Microwaves against terrorists

microwaves against terrorists

MARC POLYMEROPOULOS COMING AUGUST 1ST ON SHAWN RYAN SHOWPlease leave us a review on Apple/Spotify Podcasts:Apple. to enhance their skills to process on-going cases of terrorism and terrorism Visit the first virtual EXPO of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre. If it is proven that Russia used a microwave weapon against US officials, the consequences could be explosive. But, even if it were true.

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USAF Microwave Weapon

This U.S. Air Force microwave weapon is designed to knock down drones by frying their electronics. Credit: AFRL Directed Energy Directorate

Some of the cases of the mystery ailment that has afflicted U.S. embassy staff and CIA officers off and on since in Cuba, China, Russia, and other countries most likely were caused by pulsed electromagnetic energy, according to a report by a panel of experts convened by national intelligence agencies.

The report’s findings are similar to those of another report released by the National Academies in In that report, a committee of 19 experts in medicine and other fields concluded that directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy is the “most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, dubbed “Havana syndrome.”

Neither report is definitive, and their authors don’t address who targeted the embassies or why they were targeted. But the technology behind the suspected weapons is well understood and dates back to the Cold War arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. High-power microwave weapons are generally designed to disable electronic equipment. But as the Havana syndrome reports show, these pulses of energy can harm people, as well.

As an electrical and computer engineer who designs and builds sources of high-power microwaves, I have spent decades studying the physics of these sources, including work with the U.S. Department of Defense. Directed energy microwave weapons convert energy from a power source – a wall plug in a lab or the engine on a military vehicle – into radiated electromagnetic energy and focus it on a target. The directed high-power microwaves damage equipment, particularly electronics, without killing nearby people.

Two good examples are Boeing’s Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), which is a high-power microwave source mounted in a missile, and Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR), which was recently developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to knock out swarms of drones.


A news report about the U.S. Air Force’s high-power microwave anti-drone weapon THOR.

Cold War origins

These types of directed energy microwave devices came on the scene in the late s in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. They were enabled by the development of pulsed power in the s. Pulsed power generates short electrical pulses that have very high electrical power, meaning both high voltage – up to a few megavolts – and large electrical currents – tens of kiloamps. That’s more voltage than the highest-voltage long-distance power transmission lines, and about the amount of current in a lightning bolt.

Plasma physicists at the time realized that if you could generate, for example, a 1-megavolt electron beam with kiloamp current, the result would be a beam power of 10 billion watts, or gigawatts. Converting 10% of that beam power into microwaves using standard microwave tube technology that dates back to the s generates 1 gigawatt of microwaves. For comparison, the output power of today’s typical microwave ovens is around a thousand watts – a million times smaller.

High-Power Microwave Generator

This high-power microwave generator built in the Soviet Union continues to operate in Edl Schamiloglu’s lab at the University of New Mexico. Credit: Edl Schamiloglu, University of New Mexico, CC BY-ND

The development of this technology led to a subset of the U.S.-Soviet arms race – a microwave power derby. When the Soviet Union collapsed in , I and other American scientists gained access to Russian pulsed power accelerators, like the SINUS-6 that is still working in my lab. I had a fruitful decade of collaboration with my Russian colleagues, which swiftly ended following Vladimir Putin’s rise to power.

Today, research in high-power microwaves continues in the U.S. and Russia but has exploded in China. I have visited labs in Russia since and labs in China since , and the investment being made by China dwarfs activity in the U.S. and Russia. Dozens of countries now have active high-power microwave research programs.

Lots of power, little heat

Although these high-power microwave sources generate very high power levels, they tend to generate repeated short pulses. For example, the SINUS-6 in my lab produces an output pulse on the order of 10 nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. So even when generating 1 gigawatt of output power, a nanosecond pulse has an energy content of only 10 joules. To put this in perspective, the average microwave oven in one second generates 1 kilojoule, or thousand joules of energy. It typically takes about 4 minutes to boil a cup of water, which corresponds to kilojoules of energy.

This is why microwaves generated by these high-power microwave weapons don’t generate noticeable amounts of heat, let alone cause people to explode like baked potatoes in microwave ovens.

High power is important in these weapons because generating very high instantaneous power yields very high instantaneous electric fields, which scale as the square root of the power. It is these high electric fields that can disrupt electronics, which is why the Department of Defense is interested in these devices.

How it affects people

The National Academies report links high-power microwaves to impacts on people through the Frey effect. The human head acts as a receiving antenna for microwaves in the low gigahertz frequency range. Pulses of microwaves in these frequencies can cause people to hear sounds, which is one of the symptoms reported by the affected U.S. personnel. Other symptoms Havana syndrome sufferers have reported include headaches, nausea, hearing loss, lightheadedness and cognitive issues.

The report notes that electronic devices were not disrupted during the attacks, suggesting that the power levels needed for the Frey effect are lower than would be required for an attack on electronics. This would be consistent with a high-power microwave weapon located at some distance from the targets. Power decreases dramatically with distance through the inverse square law, which means one of these devices could produce a power level at the target that would be too low to affect electronics but that could induce the Frey effect.

The Russians and the Chinese certainly possess the capabilities of fielding high-power microwave sources like the ones that appear to have been used in Cuba and China. The truth of what actually happened to U.S. personnel in Cuba and China – and why – might remain a mystery, but the technology most likely involved comes from textbook physics, and the military powers of the world continue to develop and deploy it

Written by Edl Schamiloglu, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of New Mexico.

This article was first published in The Conversation.The Conversation

An earlier version of this article was published on January 2,

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, Americans have had to learn to discriminate between real and imagined risks in many areas. When it comes to domestic nuclear terrorism—a subject that has been touched recently by highly speculative journalism—making that distinction requires knowing some nuclear fundamentals.

Based on science, what should Americans worry about? Is radiation always dangerous? How do we protect ourselves? Could terrorists unleash a Chernobyl on our soil? Could nuclear waste dumps or power plants be transformed into atomic weapons? Could terrorists make a &#;dirty&#; bomb capable of widespread contamination and deaths from radiation? Could they steal an American nuclear weapon and detonate it?

The Energy Department&#;s nine national laboratories have begun an extensive review of counterterrorism, including the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear sites and materials. Some findings may remain undisclosed for security reasons; others may be made public—soon, one hopes. Meanwhile, here are some basics.

Radiation

Radioactive materials contain unstable atoms, radionuclides, that emit excess energy as radiation, invisible but detectable by instrument. Some atoms lose their energy rapidly; others remain dangerous for thousands, even millions of years. Certain forms of radiation are more hazardous to humans, depending on the type of particles emitted.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), composed of scientists and consultants from 21 nations, provides comprehensive evaluations on sources and effects of radiation as the scientific basis for estimating health risk. UNSCEAR&#;s reports are almost universally considered objective and reliable. It recently listed annual average exposures per person worldwide.

Natural background radiation: millirem worldwide ( millirem in the United States). The earth&#;s core is a natural reactor, and all life evolved within a cloud of radiation stronger than background radiation is today. Cosmic rays, sunlight, rocks, soil, radon, water, and even the human body are radioactive—blood and bones contain radionuclides. Exposure is higher in certain locations and occupations than in others (airline flight personnel receive greater than average lifetime doses of cosmic radiation).

Diagnostic medical radiation: 40 millirem (60 millirem in the United States). This is the largest source of manmade radiation affecting humans. Other common manmade sources include mining residues, microwave ovens, televisions, smoke detectors, and cigarette smoke—a pack and a half a day equals four daily chest x-rays.

Coal combustion: 2 millirem. Every year in the United States alone, coal-fired plants, which provide about half of the nation&#;s electricity, expel, along with toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases, times the radioactivity of nuclear plants: hundreds of tons of uranium and thorium, daughter products like radium and radon, and hundreds of pounds of uranium Radioactive fly ash, a coal byproduct used in building and paving materials, contributes an additional dose. Coal pollutants are estimated to cause about 15, premature deaths annually in the United States.

Nuclear power: millirem ( in the United States). The Environmental Protection Agency, whose standards are the world&#;s strictest, limits exposure from a given site to 15 millirem a year—far lower than average background radiation.

For radiation to begin to damage DNA enough to produce noticeable health effects, exposure must dramatically increase—to about 20 rem, or 20, millirem. Above rem, or , millirem, diseases manifest. Whether low-dosage radiation below a certain threshold poses no danger and may in fact be essential to organisms is controversial (the Department of Energy began the human genome project to help determine if such a threshold exists). If exposure is not too intense or prolonged, cells can usually repair themselves. Radiation is used widely to treat and to research illnesses.

