People who believe they have been targeted by mind control technologies have often been met with skepticism or outright disbelief. However, recent revelations concerning very real ongoing scientific research by the government, coupled with technologies under development in the private sector, make it harder than ever to completely dismiss these claims. Reliable information accessible on the Internet suggests that what they think is happening to them may actually be possible, either now or in the near future.
Many of us already have devices inside us — from pacemakers and artificial hearts to replacement joints. Now there is technology under development that could affect the mind and body from the outside, in disturbing, even maddening, ways — from putting sounds in people’s heads to microwaving them from within. The limits of thought and human physiology have been much extended.
There are also many documented cases of government abuse of unsuspecting citizens, often in the name of research. Political activists and others who upset the status quo have long known that government surveillance, at least under certain circumstances, is a reality.
Against this background, a subculture of individuals claim that sinister devices are being used on them, possibly by the government. If these machines are real, it would be difficult to separate the people who are mentally troubled from those who have been victimized. Few weapons, once developed, have not been abused. Even the “non-lethal” ones designed to incapacitate, like tasers, have been used to kill. Mind/body devices sometimes fall under this heading and can change a subject’s very concept of reality, which can be uneasy at the best of times.
Does the proliferation of new technologies and new complaints of harm indicate the spread of a large-scale form of mass paranoia? Or is reality catching up to what used to be called madness?
Those in the subculture call themselves Targeted Individuals, or TIs, and believe that they have been made “guinea pigs” in secret tests of mind-bending weapons. Their writings can be found on specialized websites, Internet forums, and blogs linked to articles on weapons development.
The TIs are subject to a range of experiences. Primary among these is the hearing of voices. The voices may sound reasonable or irrational, comment on what the TIs are seeing or hearing, berate the TI with a string of abuse, or simply chatter nonsensically. TIs will also often experience random pains or electrical sensations throughout their bodies, as well as having feelings of being sexually stimulated or sexually “attacked” or of having their genitals manipulated. Above all they have an overwhelming certainty that these experiences are being caused by some outside agency, and cannot be a product of their own minds.
Some have sought psychiatric care and have been given medication, but antipsychotic drugs often fail to alleviate the feelings.
Could the TIs be the victims of non-lethal technologies? In the January 17, 2007 Washington Post, journalist Sharon Weinberger commented on the seeming normality of “TIs” until their conspiracy issues come into play.
They experienced something, whether subjective or not, and they committed to their perceptions when they discovered the history of government abuses and learned about technology that may be able to produce the very sensations from which they are suffering. It is a veritable hall of mirrors, in which unusual beliefs get reinforced.
Tech Secrets of the Pentagon Report
The sources that all interested parties can call upon are extensive, but there is one government paper in particular that is a springboard to the entire subject — the no-longer-classified 1998 Pentagon report entitled “Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weapons.” It was claimed to have been obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by someone in the controversial TI subculture, and its reality was authenticated in early 2008. The report is an overview of speculation and research concerning various technologies that could be developed for use as non-lethal weapons. There is much in the report to cause concern, but perhaps the most upsetting is the paranoid’s nightmare: a mention of an idea for creating a device that could be a “Voice of God”, to be used both as a communications machine and to distort a person’s mind. Deployed without ethical safeguards, such a machine, if developed, could harm the innocent as well as the guilty.
Also in the report is discussion of a potential microwave weapon that could utilize electromagnetic pulses to disable the brain. On Wired.com’s Danger Room blog, the aforementioned Sharon Weinberger profiled the highlights of the “Bioeffects….” report in a piece entitled “Report: Nonlethal Weapons Could Target Brain, Mimic Schizophrenia.” She noted that the military report lacked much context, and thus one could not know why it was written — and it did not specify present-day research or programs. Blogged comments about her piece ran the gamut, from mockers to alleged victims.
Commenters on Weinberger’s posting included Donald Friedman, who had obtained the Pentagon report through the Freedom Of Information Act as part of a wider-ranging search. In his February 20, 2008 comment on the Danger Room blog, he blamed the Secret Service for persecuting him by means of the “microwave hearing/audio effect….”
A recovering schizophrenic named “jay,” on a February 23 posting, pointed out that one’s own brain can create seeming sound effects. The existence of the technologies only “makes everything more difficult to figure out.”
On March 24, 2008, a Wired.com Danger Room blog, written by David Hambling, titled “‘Telepathic Ray Guns’ and Vaporized Shoes: The Truth is Weirder Then You Think,” deals with the Donald Friedman FOIA request and discusses “Bioeffects…”. Hambling had earlier written about the paper in the March 21, 2008 New Scientist, after a delay to make sure that the document was not a forgery.
