Electromagnetic Weapons of the Future
Fearsome Weapons of Future Wars
Source: 20/20 Wednesday February 10, 1999
(This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.)
SAM DONALDSON, ABCNEWS Good evening, and welcome to 20/20 Wednesday.
Tonight, we’re going to take you to a future already here. We’ll show you
strange and astonishing weapons that have already been used against American
soldiers and the police in other countries. In fact, because of these weapons,
some people believe some day in the future we may face a kind of electronic
Pearl Harbor, as you discovered, Diane.
DIANE SAWYER, ABCNEWS That is exactly the phrase you hear people using.
Because what we’ve been investigating tonight is so new and so exotic, much of
it remains secret military information. But tonight, some experts and a naval
intelligence officer have decided to go public for a simple reason, they say.
It’s time to face the facts. (VO=voice over) It starts when the lights go out.
Next, the phones go dead. Misrouted trains collide. Air traffic control screens
go blank. Cars mysteriously come to a dead halt. And in not one instance is the
cause visible to the naked eye. Welcome to the brave new world of directed
energy warfare. It’s already begun to claim victims. Just ask Jack Daly (ph),
who says he’s a casualty of a particularly terrifying new technology.
JACK DALY, NAVAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER The doctor at the emergency room
told me, “I don’t know what you have. I’ve never seen anything like this
DIANE SAWYER (VO) It happened two years ago. Daly, a naval intelligence
officer, was sent out onboard a helicopter to photograph a Russian ship called
the Kapitan Man, which he says was monitoring US submarines off Washington
state. (on camera) So you have suspicion that this is a Russian spy ship?
JACK DALY Yes.
DIANE SAWYER In US waters?
JACK DALY Yes.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Daly takes 30 surveillance photos. He and his pilot fly
back toward home. They were on the ground when both feel their eyes throbbing,
their vision blurred, horrible headaches. But why? It was a mystery until
Daly’s photos were developed. (on camera) Do you recognize this?
JACK DALY Yes, I do.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) It’s one of his surveillance pictures, frame 16. Look
closely. Look closer still. That red dot below the bridge.
JACK DALY This may be the first time that a laser was actually ever
photographed during routine operations.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And medical exams showed Daly’s eyes had been burned,
and the lesions were consistent with laser exposure. We’re not talking about
those little pointers kids use, but a blinding laser, much more powerful, that
can be used for pin-point attacks from hundreds of feet away. (on camera) Tell
me what it was like and is like to look out your eyes.
JACK DALY They always hurt. I’ve been in constant pain since the 4th of
April ’97, without a moment’s relief.
DIANE SAWYER Constant pain?
JACK DALY Constant pain.
DIANE SAWYER What kind?
JACK DALY I get these surges of pain that can be anything from being
jabbed in the eye with an ice pick to being hit in the face with a baseball
DIANE SAWYER Both eyes?
JACK DALY Both eyes.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And it’s not just Daly. The pilot of his helicopter also
suffered eye damage. And no one knows the long-term effects. Daly fears he’ll
go blind. (on camera) You really seem to be saying that this is the dawn of a
new weapons era, and everybody better wake up.
JACK DALY Well, this particular weapon has indiscriminate effects. There’s
no gaping hole in the back of my head. There was no blood gushing out of the
front of my face when this incident happened. If it’s a new device, if it’s a
new type of laser, we may not know anything about that.
DIANE SAWYER And lasers that can blind people are just the beginning.
Tonight, we are going to tell you about a wide range of weapons that don’t use
bullets, but beams of electromagnetic energy at different frequencies. (VO) Each
different kind of energy is defined by different frequencies. Lasers are short
waves at high frequencies. At their highest levels, they are so hot they can
burn through metal.
AIR FORCE TEST CONDUCTOR Cleared to fire.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) The US military wants to use them to shoot down enemy
missiles, though in the wrong hands, these lasers could slice open an aircraft
when it’s flying in the sky. And lasers aren’t the only kind of energy that can
do serious damage. Radio waves and microwaves are long waves at lower
frequency. But they’re perfect for penetrating computers and disrupting the
circuitry without exterior damage to the machine. You could concentrate them on
a computer and set a fire inside, and no one would know how it happened.