The horrible—and preventable—reactor explosion at Chernobyl caused fatalities and suffering among the local population but increased the overall background radiation level by a factor of only worldwide. According to UNSCEAR, contamination greater than background radiation was limited to 20 square miles around the plant. The severest casualties occurred among plant workers and firemen, two of whom died from scalding. Another suffered acute radiation sickness. Twenty-eight of those victims died within three months; 13 succumbed later. The rest survived.

Among civilians in surrounding communities, UNSCEAR found 1, cases of thyroid cancer, mostly in children, and predicted more would develop. Thyroid cancer could have been avoided, however, had the entire population surrounding Chernobyl been promptly given potassium iodide, which blocks the uptake by the thyroid of radio-iodine, a radionuclide produced by reactors.

Fourteen years after the accident, no other evidence of a major health effect attributable to radiation exposure had been found. The UNSCEAR report states: &#;There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality or in non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The risk of leukemia, one of the main concerns owing to its short latency time, does not appear to be elevated, not even among the recovery operation workers. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population are not likely to experience serious health consequences from radiation from the Chernobyl accident.&#;

What UNSCEAR also found was that &#;the accident had a large negative psychological impact on thousands of people.&#; Fear, born of ignorance of real risk coupled with anxiety about imagined harm, produced epidemics of psychosomatic illnesses and elective abortions. Better management of the emergency, including adequate dissemination of facts, probably could have prevented much of this psychic trauma. Risk perception tends to be skewed by unexpected, dramatic events—a quirk of human nature exploited by terrorists. More severe risks almost always lurk in everyday life: cardiovascular disease (about 2,, U.S. deaths annually), smoking-related illnesses (over ,), and motor vehicle accidents (about 42,).

That other accident-related cancers may eventually appear around Chernobyl is possible but unlikely, given results of long-term surveys of the approximately 85, survivors of the bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Despite the far higher dosages of radiation to which these victims were exposed, recent data cited by Fred Mettler, U.S. representative to UNSCEAR and chairman of the Radiology Department at the University of New Mexico, show that 12, have died of cancer— more than would be expected. (Normally about one in three humans gets cancer.)

A few years ago, after much debate, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission offered free emergency contingency supplies of potassium iodide to the 31 states with reactors, but most declined. Illinois has 11 reactors; its officials feared that the pills—&#;a cruel hoax&#;— would fool people into thinking they were safe from radiation; they and officials in other states argued that evacuation was the best protection. Delay from the Food and Drug Administration regarding approval of the antidote, as well as opposition to it at the county level, created further obstacles. After September 11, communities and politicians expressed indignation that this inexpensive drug had not been stockpiled. Last December, the NRC announced that it would require states with populations within the mile emergency planning zone of a nuclear power plant to consider &#;including potassium iodide (KI) as a protective measure for the general public in the unlikely event of a severe accident. This measure would supplement sheltering and evacuation, the usual protective measures.&#; Nine states have now requested tablets.

Reactors

Could any of the nuclear reactors in the United States be turned into a bomb? No. The laws of physics preclude it. In a nuclear weapon, radioactive atoms are packed densely enough within a small chamber to initiate an instantaneous explosive chain reaction. A reactor is far too large to produce the density and heat needed to create a nuclear explosion.

Could terrorists turn any of our reactors into a Chernobyl? Again, extremely unlikely. American reactors have a completely different design. All reactors require a medium around the fuel rods to slow down the neutrons given off by the controlled chain reaction that ultimately produces heat to make steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. In the United States the medium is water, which also acts as a coolant. In the Chernobyl reactor it was graphite. Water is not combustible, but graphite—pure carbon—is combustible at high temperatures. Abysmal management, reckless errors, violation of basic safety procedures, and poor engineering at Chernobyl caused the core to melt down through several floors. A subsequent explosion involving steam and hydrogen blew off the roof (there was no containment structure) and ignited the graphite. Most of the radioactive core spewed out.

A similar meltdown at the Three Mile Island power plant in —one caused by equipment malfunctions and human failure to grasp what was happening and respond appropriately—involved no large explosion, no breach. The reactor automatically shut down. Loss of coolant water caused half the core to melt, but its debris was held by the containment vessel. Contaminated water flooded the reactor building, but no one was seriously injured. A minute quantity of radioactive gases (insignificant, especially in comparison to the radionuclides routinely discharged from coal-fired plants in the region) escaped through a charcoal-filtered stack and was dissipated by wind over the Atlantic, never reaching the ground. The people and land around the plant were unharmed.

In response, the NRC initiated more safeguards at all plants, including improvements in equipment monitoring, redundancy (with two or more independent systems for every safety-related function), personnel training, and emergency responsiveness. The commission also started a safety rating system that can affect the price of plant owners&#; stock. The new science of probabilistic risk assessment, developed to ensure the safety of the world&#;s first permanent underground nuclear waste-disposal facility, has led to new risk-informed regulation. In over two decades no meltdowns have occurred and minor mishaps at all nuclear plants have decreased sharply. Cuts by Congress in the NRC&#;s annual research budget over the past 20 years—from $ million to $43 million—may have considerably compromised ongoing reforms and effectiveness, however.

U.S. nuclear power plants, which are subject to both federal and international regulation, are designed to withstand extreme events and are among the sturdiest and most impenetrable structures on the planet—second only to nuclear bunkers. Three nesting containment barriers shield the fuel rods. First, metal cladding around the rods contains fission products during the life of the fuel. Then a large steel vessel with walls about five inches thick surrounds the reactor and its coolant. And enclosing that is a large building made of a shell of steel covered with reinforced concrete four to six feet thick. After the truck-bomb explosion at the World Trade Center in and the crash of a station wagon driven by a mentally ill intruder into the turbine building (not the reactor building) at Three Mile Island, plants multiplied vehicle and other barriers and stepped up detection systems, access controls, and alarm stations. Plants also enhanced response strategies tested by mock raids by commandos familiar with plant layouts. These staged intrusions have occasionally been successful, leading to further corrections. On September 11, all nuclear facilities were put on highest alert indefinitely. Still more protective barriers are being erected. The NRC, after completing a thorough review of all levels of plant security, has just mandated additional personnel screening and access controls as well as closer cooperation with local law-enforcement agencies. Local governments have posted state troopers or the National Guard around commercial plants, and military surveillance continues.

What if terrorists gained access to a reactor? An attempt to melt down the core would activate multiple safeguards, including alternate means of providing coolant as well as withdrawal of the fuel rods from the chain reaction process.

And if a jetliner slammed into a reactor? Given what is now publicly known, one could predict that earthquake sensors, required in all reactors, would trigger automatic shutdown to protect the core. Scientists at the national labs are calculating whether containment structures could withstand a jumbo jet, specifically the impact of its engines, which are heavier than the fuselage, and any subsequent fire. Even the worst case—a reactor vessel breach—would involve no nuclear explosion, only a limited dispersal of radioactive materials. The extent of the plume would depend on many variables, especially the weather. As a precaution, no-fly zones have been imposed over all nuclear power plants. Military reactors used for weapons production have all been closed for a decade and are spaced miles apart on isolated reservations hundreds of miles square. Any release of radioactivity would remain on site.

Commercial Nuclear Waste

Commercial radioactive waste is generated chiefly by nuclear power plants, medical labs and hospitals, uranium mine tailings, coal-fired power plants (fissionable materials are concentrated in fly ash), and oil drilling (drill-stems accumulate radioactive minerals and bring them to the surface).

Nuclear power provides about one-fifth of the energy the United States needs for electricity generation. At plants around the nation, in deep, steel-lined, heat-reducing pools of water, spent-fuel rods are accumulating in temporary storage. In the s the National Academy of Sciences determined that deep geologic disposal is the safest means on land of permanently isolating nuclear waste. Congress designated Yucca Mountain, at the Nevada Test Site—scene of more than 1, atomic blasts—as the first permanent U.S. repository for spent fuel. Its burial has been the goal of the Energy Department and the NRC for decades, but political and bureaucratic obstacles, rather than lack of scientific know-how, have slowed progress. If the present timetable holds, and if political support is forthcoming—still an open question despite President Bush&#;s recent approval of Yucca Mountain—shipments of spent fuel from plants will begin around

These days citizens have become acutely aware of the waste pools and have questioned their presence in populated areas, yet environmental activists have long sought to keep nuclear waste at power plants, insisting that its removal poses grave dangers. This view, though unsupported by the EPA, the NRC, and numerous risk-assessment studies (nuclear materials are transported daily around the nation without mishap, in contrast to accidents regularly associated with transport of toxic chemicals), has also resonated with politicians. Nevertheless, growing concern about fossil-fuel pollutants and global warming and the realization that nuclear power has spared the atmosphere from billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions may be encouraging a change of attitudes.

