American military chiefs are developing plans to use Valium as a military weapon, according to official documents seen by Antony Barnett of The Observer Newspaper in the U.K. The Pentagon commissioned scientists at Pennsylvania State University to look at potential military uses chemicals known as calmatives. The drugs they recommended for ?immediate consideration? included diazepam, better known as the tranquilizer Valium, and dexmedetomidine, which is used to sedate patients in intensive care. The scientists advised that these drugs can ?effectively act on central nervous system tissues and produces a less anxious, less aggressive, more tranquil-like behavior.?
Although the new, non-lethal weapons development is a joint U.S.-British venture, British officials say that using drugs such as Valium is be outlawed under the 1991 Chemical Weapons Convention. This protocol prohibits ?any chemical which… can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm.?
The Pentagon has also developed genetically modified bugs that ?eat? the enemy’s fuel and ammunition supplies without harming humans. One proposal from the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia, proposes creating GM bugs that would corrode roads and runways and produce ?targeted deterioration of metal parts, coatings and lubricants of weapons vehicles and support equipment as well as fuels.?
This group of scientists has already patented micro-organisms that decompose polyurethane, ?a common component of paint for ships and aircraft.? Another proposal from a biotech laboratory at Brooks Air Force base in Texas would modify ?anti-material biocatalysts? that break down fuels and plastics.
Some experts believe the use of genetically-modified microbes in military operations would breach the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, which campaigns against biological and chemical weapons, says, ?What is absolutely shocking about these disclosures is that it represents either a massive institutional failure to implement U.S. commitments under international treaties or it reflects an effort by some people in the Pentagon to undermine those treaties.?
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The military has always tested war strategies by playing wargames, but their newest weapons give the impression that they?ve been spending too much time in toy stores. “Dragon Eye,” a new Marine technology, is made of foam, covered with a gray fiberglass composite, and weighs just five pounds. It looks just a model airplane, but it’s really a hand-held version of an unmanned aerial vehicle (or “UAV”), the robotic spy craft used in Afghanistan. It would be used to spy on what a group of enemies are up to, without having to send a reconnaissance team on a potentially dangerous mission. “It’s for tactical use, primarily in urban environments,” says Clark Murdock, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The Marines need ways of seeing into rooms, across the street and around the corner.”
The eye has a range of about 4.3 miles. It can stay in the air for about an hour, get as high as about 300 feet in the air, and go 45 miles per hour. After a few commands are given to its Windows-based navigation program, it will pilot itself using a global positioning system. “We couldn’t expect a Marine to learn stick-and-rudder skills (like you need to fly a remote-controlled plane),” says Major John Cane, who’s responsible for the mini-UAV program at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. “I’ve got 1,800 hours in jets, and I still can’t fly those things. If a Marine can use (Microsoft) Word, he can get this plane to fly.”
There?s also the Dragon Runner, the eye’s truck-like cousin. Like the eye, the runner is equipped with a camera and is meant to be a mechanical scout in close combat situations. A Marine remote-controls the flat, 15 ?-inch device with a six-button keypad. “We modeled the controller after the PlayStation2, because that’s what these 18-, 19-year-old Marines have been playing with pretty much all of their lives,” says Maj. Greg Heines, Cane’s counterpart for ground vehicles.
They also have a 9-foot helicopter-style UAV in the works, called the Dragon Warrior, which may help target missiles and bombs, as well as a ?RoboLobster? that can detect and disarm mines. “The same sets of behavior that a lobster uses to look for food are the ones you’d want in a robot looking for a mine,” says Dr. Joseph Ayers, director of Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center. “The lobster’s a proven design; it’s been doing it for over 4 million years.” The lobster’s eight mechanical legs will let it reach places on the sea floor that mine-sweeping boats and trained dolphins can’t. Its antennae will sense the direction and speed of the currents, allowing it to compensate when waters get rough. The first 1,000 model-plane-like Dragon Eyes are due in the summer of 2003. Every Marine infantry battalion is scheduled to get a squadron of them.
