You think your town hall meeting’s law enforcement presence was authoritarian and heavy-handed?
Check this out: San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore deployed (but did not use) military type sonic crowd-control devices at two town hall meetings, one held by GOP Darrell Issa and the other by Democrat Susan Davis. These devices are the same as those used to control crowds of insurgents in the Iraq war theatre and have been linked to ear and brain injury.
Both town halls took place without incident; however the use of the military device concerned San Diegians. The LRAD [Long-Range Acoustic Device] crowd control is primarily used in Iraq to control insurgents and can cause serious and lasting harm to humans.
According to the manufacture, American Technology Corporation, the LRAD provides “military personnel the capability to transition through the rules of engagement to determine a target’s intent and also provides greater assurance that innocent lives on both sides of the device are not lost due to miscommunication.”
Should Americans be concerned at this apparent escalation of available response at peaceful public meetings called by elected officeholders? Are warfighting tools appropriate to have ready for use on civilians?
“It’s very concerning,” Kevin Keenan, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “ It is fine for the Sheriff’s Department to have new less-than-lethal weapons, but for their interactions with individuals these still-dangerous weapons need to be used only as substitutes for firearms. They can’t be used as just another tool on the tool belt. As we’ve seen with tasers and pepper spray, these types of weapons are being used to subdue people even though they pose the risk of serious physical harm.”
He added, “Even more concerning is having these weapons for public order policing. I can imagine no situation, or am not aware of any situation that’s ever happened in San Diego County or is likely to happen that would justify using these weapons for public order policing to control a crowd.
The main effect of having those weapons at public events is to chill people and chill free speech and free association.”
Are these sonic cannons weapons or not? San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore
indicated that he did not consider LRAD technology to be a non-lethal weapon, such as tasers and pepper spray, then deferred other questions on this topic pending results of a public records request submitted by ECM.
However, Defense Update, a British defense contracting publication, lists LRADs as “non-lethal directed energy weapons. The publication states: “LRAD works like a highly directional, high power megaphone, able to blast sounds (such as crowd-dispersal instructions in Arabic) in a narrow beam and with great clarity at a deafening 150 decibels (50 times the human threshold of pain). LRAD can also create deafening noises which can incapacitate people within 300 meters by “firing” short bursts of intense acoustic energy.”
A media and industrial relations representative, Robert Putnam, of the manufacturer (ATC) says these worries are quite overblown:
Putnam objected to the term “sonic cannon”, responding, “It’s not a sound cannon. It gets their attention and hopefully gets them to comply.”
He also denied that the company’s LRADs can cause hearing problems or other health concerns. “No, not true,” he said. “You’d have to be in close proximity for several minutes in order to have any damage at all. If you willingly stand in that beam for an extended situation, then that’s your choice. There’s no way a large crowd would stay.”
He said the company provides hands-on training to customers and has not had any lawsuits filed over damaged related to LRADs. The company is now offering a hand-held model, he added, which costs about $5,000 and can emit noise levels up to 135 dB. The device can also be adapted to have a high-powered light, infrared night vision, or the ability to translate commands into a foreign language.
Compliance via aural pain: it’s the new free speech zone.
There has been no comment from either Congressman Issa or Congresswoman Davis about the non-lethal sonic weapons capability deployed for possible use on unruly citizens demonstrating their opinions about health care reform at a town hall meeting called for the express purpose of airing that topic.
The Davis Rally drew an estimated 1,300-1,500 people, including vocal conservative and liberal protest groups.
Incidentally, Sheriff Gore used to be FBI, but is no longer:
Also, behind the scenes Americans are skeptical that Sheriff Gore should be using anything of this magnitude in light of his connection to the Ruby Ridge, Idaho incident.
Gore was part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation team and was believed to have issued the order to kill on sight – any member of the family who showed themselves, according to a source close to the case. This mishandling and loss of life resulted in Gore leaving the FBI. Two civilians were killed, an unarmed woman holding a baby as well as a minor child.
The debacle cost the American taxpayer $3.1 million dollars when a wrongful death suit was brought against the federal government. In August of 1995 the government paid the Weaver family of Ruby Ridge an out-of-court settlement.