Challenges regarding subterranean disposal have already been solved. Because of breakthrough methodologies evolved during construction (by the Energy Department) and certification (by the EPA), New Mexico&#;s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the world&#;s first successful deep geologic repository for the permanent isolation of federal (as opposed to commercial) nuclear waste. It is a model for other nations. For political reasons, WIPP is permitted by Congress and the state of New Mexico to accept only certain military waste. But nearly 1, detailed studies, as well as an innovation in probabilistic risk assessment invented by WIPP&#;s scientists, have demonstrated that its remoteness, size, and stable geological and climatological features make it the safest place to store any type of waste. In fact, if enlarged or annexed, the WIPP could hold all U.S. nuclear waste generated for decades to come.

Would a jet plane crashing into a waste pool cause a nuclear explosion? Given information now available, one can state that if the small target a pool presents were actually hit and coolant water were drained, spent fuel bundles would melt, react with the concrete and soil below the pools, and solidify into a mass—in effect causing containment. Some radionuclides would be vaporized and scattered, but in a very limited fashion, since spent-fuel rods lack immediately releasable energy. The waste pools contain practically no burnable materials.

In dry-cask storage, an innovation safer than waste pools, a single bundle of rods is entombed in a thick concrete cylinder, 18 feet tall and 8 feet across, designed to withstand powerful impacts and widely separated from its neighbors. Air is the coolant. If one bundle somehow failed, not enough heat would be available to cause it or other bundles to melt. Sixteen plants have already converted to dry casks, and more will follow.

Could terrorists steal spent nuclear fuel? First they would have to get past multiple impediments: guards, high double fences with concertina wire, floodlights, motion detectors, and cameras. Fuel rods are so radioactive that anyone coming within a few feet of them would become extremely ill and die within hours if not minutes. The more radioactive something is, the harder it is for someone to steal—and survive. Special equipment and thick lead shields are required for handling, and spent fuel for transport must be placed in casks weighing about 90 tons that have been stringently tested (burned with jet fuel, dropped from great heights onto steel spikes, and otherwise assaulted) and have remained impervious.

Could terrorists make a nuclear weapon from commercial U.S. reactor fuel? Not easily. It is enriched with uranium but not nearly enough to make it weapons-grade. Extracting the enriched uranium would require a large, sophisticated chemical separation plant.

Weapons Facilities

Could terrorists rob a weapons facility of weapons-grade plutonium or uranium? Mock raids of the kind used to test nuclear power plants have been conducted to uncover weaknesses at weapons research sites. The exercises have demonstrated the need for maximum protection and independent oversight of security forces as well as of the network used to transport weapons materials. Since 10 a.m. on September 11, these sites have been placed on highest security. Precautions at some nuclear weapons facilities abroad are almost certainly weaker than here—and international terrorists would seem more likely to make a run at those installations before challenging ours.

Terrorists with sufficient expertise and resources could in theory build a nuclear bomb but only with enormous difficulty. Starting a chain reaction is not simple. Highly enriched uranium—very problematic to acquire—would have to be correctly contained to obtain an explosion. Terrorists stealing an American nuclear weapon couldn&#;t explode it without detailed knowledge of classified procedures that unlock numerous fail-safe mechanisms. Nuclear weapons that have been accidentally dropped from aircraft or involved in plane crashes, for instance, have not exploded. The reason: these devices are designed to blow up only when properly detonated.

Military Nuclear Waste

More than 61 million people live within 50 miles of temporary military nuclear waste sites, many of which hold—in antiquated, leaky enclosures or pressurized tents—the legacies of the Manhattan Project, the Cold War, and disarmament treaties requiring the dismantling of nuclear weapons. If politics do not interfere, within 10 years radioactive military waste will remain near 4 million people. In the s, the Energy Department began a massive cleanup, the world&#;s largest public works project ever. After a decade of delays and lawsuits by environmentalists, the WIPP opened in The satellite-monitored trucks that transport the waste have been highly and redundantly engineered, and their casks subjected to the same tests as those for commercial waste. Drivers are thoroughly vetted. Most shipments consist of mildly radioactive trash like coveralls, paper cups, and sludge. The debris is entombed half a mile underground in steel drums in a salt bed sandwiched between water-impermeable rock strata. The salt, plastic at that depth, and impermeable to radionuclides, eventually encloses the drums, providing another natural barrier

An aircraft diving into an above-ground nuclear waste dump could not cause a nuclear explosion. The materials are neither refined nor concentrated enough to start a chain reaction. (Any material that could sustain one has been removed to be reused.) And because most high-level waste is isolated on big reservations like Hanford and Savannah River, which are fenced in and under heavy surveillance, casual access is highly unlikely.

Recently considerable apprehension has been expressed about nuclear materials being wrapped around conventional explosives to make a &#;dirty&#; bomb. This relatively low-tech approach appears more feasible than other threats and could induce widespread panic by appearing to expose a population to radiation. But how radioactive could such a bomb be?

Spent fuel would deliver the highest dose of radiation. Contamination from such a bomb would be serious. But wrapping the conventional explosives with spent fuel would be, as noted, a cumbersome operation and would promptly subject the perpetrators to fatal exposure. Suicidal terrorists might nevertheless make the attempt, but it would be surprising indeed if simpler projects that can also pack a big punch were not pursued first, even by fanatics who are less than entirely rational. Last winter&#;s &#;shoe bomber&#; tried to detonate not a nuclear device but rather a relatively available, very dangerous chemical compound concealed in his shoes.

Neither medical nor WIPP-destined waste would provide much radioactivity because of the low concentration of radionuclides. More accessible materials (syringes, fly ash, uranium mine tailings, smoke detectors) could be included in a conventional bomb to make a Geiger counter tick a little faster, but physical damage from an explosion would be limited to what the conventional blast could do. Radiological harm would be negligible, if any occurred at all.

Further Steps

More must be done to secure our nuclear facilities. Operators must continue to improve safeguards, giving high priority to human engineering. Inexpensive but highly effective entry systems like those used at national laboratories should be instituted at power plants, and more fail-safe systems to compensate for human error ought to be installed. Safer, cleaner, more efficient reactor designs now exist and should replace outmoded ones. Without further delay, nuclear waste must be transferred to permanent repositories. Ultimately all nuclear facilities would be even safer if relocated underground. An infrastructure in which small reactors provided energy to regions, each independent of the national grid, would prevent a catastrophic nationwide power failure in the event of an attack.

In recent years, the Energy Department has tried to make its operations more transparent, but it still needs to reach out to the public to win trust. The technological and political communities—now sharply divided—must begin dialogues at both national and local levels. Because people are now recognizing as never before government&#;s essential role in providing protection, aid, and counsel, the time is right for leaders and policymakers in both camps to clear up old misunderstandings.

R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D

On Sunday, March 17 , CBS 60 Minutes broadcast an alarming report on the Cuban/Chinese, sonic/microwave/neuroweapon attack on US embassy staff and their families.  The report is an example of how a once credible press has been supplanted by tabloid sensationalism and fearmongering.  The program featured interviews with staff and family members at the US embassy in China who believe they have suffered traumatic brain injury from an energy beam weapon of some kind.  This included interviews with a man who had Parkinson’s disease; a woman who developed a rash and experienced dizziness, auditory and vestibular symptoms that accompany many common illnesses; her young toddler who fell down more than once, and a person with preexisting traumatic brain injury, which even the US State Department agrees could not have been caused by the supposed brain-damaging energy beam.  All of these health complaints are experienced routinely in medicine, and many legitimate diagnoses could be made without jumping to such an extraordinary conclusion.  With the proper diagnosis, treatments could be applied to help these people, but CBS 60 Minutes asserts that they were all targeted and injured by a clandestine energy beam weapon, although what type of energy beam the weapon might have used is unclear.