Friedman, believing himself to be government-targeted, took extreme steps in an attempt to put an end to his perceived persecution. On January 30, 2003, he visited an FBI field office and proffered a letter stating that he was going to get a confession from “at least one” agent “one way or the other….”
Friedman did not achieve his stated objectives and his sanity became at issue.
In the March 24 Danger Room, David Hambling notes that while it is easy to mock people of Friedman’s type, “On the other hand, it does show that if a nonlethal device ever was developed which could cause symptoms associated with madness, it would be completely deniable.” It might be handy “for some three-letter agencies.”
Hambling suggests that “the rest of us are not paranoid enough” about military researches.
State of the Developing Art
These researches cover a lot of ground. The “Bioeffects…” report itself identifies and validates “some aspects of maturing nonlethal technologies that may likely be encountered or used as nonlethal effectors in the future…” which include “Laser and other light phenomena,” “Radio frequency directed energy” and “Aural bioeffects.”
Prior to the report, studies of electromagnetic fields’ effects on biology had become more numerous because of the common devices making use of them, from microwave ovens to high-voltage transmission lines. Health factors were addressed, but the database was very incomplete.
Different applications of microwaves have long affected animal behavior in various ways, from added or decreased ferocity to orientation in the environment. An object of study was to understand the effects on animals so that human susceptibilities could be further understood. The application of radio frequency (RF) radiation to an animal or person can mimic a fever in the subject and thus incapacitate. It can even be gradually introduced, so the subject does not at first realize it is being applied.
The report mentions that it can be used on one or more individuals, thus making it a possible crowd-control device. Metal screens of various types can counteract its effects (making the often-mocked tinfoil hat solution appear more plausible than usual).
The report also deals with the message-bearing and/or incapacitating effects of microwave audio and hearing. Usually experienced as ticking, knocking, buzzing or hissing sounds that seem to come from inside or just in back of the head, aspects of microwave hearing can be used both to distract people or to communicate by some message system like Morse Code or voice.
Thirty years prior to the 1998 report the phenomenon was first noted in the scientific literature. A later 1975 study on humans showed “the threshold energy of microwave-auditory responses in humans as a function of pulse width for 2450 MHz radio frequency energy.” Thermoelastic expansion can be utilized to create the aural phenomenon, since a pressure wave can be caused in solids and liquids by a radio-frequency pulse. The effect can be tuned by altering RF energy characteristics. “Bioeffects….” mentions developing this to the point that human speech can be generated inside a person’s head without a nearby microphone picking up the talk. This has already been done to the point of communicating “one” through “ten” using “speech modulated” microwave energy.
This effort is considered safe just so long as the experimentation does not exceed barely perceptible levels. Positive uses could include the transmission of private messages, but the report also points out that this could be disruptive and “psychologically devastating” to a person unaware of the technical effect — which would seem like a voice inside his or her head.
Hostile uses would include the disruption of neural control — using electromagnetic pulses to bring on neural synchronization and thus make a subject lose control of his or her muscles. Depending on how it is applied, this could cause weakness, unconsciousness, or spasms.
Sound by itself has powerful effects. When high levels of sound are applied, people’s eyes move around because of eddy current effects in the lateral ear canal — thus making the outside world appear to be spinning or turning. The vestibular receptors of the ear, which sense gravity and acceleration, can be stimulated in a way that makes a subject nauseous. Noisy jet engines have such an effect to the system. While such sound devices are very sophisticated, they are not yet very portable.
Let There Be Light — and Sound
Light is readily useable, and “Bioeffects…” covers the three main damages achievable with lasers — the “chemical, thermal, and mechanical or acoustic-mechanical” hazards. Tissues irradiated by lasers suffer photochemical damage. The skin and the eyes are most sensitive to this. Lasers can blind (permanently or temporarily) or dazzle with glare, or cause flash-blinding night-blindness. Any of these — or other eye damages — can badly effect the performance of a mission and mar a life.
“Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weapons” was finally regraded as unclassified on December 6, 2006. Moral issues are not its direct subject though the issues are implicit. Others would take those topics on.
Physorg.com was one of the many websites to mention this 1998 Pentagon report and its low-key aftermath (where no public uses of the technologies were much noted) in the February 18, 2008 article by Lisa Zyga entitled “Pentagon report investigated lasers that put voices in your head.” Responses to the article’s web appearance were typical. One “cmi” (a.k.a. “Christine”) posted on February 20 and commented that she has schizophrenia, and that: “I feel better knowing that my beliefs were true.” “Beth” posted on February 25, 2008, and noted the seriousness of taking over someone’s central nervous system. She wrote about the recent technologies for so-called “crowd control” and stresses that: “Perhaps the correct nomenclature should be ‘social control’.”
