Non-lethal (or nonlethal) weapons is a term
used to describe weapons which can incapacitate, subdue, or alter the behavior
of people without killing them or resulting in permanent harm. It is a misnomer, because the weapons can be
lethal or crippling. Much of the recent
publicity involves such weapons as bean bag guns and giant nets, which make for
good public relations without revealing the more secretive technology. The real concern is electromagnetic and
acoustic weapons (as well as chemical and biological agents), especially those
that can be used covertly with “plausible denial.”
article from 1994, “Soon,
‘Phasers on Stun’” describes the push for so-called non-lethal arms.
…the list of exotic technologies that could
be harnessed for nonlethal weapons is already large and growing. It includes
lasers, microwaves, sound waves, strobe lights, electromagnetic pulses,
microbes, chemicals, computer viruses — even giant nets…
…Sources tell Newsweek that the FBI
consulted Moscow experts on the possible use of a Soviet technique for beaming
subliminal messages to Koresh. The technique uses inaudible transmissions that
could have convinced Koresh he was hearing the voice of God inside his head.
The air force offered a top secret nonlethal system that, according to one
source, “would have given [the FBI] the ability to make a surprise attack
with a large number of agents.” …
is a recent U.S. News article, by Douglas Pasternak, on the newest generation
of weapons in development. It is from July 1997, and is titled “Wonder
Weapons: The Pentagon’s quest for nonlethal arms is amazing. But is it smart?“
By using very low frequency electromagnetic
radiation — the waves way below radio frequencies on the electromagnetic
spectrum — he [Eldon Byrd] found he could induce the brain to release
behavior-regulating chemicals. “We could put animals into a stupor,”
he says by hitting them with these frequencies. “We got chick brains — in
vitro — to dump 80 percent of the natural opioids in their brains,'”Byrd
says. He even ran a small project that used magnetic fields to cause certain
brain cells in rats to release histamine. In humans, this would cause instant
flulike symptoms and produce nausea. “These fields were extremely weak.
They were undetectable,” says Byrd. “The effects were nonlethal and
reversible. You could disable a person temporarily,” Byrd hypothesizes.
“It [would have been] like a stun gun.”
Byrd never tested any of his hardware in the
field, and his program, scheduled for four years, apparently was closed down
after two, he says. “The work was really outstanding,” he grumbles.
“We would have had a weapon in one year.” Byrd says he was told his
work would be unclassified, “unless it works.” Because it worked, he
suspects that the program “went black.” Other scientists tell similar
tales of research on electromagnetic radiation turning top secret once
successful results were achieved. There are clues that such work is continuing.
In 1995, the annual meeting of four-star U.S. Air Force generals — called
CORONA — reviewed more than 1,000 potential projects. One was called “Put
the Enemy to Sleep/Keep the Enemy From Sleeping.” It called for exploring
“acoustics,” “microwaves,” and “brain-wave
manipulation” to alter sleep patterns. It was one of only three projects
approved for initial investigation.
February, 1998, the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress held hearings
Frequency Weapons and Proliferation: Potential Impact on the Economy.
These hearings dealt with anti-materiel weapons rather than anti-personnel weapons,
but the testimony presented to the committee contains good general information
on portable RF generation technology, etc.
pair of articles about non-lethal weapons appears in The Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists, Sept/Oct, 1994. The articles are “The
‘Soft Kill’ Fallacy” by Steven Aftergood and “Oh
yes… they’re probably illegal” by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.
and Life by Robert Becker and Andrew Marino is online at Marino’s web
are excerpts from “Microwaves and Behavior,” by Don Justesen, American
Psychologist, Mar. 1975:
Human beings can “hear” microwave
energy. The averaged densities of energy necessary for perception of the
hisses, clicks, and pops that seem to occur inside the head are quite small, at
least an order of magnitude below the current permissible limit in the United
States for continuous exposure to microwaves, which is 10 mW/cm^2….
To “hear” microwave energy, it must first be modulated
so that it impinges upon the “listener” as a pulse or a series of
pulses of high amplitude….
Sharp and Grove … found that appropriate modulation of microwave
energy can result in direct “wireless” and “receiverless”
communication of speech. They recorded by voice on tape each of the
single-syllable words for digits between 1 and 10. The electrical sine-wave
analogs of each word were then processed so that each time a sine wave crossed
zero reference in the negative direction, a brief pulse of microwave energy was
triggered. By radiating themselves with these “voice-modulated”
microwaves, Sharp and Grover were readily able to hear, identify, and distinguish
among the 9 words. The sounds heard were not unlike those emitted by persons
with artificial larynxes.
Note that the published date is 1975. There is
little doubt that improved modulation and microwave generation techniques have
been developed in the meantime. This is a fairly sophisticated application of
microwave harassment techniques. The same article notes that basic microwave
heating can cause damage before sensations of heating are even noticed.
Microwave attacks by thermal loading can inflict brain damage and other
report, by Julianne McKinney of the Association of National Security Alumni,
was one of the first to openly describe microwave anti-personnel weapons and
their use in harassment. Here is a copy at the Pink Noise site, “Microwave
Harassment and Mind-Control Experimentation.”
article by Tom Jaski, “Radio
Waves & Life,” in Popular Electronics, Sept. 1960, details
some of the history of research into the biological effects of radio-frequency
electromagnetic radiation. It describes research going back to the
1920s. Jaski also replicated some of these early results, as the
following somewhat lengthy excerpt describes:
This brings to mind the work of a man who
started publishing articles on this kind of subject more than 35 years ago. An
Italian university professor named Cazzamalli placed human subjects in a
shielded room, subjected them to high-frequency radio waves, and claimed to be
able to record a “beat” which, he received on a simple untuned
receiver consisting of a galena crystal, a small capacitor, antenna and
sensitive galvanometer. Cazzamalli’s equipment, as well as it can be determined
from his early articles, is shown in Fig. 1.
The one item which he never mentions, perhaps because he could not
accurately determine it, is the power of his transmitter.
He published oscillograms purportedly showing variations of the
“beats” when his subjects were emotionally aroused or engaged in
Later experiments delivered much more startling results: he found
that some of his subjects would hallucinate under the influence of the
high-frequency radio waves, which ranged all the way up to 300 MC.
The Cazzamalli experiments were carefully duplicated with modern
equipment, of much greater sensitivity than his…
…a previous experiment had indicated in a rather startling way that
power was not required to evoke effects in the human nervous system. In fact,
there seemed to be some sort of resonant frequency applicable to each
To discover if this “something” was
subjectively noticeable by an individual, a weak oscillator swept through the
band of 300 to 600 MC with the request that the subject indicate any points at
which he might notice anything unusual. The subjects were not allowed to see
At a particular frequency between 380 to 500 MC for different
subjects, they repeatedly indicated a point with almost unbelievable accuracy
(as many as 14 out of 15 times).
Subsequent experiments with the same subjects showed that at the
“individual” frequency, strange things were felt. Asked to describe
the experience, all subjects agreed there was a definite “pulsing” in
the brain, ringing in the ears and a desire to put their teeth into the nearest
The oscillator in this case was putting out only milliwatts of
power, and was placed several feet from the subject.