The report claims that the “syndrome” these individuals are suffering matches that afflicting the US embassy staff and their families in Havana, where the sonic weapon scare originated two years ago.  But pooling these people together with their wide-ranging symptoms does not constitute a “syndrome.”  Grouping one person with a headache and dizziness together with another person who has Parkinson’s, and claim a new “syndrome” defies logic.  The embassy employees and their family members at both locations report a wide spectrum of common medical complaints.

Objective medical evidence does not support the claim of “wide spread traumatic brain injury,” as claimed on 60 Minutes.  The sources interviewed on the program voiced only personal speculation, without evidence.

The report lacked verification, fact checking, and failed to provide objective and alternative viewpoints.  It included comments by a member of a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, which has been roundly criticized in the scientific community as unsound.  This matter has been carefully investigated by scientists and the FBI, but their conclusions debunking the fearmongering, was omitted.  Thus far (after two years of investigation) there is no evidence of injury (as opposed to disease).  No evidence of an attack.  No evidence of a weapon.  No credible means, motive, or perpetrator has sustained scrutiny.  This 60 Minutes program is an example of the disturbing story of our day.  Fact-based journalism has been replaced by fearmongering to promote a political agenda or to whip up a sensational story.

I share with you my recent Op-ed, published in Scientific American, in which I report on a recent scientific meeting in which I, along with other Cuban and American scientists came together to examine the matter scientifically.  On the basis of the current evidence, the panel roundly rejected the fear that these people have suffered brain injury from a mysterious energy beam weapon.  If new evidence comes forth, the conclusions could change, but judgments, policy, and actions, must be grounded in fact.  The fact that 60 Minutes had information from this meeting of scientists, but chose not to present it in their program, makes their report a lie of omission.  That is a disservice to the public, to their profession, and to their once honorable reputation.

If you are interested in what CBS 60 Minutes left out you can read it here, and for further background, see this earlier report.

 

Havana

Posted in Blog and tagged CBS 60 Minutes, China embassy, cuba, fact-based journalism, fake news, fearmongering, microwave weapon, sonic attack, sonic weapon, the press, US Embassy Havana

Utilization of high-power microwave sources in electronic sabotage and terrorism

Abstract: High-power microwave (HPM) sources have been under investigation for several years as potential weapons for a variety of sabotage, terrorism, counter-security system, and combat applications. The key points to recognize are the insidious nature of HPM and the many areas in which it can impact on security technology. Computers and other equipment can be damaged without user recognition of the cause. HPM has the capability to penetrate not only radio front-ends but also the most minute shielding penetrations throughout the equipment. The potential exists for significant damage to security and other devices and circuits, and even injury to humans. Different HPM threats are described and specific protective measures are outlined.<

Published in: Proceedings. 25th Annual IEEE International Carnahan Conference on Security Technology

Article #:

Date of Conference: October

Date Added to IEEE Xplore: 06 August

ISBN Information:

Print ISBN: X

Detection of Hidden Hostile/Terrorist Groups in Harsh Territories by Using Animals as Mobile Biological Sensors

Logo of sensors

Sensors (Basel). Jul; 8(7): –

Published online Jul doi: /s

Abstract

Terrorism is the greatest threat to national security and cannot be defeated by conventional military force alone. In critical areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey, regular forces cannot reach these hostile/terrorist groups, the instigators of terrorism. These groups have a clear understanding of the relative ineffectiveness of counter-guerrilla operations and rely on guerrilla warfare to avoid major combat as their primary means of continuing the conflict with the governmental structures. In Internal Security Operations, detection of terrorist and hostile groups in their hiding places such as caves, lairs, etc. can only be achieved by professionally trained people such as Special Forces or intelligence units with the necessary experience and tools suitable for collecting accurate information in these often harsh, rugged and mountainous countries. To assist these forces, commercial micro-sensors with wireless interfaces could be utilized to study and monitor a variety of phenomena and environments from a certain distance for military purposes. In order to locate hidden terrorist groups and enable more effective use of conventional military resources, this paper proposes an active remote sensing model implanted into animals capable of living in these environments. By using these mobile sensor devices, improving communications for data transfer from the source, and developing better ways to monitor and detect threats, terrorist ability to carry out attacks can be severely disrupted.

Keywords: Mobile biological sensors, location detection, mobile sensor networks, military operations

1. Introduction

Terrorism is defined as: An illegal preconceived use of physical or psychic violence (or threat of it) for further political goals aimed at civilians or non-combatants etc., to change current policies, their methods and structure [1, 2]. More, The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological [3].

Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, and other countries with terrorist problems have large areas of uninhabited land, often consisting of rugged terrain with national borders, roads, rivers and industrial facilities that need monitoring to prevent terrorists and hostile groups from entering the country, damaging infrastructure, mining roads, attacking government units and moving freely [4, 5, 6]. The effective control of internal security operations especially in the harsh terrain is extremely important for national security, however difficult ground conditions make regular combat and engagement almost impossible.

Many terrorist groups or even individuals acting alone may hide in caves or other places that are are difficult to observe in the daytime, and attack at night. It is too difficult to plan a day-time attack against an enemy to whom borders mean nothing. In such a situation, the best strategy is to use intelligence, finance and psychological warfare to find and destroy terrorists' hidden bases. Military forces must prevent these hostile groups from taking over a part of the country and establishing a local control of remote areas, which can become a base for launching future terrorist operations. Therefore, they must counter these particular guerrilla tactics with special doctrine and training. The terrorist groups are small forces equipped with light weapons and simple command, control, and information systems. They easily blend into the civilian population. At present regular military forces lack the investigative skills to track down these people and in some circumstances have few information sources in the civilian population to enable discrimination between friend and foe. Thus, there is a clear need for the military and police units to deal with such challenges and these entities. These entities need to adapt new and emerging technologies to locate these inimical groups using various levels of different remote sensing devices, as well as detecting chemical explosives. They especially need more rapid, simpler, more cost effective and more accurate tools for detecting and identifying a wide spectrum of usable human specific information that could be the basis for a counter attack on terrorists.

Networked sensor systems are seen as an important technology that will reach the full extent of deployment in the next few years for a number of applications, not only for national security [7, 8]. A sensor network is an infrastructure comprised of sensing, measuring, computing, and communication elements that gives the users the ability to observe and react to events and phenomena in a specified environment.

Habitat and environmental monitoring represent a class of sensor network applications with many potential benefits for scientific and social issues. However, the problem of using sensor equipment in mountainous regions means that the sensor system is difficult to set up. Using animals as mobile sensors resolves the problem of the placement of static sensors in inaccessible terrain. The intimate relation between domestic animals and human beings in a certain region allows each sensor implanted or tagged into these animals to collect detailed information and provide localized measurements to detect the hidden groups in the field. Previously stated methods which are similar in regard to animals tracking with sensors and early fire detection may easily be applied to these situations. While the sensor users track animals to gather information on their usual habits, such as hunting or mating, they can also gather data which detects human presence and activity [9].

The challenge is to set up a wireless sensor network in geographically harsh and rugged areas to enable regular military units to use animals as mobile sensor agents. These agents will be indispensable in gathering necessary data to combat terrorist groups hidden in this environment. The design and implementation of the proposed sensor services is evaluated in this paper. Furthermore, this paper reviews mobile sensor network architectures and provides background information for some animals that can be used as mobile sensors in the harsh terrain, including relevant definitions and a technical summary of space-based remote-sensing.

2. Related Works

Animal behavior research using different kind of sensors has been carried out for years and a great deal of scientific research has been conducted with regard to the existence and habitat of the marine and land animals. In these studies, animals with sensors attached, have been tracked and meaningful data that can be used to classify many different behaviors has been collected []. Hence, this technique can provide beneficial data that can be used for many different purposes. A new frontier was opened with Khan's idea that is the most efficient and cost effective biosensors are already distributed globally but generally ignored: they are called animals [14].

The detection of hostile groups and terrorist locations, border control and prevention of illegal immigration have been investigated for many years and much previous work is available []. In particular, exploration and innovation in space and satellite systems have caused scientists to focus on this technology to track environmental and other features. Capturing pictures using these satellites also provides meaningful data for understanding the behavior of the object being tracked. The commercial availability of satellite pictures presents a great benefit to national security and military operations. For example, the military has advantages to access this high-resolution satellite imagery, with which the movement of terrorist groups in the field, their build-up and the lay-out of their camp sites, facilities and even the locations of individuals could be made available to the Government Security Organizations. It is obvious that there should be a balance between maintaining the same capability to these terrorist groups and protecting the national security.