Independently of the “Bioeffects…” fracas, Kingsley Dennis, a Research Associate at Lancaster University, U.K., published a relevant piece — about the effects to society — for the February 4, 2008 First Monday. First Monday is a peer-reviewed open-access Internet journal hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dennis’ article (“Opening Pandora’s box: How technologies of communication and cognition may be shifting towards a ‘Psycho-Civilized Society'”) focuses on how today’s wireless technologies have been developing towards interfaces with the nerve functions of the brain. He takes a look at the unfortunate effects of some of this, as well as on wireless/sensor technologies, which may contribute to a future society which places more focus on preemptive strategies and social control.
To examine the implications, Dennis tells of Project Pandora, a U.S. Project run by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s psychology division, which was dedicated to finding out health effects resulting from exposure to microwaves. This effort followed-up the Soviet Union’s aiming of microwave radiation at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1953 to 1976 to charge Soviet listening devices, to block U.S. monitoring attempts at listening outside their embassy, and to affect the embassy employees. A 1972 Defense Intelligence Agency report feared that this was part of an effort to mass-brainwash U.S. Citizens.
Soviet mischief aside, work to influence the mind was indeed going on. Dennis mentions the long-ago neuroscientific practices of Dr. José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado. Dr. Delgado was an acclaimed neuroscientist and a Yale University physiology professor. The New York Times Magazine in 1970 featured a cover story about him as the prophet of a society in which people could change the functions of their own mind. In 1952, Delgado had co-authored an important peer-reviewed paper about electrode implantations in humans. In 1963, in Cordoba, Spain, he controlled electrode-equipped bulls with a radio transmitter, to the point of stopping a bull that was charging him.
José Delgado was one of the many who made mind control — and its abuses — plausible. He is most famous for his electrical brain stimulation research. He developed the stimoceiver, a radio-controlled device which both stimulated brain waves and broadcast the E.E.G. wave results on radio channels.
John Horgan profiled the retired Dr. Delgado in the October 2005 Scientific American. Delgado’s brain chips were the factual basis for fictions like Michael Crichton’s novel The Terminal Man and movies like The Matrix — but in real life the devices have been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, blindness, and many other afflictions. He originally came up with his techniques in order to minimize the need for lobotomies. From the early 1950s to the early 1970s his 25 human subjects, treated in a Rhode Island mental hospital, were the very ill whose disorders had been untreatable by other techniques.
Delgado finds himself in the same position as other scientists whose pioneering works have been used in ways they did not admire. He maintains his research was supported by military and civilian agencies but not the CIA — despite the conspiracy theories that later cropped up. He states that brain chips cannot force someone to kill any specific target, since brain stimulation only increases or decreases aggression. (The TIs are nevertheless concerned about the uses of his work.) The year 1970 saw release of his publication Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society, which tends — in its emphasis on “conquering the mind” as a positive thing for society — to the evangelical and (unintentionally) ominous. The bizarreness that followed his fame included a woman who claimed that Dr. Delgado implanted stimoceivers into her brain, yet the doctor had never made her acquaintance.
His work in Spain, which commenced in 1974, concentrated on noninvasive techniques such as special helmets that could send electromagnetic pulses to specified regions of the brain. As these could not be delivered from a distance, Delgado dismissed speculations in Omni (and in television documentaries) that people’s thoughts could be modified remotely.
At least, this was the case with the techniques he was using.
Of course, what Dr. Delgado had done with animals could be tried on humans. And subliminal persuasion — where signals only the subconscious mind can process are hidden within other media — could be part of the mix. Igor Smirnov, a researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is a specialist in subliminals. He was consulted by staff from the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Center when they wanted to influence David Koresh of the Branch Davidian sect during the ill-fated FBI negotiations with the cult leader. Smirnov’s idea was to plant subliminal audio messages in phone communications. One idea was for Charlton Heston to play the voice of God. The hidden “Holy” messages intoned by Heston would have been obscured under normal ones and heard subconsciously.
Smirnov has spoken of vanquishing terrorism using acoustic influences. In 1991, he had shown to observers from the United States that transmission of infrasound — at a frequency beneath the threshold of normal hearing — could send sound messages conducted through bone.
Kingsley Dennis notes that:
“Military thinking in this area is beginning to shift towards a systemic viewpoint which considers the human as an open system rather than as a closed, bounded system.” As Dennis and others have emphasized: the “mind has no firewall.”
World of Hurt
In a world where terrorism is feared so intensely, older rules of engagement will give way to newer ones, the ethics of which have yet to be properly formalized. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in 2004 put together a brief about “controlled effects” of the electromagnetic spectrum to be used for making changes in people’s behavior and thinking. It reported about nonlethal force to make adversaries think and behave differently. The Active Denial System (ADS) is the most famous of these efforts. It is a directed-energy weapon system which aims 95 Gigahertz electromagnetic radiation at its subjects. Its targets feel a burning sensation which makes targets run for cover. It is intended, among other things, as a crowd control device.
