostages.

      The report mentioned fentanyl, the drug used in Moscow. It cited the drug as
      particularly fast acting, "on the order of one minute after exposure."

      The report said nonlethal arms could be used to block the kind of attack
      that struck the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in October 2000, when
      suicide bombers pulled a small boat packed with explosives alongside the
      ship and detonated the payload. The report said nonlethal arms could be
      directed to try to cripple approaching threats and, if unsuccessful, could
      be followed up with deadly force.

      The report called for new research in areas like chemicals, directed energy
      like microwaves, barriers and entanglements.

      The development of chemical nonlethal weapons has all but stopped since the
      adoption of a 1997 treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, the
      report said. Even so, the study added, "there are compelling applications in
      engine stopping and crowd control that cannot be achieved by others means."


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