Space-based remotely sensed imagery became commercially available worldwide in with the advent of the United States (U.S.)'s Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). Until that time, such information was within the province of military and intelligence communities of the major world powers. With the launch of the French Systeme Probatoire d'Observation de la Terre (SPOT) I satellite in , remotely sensed imagery with ten meter resolution became commercially available. Today, Commercial Space Imaging Companies sell images with better than one meter resolution on the international market. Remote sensing from space can be as simple as taking photographs of the Earth from space using an optical camera and photographic film. Sensors on board a satellite in either geosynchronous orbit (GEO), or an inclined or polar low-Earth orbit (LEO), perform remote sensing from space [32]. In addition to the numerous civilian applications, this technology is also used for military reconnaissance and verification of compliance with arms control treaties, contributing to world security [33]. The command and control system of the terrorist groups leave Radio Frequency (RF) signatures easily targeted by the Military Electronic Units. Even though terrorist groups need a centralized command and control of their activities, they can sometimes operate on very slow communications, or even hand written notes carried by human messengers from the civilian population, making activity much more difficult to detect.

One of the most important discoveries in the detection of these terrorist groups is the use of unmanned aircraft, such as Scout, Searcher, Heron, Hunter, Pioneer, Harpy, Ranger, I-See, I-View, which, because of special features, make detect of inimical groups much easier, using evaluated data (images and video) sent from m or higher [34]. These planes with night vision are able to observe the movements of groups at night. However, these aforementioned methods are based on images of previously found detection, which means that the group must have been already located. This study proposes a system for locating hidden groups in places where previously no valid signals have been detected.

Building on the previous uses of sensors (in environmental detection) our proposal constitutes a practical and important addition to mobile sensor usage in the form of tagging or attaching sensors to domestic animals: the detection and location of terrorist groups hidden in caves and harsh environments. While the system proposed does not claim to discover every possible human target, it represents an easily employed additional reconnaissance tool for the benefit of Special Forces.

3. Motivation

There are two drawbacks to current surveillance methods, the first of which is training. The terrorists and hostile groups act like peaceful civilians, making identification difficult. While national intelligence units try to improve gathering of human intelligence data with combination of various intelligence sources, surveillance and reconnaissance in the tactical area, without training in exploiting these alternative sources of intelligence, no real progress can be made.

The second drawback is the effect of international obligations. Satellite remote sensing is the most useful resource for supporting the initial identification and relative location of targets, transportation routes used by criminals, terrorists, and enhances the offensive military capability. Images obtained from satellites can be used to generate real time simulations of targets for the specialized training of personnel such as Special Forces, and prepare them for operations in unfamiliar terrain. These images can also help anticipate problems that could arise during the attacks and disclose of tactical flaws in the operation plans. However, foreign policy and international obligations cause significant limitations for resolution and system throughput due to national security. For example, the operational limitations only permit the collection of images with a one meter resolution and dissemination no earlier than 24 hours after data collection, although current systems may, in fact, be capable of producing images with a half-meter resolution in a matter of hours. This puts commercial operators in the unique position of possessing highly sensitive remote sensing data unavailable to the rest of the world [35].

Sensor networks can improve detection and tracking performance with multiple observations. Wireless sensor networks are mainly mesh network systems with multi-hop radio connectivity among or between the sensor nodes used in the environment. Military theater systems of this type of networks provide applications of environmental monitoring and national security systems. Existing and potential applications of sensor networks include; military sensing, physical security, military applications, monitoring inimical and friendly forces, military-theater or battlefield for reconnaissance and surveillance, weather sensing, environment monitoring, and national border monitoring [36, 37].

With advances in digital technology, it is becoming practical to provide sensors with a wireless connection that enables remote access to the inputs and outputs of devices. Through a variety of location technologies, data from both fixed and mobile sensing devices can be used to report geographical location. The use of wireless and mobile sensor networks will limit the need for military personnel involvement in dangerous reconnaissance missions [38]. The computing and networking capabilities allow sensor networks to be reprogrammed or re-tasked after each deployment in the field. Nodes have the ability to adapt the operation by time in response to changes in the environment [39]. It is impossible to predict the real time conditions in which it would be necessary to limit data collection and distribution according to a certain course of action against the targets. Any transfer delay between the sensor environment and the authorized users may create national security problems, which may even lead to military causalities.

In the short term, the communication links and the satellite ground stations are potentially the most vulnerable components during crises or wartime, when active and passive sensing should be impeded by the owners of satellites. In addition, electronic jamming can be used against the ground station to disrupt the uplink and downlink features. Alternatively, the remote sensing system could be crippled by launching a military assault on the ground receiving station [40].

In contrast to these disadvantages of satellite sensors from the point of national and military security, land based sensor networks are much less vulnerable to attacks, and can operate in an unattended fashion in dispersed and/or remote geographic locations: Nodes may be deployed in harsh, hostile, or widely scattered environments, which give rise to challenging management mechanisms. Figure 1 shows the probable environments where the systems can be used, where it would be more suitable to exploit the local tracking systems using the GPS features because of the constraints in satellite use and the limiting factors of the territory.

4. Animals as Mobile Biological Sensors for Harsh Terrains

Communications technologies enable rapid and accurate identification, location tracking, and condition monitoring of high-value assets. The applications of mobile biological sensors include identification and monitoring of humans, pets, fish, poultry and other livestock through patented implantable microchips, the location tracking and message monitoring of vehicles and aircraft in remote locations through systems with GPS and/or geosynchronous satellite communications; and monitoring of asset conditions such as temperature and movement, through advanced miniature sensors. The miniaturization of electronic components and sensors (MEMs usage and technology) combined with advances in satellite technology have led to dramatic improvements in the tags, great increasing the ability to pinpoint an animal's geographic location, and researchers are continuing to add new capabilities.

Proposed System Structure

The system has been based on two fundamental methods of measurement. The first involves attaching sensors which use GPS data to detect potential hiding place. Similarly, the second also uses tiny sensors that are virtually invisible, to detect human voices and locate their source using GPS signals. Figure 2 shows the general architecture and animal tracking methods: a) for mountain region b) for forests.

Possible hidden places detection method (HPD)

Detection of hidden places using animals consists of three main components: an animal (preferably moving frequently within a large territory) equipped with a sensor which has GPS capability, satellites to obtain GPS data and location detection software.

The system works in a simple way; Animals are continuously observed and location detection data is regularly obtained (every minute). Using this data, the probable route of movement of the animal, hunting area and places to shelter can be projected. The location information acquired from the GPS signals also provides data for the length of time the animal cannot be tracked. The invisibility intervals are considered to be caused by loss of GPS signals, and these blind spots are considered as caves or other potential terrorist hiding place. Figure 3 shows a cave that can be used as a hidden place. As shown in the figure, there will be no signal if the animal enters a cave, but the signal will reappear when it emerges, thus indicating a probable hiding place in this location. Figure 4 shows a screen shot of the software program developed to find a probable hidden place and the audio tracking system.

Sample HPD scenario

The followings are the steps of the location detection process in the software:

  1. Firstly, the reading interval is adjusted according to the number of animals used. This interval shows data flow frequency for each animal. In the sample application, it has been taken as 10 minutes.

  2. One of the animals with an injected sensor in advance is selected, using Animal ID. In this example, B, bear has been selected.

  3. The Absence Ratio is determined. This value changes with the animal type. Fast, frequently moving animals should have smaller reading interval and absence ratio . In this example, absence ratio for the bear is 30 minutes.

  4. Noise level is a variable used to recognize the human voice. If the animal has audio sensors, these are used to decompose between the different volumes of human voice. Pessimistic selection in this field is for the detection of very low level human voices in the critical territories. However, it was not used in this example, since signal tracking method was used for location detection.

  5. The location grid in the software shows the tracking periods and coordinates of the selected animal. A different color indicates no signal for a 30 minutes period taken as the absence ratio. If the signal is picked up again, the distance information in the table is checked. A value of between 0 and 10 meters (these ratios can be defined as parameters) clearly demonstrates that the animal stayed in a place from where no signal could be recorded in the period of not less than the absence ratio.

  6. Security forces determine and check the location of first signal loss (considered as entrance point for hiding place) and where the signals re-establish themselves.