A December 24, 2008 story by the aforementioned David Hambling for New Scientist Tech covered developments at the U.S. Department of Justice’s research arm regarding non-lethal, but nevertheless dangerous, weapons to handle suspects and opponents.
The National Institute of Justice’s project builds atop the Active Denial System technology, but its device deploys a few centimeters of short microwaves to more particularly target individuals. Despite the reported health hazards involved, they pale next to those of blunt trauma weapons.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) already has a laser weapon, the rifle-like Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHaSR for short) which has been used to dazzle opponents, but can be used to heat skin if an infrared laser is added to it. The weapon is being tested for situations such as law enforcement and prison use. Less far along is the NIJ’s microwave-based weapon, which more resembles the ADS. The PHaSR is smaller than the microwave weapon, but it can more readily do more permanent damage — especially of the blinding variety.
Human rights activists take issue with all these weapons. “Torture at the touch of a button” is how Steve Wright, of Leeds Metropolitan University, sums it up. Amnesty International wants research on all these devices made public. A January 3 online posting by Ian Allardyce reminded how these weapons could be used to counter protests (including peaceful demonstrations) “without all the nasty TV pictures.” Other postings, also reacting to Hambling’s article, included those by individuals who complained of being on the receiving end of such technologies.
The Active Denial System is meant to be deployed in brief bursts. Whatever the timing of its application, long-term problems (like DNA damage) and short term problems (like panicked crowds) would be concerns. Dr. Jonathan M. Gitlin, writing for the website Ars Technica in January 2007, is concerned that it will be used and abused by police departments, with deaths resulting like those from the uses of stun guns and tasers.
The ADS is being marketed as Silent Guardian™. It is a bit unwieldy, at five tons, and is said to be effective up to 250 meters away. Its effectiveness can be negated by clothing, goggles and even tin-foil.
John Timmer, writing for Ars Technica in October 2007, wonders if the “reduced consequences” (to the wielder) of deploying the device would cause users to rely too much on pain infliction.
The prototype of the Active Denial System was exhibited at Georgia’s Moody Air Force Base in 2007. The machine, utilizing a rectangular dish, was mounted atop a Humvee. The reach of its beam was extensive, affecting subjects up to 550 yards away. According to the military, the penetration is slight, but produces discomfort. A journalist from Reuters was voluntarily shot at by it, and described the feeling as being like that from an extremely hot oven.
There are other unpleasant ways to control crowds. A device called MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio) is designed to use microwave audio — in which short pulses heat living tissue and create an inside-skull shock wave that the ears can hear — to control groups of people. It has a variety of other uses, especially for the military. When pulsed in a series, recognizable sounds can be manifested inside a person’s head. The Sierra Nevada Corporation commenced its development of the system as part of a research contract for the U.S. Navy.
The system creates an effect that cannot be blocked out, nor is subject to the established safety limits for audio — since the sound it creates is not sent through the eardrums.
The antenna of the machine will be configurable so that narrow and wide beams can be projected, allowing selection of one or many targets. But neural damage will be a possibility in any case. The Sierra Nevada Corporation maintains that a demo version could be in operation by 2010.
Reading People and Their Minds
Technologies have also been developed to assist soldiers and others. In one project, pilots undergo brain scans to evaluate fatigue, which can be compensated for by greater automation of their planes. Machineries can measure fatigue in other ways — and are useful in many types of vehicles. A driver’s eye movements can be photographed (blinking is significant). Hand pressure on the steering wheel and a person’s heat can be measured, the latter by a specially lined seat. These close the gap between living thing and machine, and make use of the fact that people’s bodies are, as Dennis puts it, the “most capable data-processing subject.”
But measuring so closely has its downside. Dennis worries about a hypothetical future in which people will be scanned for “dangerous intentions.” Travelers will have to keep their thoughts safe as well as their bodies.
FoxNews.com, on September 23, 2008, presented Allison Barrie’s article “Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind.” The truckbed-sized MALINTENT is revealed as the new system to worry those who value their privacy. It was developed at the Science and Technology directorate of Homeland Security. MALINTENT uses imagers and sensors to note a subject’s respiration, heart rate and temperature in a search for the subtle signs dangerous people show before they attack.
A field test was run in Maryland, with most of its participants unaware of their participation. It was set up under the cover of a bogus “technology expo.” As part of the trick, 144 of those tested were under the illusion that they were just going through an entrance, when they were actually traveling through screening sensors. The other 23 knew they were in a special project, and were told to carry a “disruptive device” when passing through the portal. When the people passed through, sensors first picked out if something was “offR