February 26, 2008

Homeland Security’s “LED Incapacitator”

Nick Langewis and David Edwards
Raw Story
February 16, 2008

One company has received an $800,000 contract from the Department of Homeland Security to develop a new “non-lethal” method of human incapacitation for use by law enforcement.

By 2010, Intelligent Optical Systems hopes to be selling a sort of high-powered flashlight, the “LED Incapacitator,” which would act by not only effectively blinding its target, but overloading his or her brain, with rapidly flashing lights at varying colors and frequencies. In addition to disorientation, headache and nausea are also likely.

The device, designed with help from the Los Angeles Police Department, could end up in the hands on the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Secret Service and air marshals.

“It really doesn’t do any damage to you,” says Homeland Security’s David Throckmorton. “For them, it would be to stop a terrorist–or whoever–from advancing…or somebody who’s out of line on an airplane–would be able to stop them from moving forward.”

“Let’s not pretend these are anything less than a weapon,” contends the ACLU’s Michael Soller. “Tasers,” he uses as an example, “were sold to police departments and police officers were trained that they were non-lethal. We have 300 deaths over the past few years that show that that claim was not true.”

“We’ve been very careful to design this so the maximum permissible exposure limit for human eye safety is never exceeded,” says IOS’ Robert Lieberman on the risk of blindness from being subjected to the device.

Any applicable risk of other phenomena, such as seizure, is not covered in the accompanying reports, nor has data been made available on IOS’ website.

CBS 13 News has more here.

A recent report from CBS 3 News in Philadelphia is available here.

The accompanying video was broadcast on CBS 13 News on February 4, 2008.


Reading and watching the video above, one gets the idea the light is harmless. Robert Lieberman and co-developer Vladimir Rubtsov, however, describe the weapon as a bit more sinister.

From Wired:

Government-funded researchers are building a flashlight that makes people puke on command.

The LED Incapacitator uses a range-finder to measure the distance to a target’s eyes, Threat Level notes. Then it unleashes continually changing, multi-color light pulses that make the target feel bad — really bad. The "effects, whose effectiveness depends on the person, range from disorientation to vertigo to nausea," according to Technology Review.

The trick isn’t trying to figure out which light-pulse sequence will make people hurl. "There’s one wavelength that gets everybody,” says Robert Lieberman, who along with his partner Vladimir Rubtsov, is developing the Incapicator for the Department of Homeland Security. “Vlad
calls it the evil color.”

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