Some predictions can be made depending on the animal used, a bear in this example. Because of the size of the bear the cavity can be considered correspondingly large. It is important to select parameters according to the size and features of animals, as well as regional features, and therefore cooperation with a zoologist with the required knowledge is essential.

Human voice detection method (HVD)

Human voice detection system by using animals has already been in frequent use and is only the decomposition of the human voice by using the sensors tacked into animals. The system includes four main components: the animals which have implanted sensors with GPS features, voice recording and tracking (small and low profile mammals preferred), GPS satellites, base stations/signal towers for signal detection and the software for location and detection in turn.

It is fairly simple to recognize a terrorist by the human voice detection method; Animals used are continuously observed, evidence to assess the possible presence of any human in the environment are obtained by the location information taken from the animals through the signal towers every minutes. By processing the location and voice information, the possibility of human voice presence can be assessed, and, if strong sensors are used, conversations can be overheard. Figure 4 below shows screenshots of software specially prepared for such a system. There is an Audio Spectrometer to check the density and variation of voice waves. The location detection method of probable hidden places can also be used in cases where the signals have been lost. However, in the system there may be signal losses due to the small animals used hiding in small places which humans could not use. In this situation, evaluating these places as to whether they could be potential terrorist shelters is essential for security.

Sample HVD

The steps of the process of detecting voice by the software used for recognizing human voice and location detection are as follows:

  1. Firstly, the intervals at which reading is taken are determined according to the infrastructure and the number of animals used in the system. This interval shows how often any particular type of animal will provide data. In this example, the interval has been determined as 1 minute.

  2. Any sensor carrier animal is chosen using Animal ID (previously assigned to the animals). In this example, a vole with the ID V was selected.

  3. The next stage is determining the absence ratio, which in this example is used for checking (data), as the voice signals. This ratio varies according to the animal used; the absence ratio and reading data interval should be smaller for the fast and shuffling animals. It has been taken as 5 minutes for vole in this example.

  4. Noise level is a variable which is used in the scanning of human voice. It is used to discriminate the different levels of human voice from sensored animals. Pessimistic selection in this field is used for human voices at very low volumes in critical zones, whereas Optimistic is a parameter to filter low frequency human voices in probable places. In this example, pessimistic has been chosen in order to be used in the critical regions.

  5. The movement of the animal with the coordinates and time spent is shown in the location grid available in the software. A different color is used if there is no signal for more than 5 minutes in the absence ratio. The distance is checked when the signal is reachable again, and a reading of 0 to one meter is considered to indicate that the animal remained in a location that did not allow a signal for that duration of time (assuming that it is not less than the absence ratio).

  6. The voice sensors implanted into the animal are filtered to determine whether they contain human voices or not. Any human voice signals are transmitted to the software by the signal towers and shown on a spectrometer. These signals can also be listened to by the software user. If any significant and characteristic human voice is recognized, the position of the animal is determined and checked.

  7. While this happening, it is possible to identify and confirm the location of the animal disappearance (the point where the signal was lost) and reappearance (the point where the signal resumes), as well as features of the voice being tracked.

Some predictions can be made about the hiding places of the animal used in this sample, a vole. Since its hiding places are likely to be very small, uncertainty arisen as to whether these are suitable places for humans to shelter, and thus there is a need to consult someone familiar with the region. In addition, consultation with zoologists and guides with relevant expertise are necessary to select parameters according to animal and regional features.

Suitable Animals

Animals can easily adapt themselves to life under harsh conditions. Some animals particular to the area (for example goats, hamsters and rabbits in mountainous regions) freely move, hunt and live in environments that are completely inaccessible to humans [42, 42]. Figures 5 and 6 show some of the wild animals that can carry sensors and live in these environments.

In this study, animals have been divided into two different groups for examination according to the systems applied. The first group is the large mammals that can be used for the hard terrain and the detection of probable hiding places of terrorists (HPD). The bear, mountain goat, wild boar and local animals in Figure 5 are examples of these. Large mammals particular to the local area can be equipped with GPS location detection devices and be tracked continuously for location detection.

The second group are the small animals that can be used to detect the voice signals to obtain understandable human voice (HVD). Voles, hamsters, squirrels and the local animals in Figure 6 are examples of these small and hard to detect animals. They move rapidly and hunt in limited areas. When they sense a danger and cannot run away, they keep still and wait for the danger to pass, because of their hiding instinct. They are easily affected by the human moving around in the area. Because sensors implanted into small animals can be used for both detection systems, they can be used to detect both human mobility and communication.

In addition, other animals particular to the region can be specially trained for the proposed systems. In order to make such a selection, it is necessary to coordinate with a zoologist who knows the environment.

Suitable Sensors

The electronic components (the sensors tacked into the animals, the signal towers which will provide the data transfer and data collectors) used in these two systems should be selected carefully and suitable for to the conditions of the region. Some examples of data collectors and transmitters which can be used according to the changing conditions in the region are given in Figure 7.

Some GPS, location and voice detection sensors which can be used on animals are shown in Figure 8. The sensors should be selected according to the features of the region and the characteristics of animal. Selection parameters can have different values according to the size of the animals, the distance from the signal tower and the scale of the region. There are many sensor companies and sensor types in the market, but the important point is to avoid using sensors which put the wild life at risk and damage their habitat.

5. Simulation Results and Discussion

Since the testing of the system in real environments are limited and the system features have military value, simulation results and the implications from these results will be presented in this chapter. Map samples taken from Google [48] have been used in the software and simulation studies.

Figure 9 shows a screenshot including simulation results applied to the HPD method. The system clearly points out the latest spot according to the predetermined simulation results. However, since the distance values are given as kilometer for the data obtained in the simulation, there is meter diversion, and therefore the hidden place has been calculated as a circular area of 50 meters in diameter rather than a specific point.

Figure 10 shows the graphic including simulation data applied for the HVD method. This graphic, also displays the spectrometer of the recorded voice signals by the animal. The values for all noise levels (pessimistic, moderate, and optimistic) are shown separately. Voice levels for the pessimistic, moderate and optimistic levels are shown by brown, orange and yellow areas respectively. Additionally, blue regions in the figure show the areas of probable human voice detection. It is possible to listen and understand voice strengths of optimistic and above. There are, however, some problems in this sampling, the most important of these is limiting data flow interval. On the other hand, if there is a delay of (even) minutes between the recording of the voice data and the decomposition and definition, there is a risk of being unable to pin point the exact location because the detection individuals may move in this time. Consequently data flow intervals should be minimized.

There are advantages and disadvantages of these methods used to detect existence of human activity and the probable hidden places in the targeted region by processing the data acquired from the animals.

Problems and Disadvantages

  1. It is a challenge to catch the animals from the environment and implant sensors into them in order to set up the system.

  2. When specially-trained animals are used for this system, it can create problems related to animal rights.

  3. There may be an insufficient number of animals particular to the region.

  4. Since the power of sensors is generally provided by batteries, lack of battery power or physically damaged devices can disrupt the regular data collection.

  5. The cost of equipment used for the decomposition of human voice signals is considerable (although this may not be a constraint where national security is concerned). The natural reactions of animals equipped with sensors should always be examined before. There is also a necessity of using more than one group of animals to detect multiple human groups.

  6. As soon as the audio signals have been recorded, it is essential keep a very short data flow interval because it is likely that the target (voice owner) will move.

  7. The high cost of and difficulty in installing the data collection tower infrastructure especially HVD method.

Advantages

  1. It is adaptable to the existing location detection systems and it is productive in terms of early detection.

  2. Using animals as mobile biological sensors is preferable to using fixed sensors because it allows measurement to be taken at any point in a region.

  3. It allows the possibility of obtaining information using fewer of sensors than the fixed systems.

  4. It allows the possibility of monitoring areas unreachable by satellites and unmanned aircrafts, using sensor equipped animals moving freely in their habitat.

  5. The infrastructure of the system can provide alternative applications other than data collection process. It also enables the possibility of obtaining information about various types of animal.

  6. It is easily adaptable to predesigned animal tracking systems.

  7. It provides an important support to the prevention of poaching because the sensors allow the immediate detection of death of the animal.

Although the advantages, disadvantages and the aforementioned problems may vary according to different conditions, the advantages are still noteworthy.