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Sifting through piles of intelligence data to spot a terrorist attack may require the use of artificially intelligent computer systems, according to Paul Eng of abcnews.com. “There is a ton of information out there,” says Robert Steele, chief executive officer of Open Source Solutions, an intelligence analysis organization in Oakton, Virginia. “But the intelligence community collects less than five percent of it.” However, Steele, a former intelligence officer, doesn?t believe computers can help spot or prevent future attacks. “What is happening here is the Cold War mindset that thinks there is a technological silver bullet,” he says. “There is no technical silver bullet.”
But Norman Geddes, president and CEO of Applied Systems Intelligence, a software maker in Roswell, Georgia, thinks artificial intelligence can study terrorist behavior patterns and spot possible upcoming attacks. “If I’m a terrorist, I have certain goals I’m trying to achieve,” says Geddes. “I need to have money, membership into an organization, and a base of operations ? all of which have different ways of achieving them.”
Geddes says a well-designed computer program can do what humans do, and maybe even do a better job at it. “[It’s] the same as a good police officer,” he says. “[It] investigates leads, forms hypotheses, and narrows things down.” Artificial intelligence systems use complex math routines to discover patterns and predict possible outcomes. They are encoded to contain a set of data about past experiences and rules that relate to that data. That allows the computer programs to “learn” and mimic the reasoning process that the human mind uses to spot patterns and trends in information.Such systems have been used for years in financial and credit card institutions to help spot fraud, such as an unusually high charge amount from an overseas merchant.
John Pike, director of the Global Security Organization, says one way A.I. could be used by intelligence agencies to spot future terror activity might be simply to watch for changes in the number and duration of phone calls from specific areas of the world. “If you went back and looked at the [U.S.S.] Cole bombing, or [East Africa] embassy attack, you can see a very clear change in the pattern of phone activity out of Pakistan,” he says. “Every time after that, if you see a similar pattern, you can have the U.S. government issue a terrorist alert.”
A.I. systems can make “connections” between seemingly disparate bits of information.A smart program in an airline reservation system might watch for terrorists by examining variations of their names in the system to see if they seem like aliases. Then the airline system could automatically communicate with a bank’s computer system to look for unusually large cash transfers between individuals and suspected terrorist organizations.
Steven Aftergood, a senior intelligence analyst and researcher with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), says that intelligence information may come from various sources ? many of which may be in a foreign language. “There is a growing backlog of documents that are simply waiting for someone to translate them,” he says. While some computers can translate document data into English, other formats ? such as video broadcasts or telephone calls ? would still need human intervention.
“We’re not at the point that the FBI has access to all personal information on all persons in America,” says Pike. “There are very real limits to how much data the police are normally allowed access to. It’s very easy to describe a society where police can do data mining, but most people think that sounds like a future from an Orwellian book and wouldn’t want to live there.”
To learn more,click here. Glitches in an FBI system to monitor the e-mail of suspected criminals hampered an investigation of al Qaeda two years ago, according to internal FBI documents. According to memos obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, FBI investigators threw out the results of an e-mail wiretap in March 2000 because the system, commonly known as “Carnivore,” collected electronic messages of regular Internet users as well as the target of the probe. The FBI unit in question was charged with monitoring Osama bin Laden, says David Sobel, the EPIC lawyer who obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The FBI software not only picked up the e-mails under the electronic surveillance of the FBI’s target … but also picked up e-mails on non-covered targets. The FBI technical person was apparently so upset that he destroyed all the e-mail take,” says an unidentified supervisor. The documents don?t imply the FBI could have prevented the September 11 attacks, but they do highlight problems with the implementation of Carnivore. Sobel says,”This shows that the FBI has been misleading Congress and the public about the extent to which Carnivore is capable of collecting only authorized information.?
Carnivore was developed to intercept the e-mail and other online activities of suspected criminals. It has come under fire from lawmakers and civil liberties groups who say it is too invasive. FBI officials have assured Congress the system captures only a narrow field of information which is authorized by a court order. The newly released documents show Carnivore occasionally grabbed the e-mail messages of other Internet users.
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