The U.S. Marine Corps is developing a laser weapon that can “vaporize” a person's skin.
Free-speech advocates fear that the military, as well as law-enforcement officers, will use the device to crack down on political protesters. Common Dreams noted that police already are equipped with wooden batons, stun guns, water cannons and percussive devices to control crowds. Rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades are among other options.
The Scalable Compact Ultra-short Pulse Laser System (SCUPLS), also known as a plasma gun, can be mounted on a truck or tank. It is supposedly a “non-lethal” device, but tests have proven that it can cause serious injuries and death.
The government boasts that the laser is “a lightweight and energy-efficient next-generation system.” The gun emits “sustainable and controllable plasma” that could “burn off” or “vaporize” skin, according to a Pentagon document.
At its lowest setting, the device produces voice messages that can be heard 3,200 feet away. According to Express, a United Kingdom news website, the messages “can be turned up to deafen, dazzle or even kill.”
One hundred meters from a target, the weapon can create a “flash-bang effect” by delivering an “acoustic blast” of more than 165 decibels, the military wrote. “Flash blind effects” are bright enough to temporarily blind people.
When set on “high,” the weapon produces “thermal ablative effects” that can penetrate the clothing of someone 100 meters away. “This would painfully vaporize the outer layer of skin,” the Daily Mail reported.
Though the device is purportedly intended primarily for military purposes, the Pentagon predicted that it also will “have direct application to many other U.S. government agencies, as well as civilian law enforcement.”
Officials wrote: “The Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection also desire this … capability. The ability to non-lethally interdict a threatening person or persons has utility in many security and crowd-control applications, to include several municipal applications.”
The document explained that the laser can provide a “full spectrum of effects capabilities from non-lethal to lethal, along with added command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system capabilities.”
The Military Times raved that “troops in the not-too-distant future (will) have at their disposal items that include invisible waves that heat a person's skin from a distance, instantly making them jump out of the way.”
David Law, technology division director and head scientist at the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, pointed out that the laser emits an invisible ray that heats the outer one-64th of a person's skin. He described the typical reaction as “almost a reflex response.” The heat forces the targeted individual to move out of the way.
The Military Times explained: “The laser-induced plasma weapon uses very high-energy lasers at a very short pulse rate to strip the electrons off a gas, creating plasma. That matter is then used to poke through clothing and drill smaller than microscopic holes in a person's skin. The drilling doesn't create permanent damage but triggers nerve responses, making the person very uncomfortable.”
Law remarked that “it sounds terrible, but really it's just activating those nerve cells.”
Currently, available acoustic devices require a prohibitive amount of power. They sometimes do not reach their targets because landscape features and manmade objects get in the way. That's not a problem for the plasma gun. “I can put it anywhere,” Law said. “Range doesn't make any difference.”
Last year, United Nations official Maina Kiai criticized the United States for limiting the constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and protest. According to The Nation, he slammed President Trump's “hateful and xenophobic rhetoric during the presidential campaign” concerning demonstrators at the candidate's rallies.
Kiai lamented that racial minorities, organized labor, immigrants and other groups are becoming wary of staging protests because of the dangers they face.
Citing “hostility toward the Black Lives Matter movement,” the official added: “Racism and the exclusion, persecution, and marginalization that come with it affect the environment for exercising association and assembly rights.”
Kiai argued that “the government has an obligation under international law to protect and promote” free-speech and assembly rights. Instead, “police departments (are) rewarding or sanctioning police officers based on the number of arrests,” he wrote.
Kiai blasted federal agents for “conducting surveillance at assemblies focused on migrant issues.” He said the practice “chills the exercise of assembly rights … one of the only tools (people) have to voice their concerns.” He stressed that “the government should encourage the exercise of this right by everyone, especially marginalized groups.”
The official's report exposed what he described as an “increasingly hostile legal environment for peaceful protesters in some states.” Police have broken up some public demonstrations by filing false charges against activists or dispersing them because they lacked required permits.