DAVID SCHRINER (PH), RETIRED NAVY ENGINEER I think we have a problem, and
I think we may have a very, very big problem.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Until recently it was thought any kind of radio
frequency – or RF – weapon would have to be large, expensive and sophisticated.
But David Schriner, a retired Navy engineer advising the military, says that
idea is wrong.
DAVID SCHRINER I’m trying to do things just like a terrorist would.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) So Schriner gathered components available in places like
salvage yards and hardware stores and catalogs. He says for a tinkerer who
knows engineering, RF weapons are not hard to create or expensive. He used
these components to build a machine which is a kind of direct-energy Uzi. He
says he can take out not just computers but whole computerized systems.
DAVID SCHRINER I can build the things here. I can design them here. But
when it comes down to the turning them on, we have to go to a safe and legal
place to do that.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) He takes us far away from people and towns and highways,
to the China Lake Navy desert test range north of Los Angeles. We decided to
test his device on a lot of things we use every day. Schriner won’t let us
reveal exactly what’s in the machine. That’s classified. Though it doesn’t have
the look of a high-tech weapon. (on camera) You know, this is not a beautiful
thing. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it’s not.
DAVID SCHRINER It’s rather crudely made. You know, we just kind of used
whatever we had in my lab to build it.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) But will it work? We take precautions with our cables
and computerized cameras by enclosing them in copper shielding. Schriner and
his assistant use copper mesh masks to protect their eyes and face.
DAVID SCHRINER Ray one is ready for testing.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) The first target, two computers. The objective – to
DAVID SCHRINER Going hot.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Every short burst has the energy of 100 radio stations,
a million watts. Watch the computer on the left. In just three seconds, it
crashes. And a few seconds later, so does the other one.
DAVID SCHRINER We had a system kill.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Next target? An IV pump, provided by Dr Larry Cosner
(ph) from the local hospital.
DR LARRY COSNER (?) Someone with the power to stop this suddenly or make
it work wrong suddenly would have the power to devastate a medical facility.
DAVID SCHRINER High voltage going hot.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) The effect is almost instantaneous.
DAVID SCHRINER Yeah, boy, it sure did kill it.
DR LARRY COSNER It stopped it dead, and it totally reset all the delivery
DIANE SAWYER (VO) But if you wanted to cause havoc in a large city,
imagine someone out of view able to shut down cars.
DAVID SCHRINER I have a shutdown.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And it happened not once, but every time he fired. The
computerized engine in this car started to stall.
DAVID SCHRINER Very erratic operation. You can hear the jiggling and
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And he doesn’t have to be this close.
DAVID SCHRINER Going hot.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) We’re told there are other devices that work from
thousands of feet away.
DAVID SCHRINER I have a kill.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Virtually any car with a computer-controlled engine is
vulnerable. Since Schriner supplied that car, we asked him to test one of our
choice. (on camera) All right, so just in case there’s any chance you think
some of this could have been rigged with his car, let’s see what happens with
DAVID SCHRINER There’s a definite effect. It’s dropped the rpm way low,
and it’s intermittently chugging.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Watch the tachometer. Schriner’s device gives the car an
electronic nervous breakdown. It sets off the car alarm.
DAVID SCHRINER Something bad happened.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) It makes the doors lock and unlock and twice kills the
DAVID SCHRINER I have a shutdown. I know that I could put some of this
stuff into a little briefcase and go up to a airlines counter or to a bank
counter and probably take down their computer. I know I could do that. I
haven’t done it yet, but I’m confident that I could do that.
DIANE SAWYER (on camera) We keep reading that the Russians are very far
ahead on this. What do you think?
DAVID SCHRINER Well, for years we’ve been noting that they have been
probably ahead of us on building high-powered microwave devices.
VICTOR SHEYMOV (PH), FORMER KGB COMMUNICATIONS SECURITY EXPERT Russians
certainly do have that technology and highly developed technology. The KBG had
DIANE SAWYER (VO) This is Victor Sheymov, a Soviet defector. His job -
communications security for the KBG. He told us how Russia has been developing
RF devices for years. This is the first time he’s given a television interview
on the subject. (on camera) And has the KBG ever used it against the United
VICTOR SHEYMOV Yes.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Sheymov told us something shocking – that years ago, the
KBG used a primitive RF weapon to start a fire at the US embassy in Moscow. (on
camera) Was the KBG aware that’s what would happen?