6. Conclusions

This paper proposes an approach the detection of terrorist groups in their hiding places, in mountainous and forest regions, using animals particular to the region as mobile biological sensors. The paper is based on proposed additions to sensors used in former zoological studies. This provides an extra capability in any related field of zoology. In almost every type of harsh territory, where the satellites and unmanned aircrafts cannot be used despite their advanced equipment, it provides early detection ability against possible terrorist acts and illegal trade across national border lines. Since the system cannot be tested in the real environment at present, it may be affected by the aforementioned problems. In addition, while there may be other (unforeseen) negative effects not considered so far, the system outlined here would seem practical and effective, and worth building up.

The followings issues seem desirable topics for future studies:

  1. Studies to classify the animal movements would help to build more effective systems in the future.

  2. Improving sensors would make systems run more effectively.

  3. Studies using animal psychology to produce animals adapted to the needs of the system would be helpful.

  4. Integrating wireless networking infrastructure and satellite tracking systems with new and advanced technologies would make the system more effective.

  5. Embedded early reaction techniques could be employed for future studies, not only for detection but also for an effective reaction process.

Consequently, these types of studies may lead to effective measures against terrorism and smuggling, especially in the terms of serious activities which endanger the national and global security. A novel proposal to eliminate this threat described in this study, and it could be an effective tool for future works.

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Havana Syndrome or a Case for Eliminating the Implausible

The story of Havana syndrome has acquired mythical qualities in its telling. In late and early , members of the American embassy in Havana, Cuba, started to report debilitating symptoms and strange occurrences. An incapacitating sound, often coming from a single direction, was heard by some but not others, waking them up in the middle of the night. A sensation of intense pressure was felt in the ear. Vertigo and nausea were some of the early symptoms. Then came the difficulty concentrating, the memory problems, the sleep disturbances in some of the victims. Members of the Canadian embassy were eventually also struck by what was being called an “attack.” Secret sonic weapons and microwave beams were suspected and the story quickly morphed into a devilish espionage novel, with accusations levelled at Cuba, Russia, even China.

Like in a James Bond movie, one country was not enough: soon, similar symptoms began to be reported in Australia, China, Austria, even a suburb of Washington, D.C., and the park south of the White House. U.S. vice-president Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam wasdelayed earlier this year because of an “anomalous health incident” reported there that was strikingly similar to Havana syndrome. A superficial reading of nearly five years of media coverage of these globe-trotting incidents would have you believe an undetected secret weapon has been deployed all over the world and nobody quite knows what it is.

There are many layers to peel back when it comes to the reporting done on Havana syndrome and our first stop should be the name. Naming diseases and syndromes after places, whether in earnest or as a back-handed jibe, poisons the geographic well in people’s minds. The “Wuhan flu,” the “Indian variant of the coronavirus,” even the “Spanish flu” (which had nothing to do with Spain), these names can feed discrimination by demonizing a place and its peoples. But with Havana, unfortunately, I’m not aware of any geographically neutral name. Reports speak of “symptom clusters,” of “unexplained events,” of “anomalous health incidents,” none of which constitute unique nomenclature. So “Havana syndrome” it is for now.

When this ailment resisted easy answers, more and more eccentric explanations began to be considered. Some of them border on science fiction.

The man with the sonic gun

When the spectre of spies is raised, poisons come to mind. Could the diplomats affected by this Havana syndrome have had their food or water spiked or the air they breathe poisoned? Specifically, astudy funded by the Canadian government zeroed in on neurotoxins from pesticides used in Cuba to combat the spread of Zika. The hiccup is that many of the people who lived with the victims and around them showed no symptoms. How could pesticides selectively affect dozens of American and Canadian diplomats but no Cubans, nor any non-diplomats working at those embassies? Or are we to believe that the widespread use of these pesticides did cause symptoms in many Cubans but that nobody has come forward, despite the Havana syndrome story making international news for years? Moreover, areport by the National Academies of Sciences states that the incident was not consistent with acute poisoning by the type of insecticide used in Havana, though it could not rule out chronic exposure as a contributing factor.

If poisons cannot give us solace in cracking this case, the alternatives move us from the quaint territory of Agatha Christie to the realm of speculative fiction. Because the perception of a sudden, loud sound and of pressure against the ear had been reported by many of the affected people, the idea of a covert sonic weapon was considered. Could this device emit infrasounds, meaning sound waves below the threshold of what we can hear (typically below 20 Hz)? Research into so-called sonic cannons has indeed been done, but it seems thattheir operators are as much at risk from their ill effects as the intended targets, and these effects are often more annoying than truly harmful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the mythological “brown note,” a specific infrasound that is thought to trigger instant defecation. Whenthe Mythbusters team was given license to test this claim using massive subwoofers specifically modified to play this note with enough vigour, the dreaded discharge did not take place. Even when projected at a deafening decibels (in therange of a rock concert), the sound could not live up to its myth.

At the other end of the spectrum, above our hearing threshold of 20, Hz, we find another potential culprit: ultrasounds. Could the sound waves typically used to see a fetus during pregnancy be weaponized and cause, as has been suggested, damaging acoustic bubbles in the inner ear and brain? The problem is that ultrasounds need close contact to propagate well, hence the use of gel for pregnancy ultrasounds. Over long distances, sound gets weak. It can be easily blocked by walls. To focus a damaging beam of ultrasounds at someone inside a house, an attacker would likely need a gargantuan speaker with massive energy needs. That’s hard to square with the idea of a weapon that is both mobile and undetectable.

If the attack was unlikely to come from a sound wave, maybe it came from a light wave, specifically a microwave. Microwaves are lower in frequency than visible light and infrared, but above radio waves on the light spectrum. The U.S. military has conducted research into high-powered microwave weapons, buta feature article in the journal Naturesummarized those fifty years of research as “wasted energy,” citing unreliability and the need for imposing pulse generators. When Cheryl Roferdebunked the microwave theory for Foreign Policy, she imagined a mobile microwave weapon outside a diplomat’s house and calculated that to power a simple microwave oven on the go, you would need a 2,watt gasoline-powered generator weighing around 50 pounds. To weaponize the beam, you might need another ten pounds or, alternatively, about laptop computer batteries. Portability, if such a weapon even exists, becomes a real issue. Moreover, microwave weapons were often meant to attack equipment, not people, andno screwed-up electronics were reported in the vicinity of the victims of the Havana syndrome. Yet a strange phenomenon tied to microwaves has piqued the attention of investigators.

For your ears only

It’s called the Frey effect. In , Allan H. Frey publisheda paper in which he described a situation in which microwaves, which are not sound waves, were heard by humans. His participants could hear these waves as coming from within or right behind their own head. The sound was described as being a buzz, clicking, hiss, or knocking. Ergo, Havana syndrome victims might have been zapped by a secret microwave weapon and the strange sound they heard was the buzzing noise of the Frey effect. But as Professor Kenneth Foster, who has studied the Frey effect,told The New York Times, “the sound would be so soft that near silence would be needed for a person to detect it.” With the hubbub of Cuba and the everyday noises of modern life, you’d have to crank up the power and end up frying the person’s skin in the process. The Frey effect as an explanation for Havana syndrome beggars belief. “You might as well say little green men from Mars were throwing darts of energy,” Foster concluded.

It may be hard to reconcile the improbability of a complex weapon or a simple poison witha State Department spokesperson declaring that “we have never seen this anyplace in the world before.” How could this syndrome be so new and unique and not have a new and unique cause? By appraising the papers published by the doctors who examined the people affected by Havana syndrome, some experts started to see differences between what had been claimed and what had been documented.

From crickets with love

Embassy staff and family members were seen by an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the University of Miami, who saw signs of an“immaculate concussion:” it looked like 16 people had signs of a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury but without the actual head injury. These 16 individuals were then sent to a brain injury centre at the University of Pennsylvania, along with eight additional cases that subsequently came forward. Thepaper that reported on their findings, published in JAMA, speaks to “injury to widespread brain networks.” All of this sounds both alarming and mysterious.

When a medical sociologist and a neurologistlooked into this, however, the case for an unsolvable puzzle started to weaken. The JAMA paper assumes exposure to an “unknown energy source,” which was never demonstrated. So much for evidence. The injury to brain networks was actually only seen in three individuals; most had normal findings. The white matter changes seen in those three are apparently common in conditions like depression, migraine, and even aging. The threshold the authors used to declare an impairment was, according to the editor of the journal Cortex,“unheard of in clinical practice or research,” leading to just about anybody qualifying as such. As for the University of Miami findings, there was little overlap in symptoms from one diplomat to another, and their asymptomatic housemates, who presumably had been exposed to the same agent, were bizarrely not tested as a control group. Reports had also emerged of some diplomats losing their hearing because of this incident, but it turned out that only two had experienced hearing impairment, which predated their deployment to Cuba.