VICTOR SHEYMOV Oh, they hoped it would. And it did work, so …
DIANE SAWYER That was their intention?
VICTOR SHEYMOV Oh, yes.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And they did it, Sheymov says, as a pretext for sending
in so-called “firemen” who were, in fact, KBG agents trying to plant
bugs. We asked the State Department about this. “No comment” was the
response. It’s not just the KBG. 20/20 has also learned from a well-placed
Russian official that those rebels in Chechnya also used an RF weapon to knock
out police communications during a hostage situation. And not only that,
Russian criminals have used an RF weapon, we’re told, to disarm security and
rob a bank. There are actually Russian-made devices on the market like this
state-of-the-art “radan,” which experts say could be sold and used as
a weapon against power plants, banks or aircraft. (on camera) Paint a portrait
for me of the US vulnerability.
VICTOR SHEYMOV Everything. These days, virtually everything is controlled
DIANE SAWYER We assume that if there is a growing threat, that there’s at
least some anxiety about it.
VICTOR SHEYMOV Should be. Should be a lot of anxiety.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) Back at the China Lake test site, they’re worried. (on
camera) Consider what happened just a year ago right here, when the military
decided to bombard this Huey Cobra helicopter, which isn’t even a highly
computerized machine, with some high&emdash;powered pulses. The results -
they’re classified. All they’ll say is they were surprised, and they didn’t
like what they saw. (VO) Finally, let us tell you about two other weapons which
could be ready in the not-so-distant future. A company has created what it
calls a “vortex launcher” for the Air Force. In time, the cannonball
of air should be powerful enough to knock someone down. And the Marine Corps is
intrigued by still another kind of weapon. This is a videotape of recent
military war game. The weapon at issue – sound waves which, at certain
frequencies, can penetrate the human body and vibrate the internal organs.
Here, soldiers simulate the expected effect, writhing in pain and convulsions.
Which brings us back to the real-life experience of Jack Daly, who says the US
government is afraid to take on the Russians for their use of laser weapons on
his eyes. (on camera) You feel betrayed?
JACK DALY I feel very betrayed.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) He says after his eyes were injured, the Navy ordered a
search of that ship, the Kapitan Man, but they gave the Russians 24 hours’
notice. No surprise, no laser was found. (on camera) And you really believe it
was a calculated decision not to rock the boat?
JACK DALY Yes, exactly.
DIANE SAWYER With the Russians.
JACK DALY Yes, I do.
DIANE SAWYER You think they’re afraid of looking vulnerable?
JACK DALY That’s a distinct possibility. Because there are devices that
are being produced that current technology may not be able to counter.
DIANE SAWYER All the Pentagon will say is that Daly probably suffered
laser eye damage, but there’s no proof it came from the Kapitan Man or that
this photo really captured a laser. Even though just a few months ago, it
seemed to happen again. Another helicopter pilot and crewman, this time in
Bosnia. And the Pentagon confirms that their eyes were damaged with lasers.
JACK DALY When I spoke with the pilot the other night, he told me that the
laser signature that he saw was a red halo with a white center. That was almost
exactly what we saw in that picture.
DIANE SAWYER (VO) And Daly says even though he’s been told by the Navy to
keep silent about all this, he’s speaking out because the US has to face the
reality of the future.
JACK DALY Even though I’m probably solidifying the fact that my career is
coming to an end by going public like this, I feel the most important thing is,
if I can prevent this from happening to someone else, then I need to do this.
It’s my duty. It’s my responsibility to do this.
DIANE SAWYER Lieutenant Daly is expected to testify about his experience
tomorrow before a House Armed Services subcommittee. And by the way, since that
recent attack in Bosnia, US forces there have been given special goggles
designed to protect their eyes against laser attacks.
SAM DONALDSON What about other countries? I assume they are working on
DIANE SAWYER The Europeans are already far ahead of us. The components in
their computers come with better metal shielding than ours do. So they are
better protected already. By the way, the Swedes sent word to us of something.
They have been testing all of these electromagnetic weapons, and they told us
that they recently blasted a car from 3,000 feet away with microwaves and not
only disabled it, blew up the headlights. So this new world is at hand.
SAM DONALDSON Thank you, Diane.