And that mysterious sound thought to be the Frey effect? Some diplomats managed to record it from inside their house (proving that, at least in those instances, the sound existed outside of their head), and scientists identified the loud noise asthe song of lovelorn Indies short-tailed crickets. These crickets are known to experts to make quite the racket: you can hear them, one of them told The New York Times, “from inside a diesel truck going 40 miles an hour on the highway.” No wonder diplomats were stirred from their sleep and shaken by the loudness of this foreign sound, especially given the inherent stress of the situation they were in. Because the state of affairs they found themselves in was no picnic.

U.S.-Cuba relations have danced on a hair-trigger for decades. Bizarre assassination schemes were plotted, attempted, and abandoned by American agents to push Cuban president Fidel Castro out of the picture. These plans would hardly be believed if we saw them used in a movie, and some may have been fictional, intentionally leaked to distract from real machinations. One involved a poisoned cigar to create LSD-like symptoms so that Castro would make a spectacle of himself during a public speech. Another bet on his love of scuba diving to lead him to an exploding seashell. Meanwhile, atruly outlandish plan involved submarines firing projectiles designed for illumination to serve as a portent—perhaps the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—for the fall of the Communist regime, feeding into Cubans’ religious beliefs.

The Cuban intelligence community was also busy. They were harassing American diplomats by disrupting their sleep and deflating their tires. They would enter the diplomats’ homes, rearrange furniture, leave cigarette butts in ashtrays, and dump feces and urine on the floor. Family pets were poisoned. The psychological and physical stress of working at the U.S. embassy in Cuba was highlighted by a former official who worked there: “Cuba is considered a high-threat, high-stress post,” hetold ProPublica. Diplomats are briefed: “Assume they are always watching.” The anticipation of a threat is constant, and these diplomats are part of a tight community with an active rumour mill. The U.S. embassy in Cuba had reopened in July as part of Obama’s rapprochement with the country. When Havana syndrome first manifested itself, Castro had just died and Trump had been elected. The pressure cooker was ready to burst. If something strange were to happen to one U.S. diplomat in Cuba, it could easily lead to a cascade of similar events.

And that is where we arrive at a plausible though maddening explanation.

Horses, zebras, and giraffes

There is a saying in medicine that when you hear hoofbeats behind you, expect a horse, not a zebra. It’s routinely taught to remind medical students that exotic diagnoses are rare; common explanations for symptoms should be considered first. Yet the human brain has a tendency to latch onto zebras (or giraffes) when horses might do.

By , residents living in the vicinity of a zoo in Devonshire, England, had signed a petition accusing the giraffes’ enclosure at the zoo of making them sick. How? The year before, biologists had reported thatgiraffes occasionally communicate with each other via barely audible hums or low-frequency sound waves. An investigation at the zoo, however, revealed no source of noise. Even the giraffe keepers at the zoo said they had never heard those hums before. But neighbours were sure they could hear a hum and it was coming from the giraffe enclosure.

In , Ben Franklin invented a musical instrument made up of spinning glass discs called a glass armonica. Over the ensuing years, the instrument went from being perceived as a cure-all to being accused of provoking fainting spells, convulsions, even madness. Since then, new technologies like incandescent light bulbs and the telephone have inspired dread in some people. Reading under a light bulb would lead to blindness, went the rumour, and the strain of the telephone would surely cause excitability and giddiness in phone operators.

When constant stress leads to an obsessive anticipation of danger, the pressure cooker has to explode at some point. Common occurrences in life, like a sudden spell of persistent dizziness, can make us seek an external explanation. Something out there is making us sick. The anxiety itself can manifest in a multitude of physical ways. Social contagion spreads the syndrome to the members of our community.

These psychogenic effects—of the brain’s anxiety onto the rest of the body—are believedby a scientific board that reported to the State Department to have played an important role in explaining the diplomats’ injuries, and a medical sociologist and a neurologist wrote an entire book (summarized inthis Conversation article) on Havana syndrome that explains it asa mass psychogenic illness. To be abundantly clear, mass psychogenic illnesses are not psychiatric disorders. Affected individuals are not lying. They are healthy and sane, but a perceived trigger leads to illness.

Crickets, dizziness, constant suspicion, all examined by medical specialists falling prey to confirmation bias, leading to debilitating symptoms blamed on extravagant weaponry, and we end up with Havana syndrome. At least, that seems to be the most plausible theory right now. We will never know for sure what truly happened, since thorough baseline data on the affected individuals does not exist to check for changes, and since testimonies were often gathered much later after symptoms started, putting recollections at risk of recall bias.

We’ve blamed witches, demons, telephones, and giraffes for the aches and pains of everyday life. The Havana syndrome saga may yet be another episode of this blame game. I really feel for the people affected, especially since their personal health is being scrutinized and speculated about under the microscope of media coverage. But I don’t think we can rule out the snowball effect of nonspecific symptoms in a high-stress situation with an active rumour mill. These mass suggestion events have punctuated humanity’s long history. Microwave weapons? Not so much.

Note: Havana syndrome is a topic brimming with interesting leads and factoids, too many to cram into a single article. If you are interested in a deeper dive on the topic, I recommend a couple of sources. Theseven-episode season of the podcast Whatever Remains goes into David Bowie’s obsession with weaponized noise and a hustling reporter who might have been the first to suggest the term “sonic attack” in relation to Havana syndrome. Robert Baloh and Robert Bartholomew wrote a fantastic book calledHavana syndrome: Mass psychogenic illness and the real story behind the embassy mystery and hysteria, in which they contextualize the syndrome in a history of acoustical scares, PTSD, and unwarranted accusations of state terrorism.

Take-home message:
-Havana syndrome is the informal name given to a varied group of nonspecific symptoms experienced first by American diplomats in Havana, Cuba starting in , and later reported in other countries
-A number of possible explanations have been proposed over the years, from poisoning to exposure to insecticides to an attack using a sonic or microwave weapon
-The most likely explanation seems to be that Havana syndrome is a mass psychogenic illness, whereby naturally occurring symptoms like dizziness and headaches are interpreted as possible attacks due to a high-stress environment


@CrackedScience

Microwave weapons are targeting US officials at home and abroad

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Republican and Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers about who is responsible for what a growing consensus of experts believe are targeted attacks on U.S. diplomats and national security officials using pulse microwave energy that many now believe was used as a weapon to harm American citizens.

"In December of , I made which now is kind of the fateful trip to Moscow," explained Marc Polymeropolous, a 26 year veteran of the CIA, who was forced to retire as the CIA’s official for clandestine operations in Europe after suffering a mysterious traumatic brain injury and debilitating side effects following a trip to Moscow in

 

"I woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible case of vertigo, of tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. I was falling over. I was nauseated," Polymeropolous said in an interview with Fox News. "There was no mistake that something really, really terrifying happened that night in Moscow. I had been in Afghanistan. I spent time in Iraq. This was the most terrifying experience of my life." 

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The veteran CIA officer was staying at the Marriott Hotel near the US Embassy when he was attacked. His case resembles symptoms described by 40 US diplomats in Havana serving at the US Embassy and a dozen US diplomats serving in China who in began experiencing extreme vertigo and nausea, sometimes following a loud, piercing sound that experts now believe was the result of directed radiofrequency energy in the form of a microwave.

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Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, the top Republican and Democrats heading the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a stern statement acknowledging for the first time US officials had been "attacked," suggesting the attacks are ongoing and "increasing." Now two cases are being investigated on U.S. soil, including one that allegedly took place last year near the ellipse outside the White House and another that targeted a National Security Council official.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire has pressed the State Department and intelligence community for years about the alleged attacks on US diplomats.

In a heated exchange with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, she referenced open source reporting of the incident outside the White House. "One of the incidents described here happened on the ellipse in late And that's very close to the White House," Senator Shaheen said to Haines.  

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David Relman of Stanford led the National Academy of Sciences study requested by the State Department which until recently remained classified. The report concluded these US diplomats had been targeted by a pulsed radiofrequency.

"A form of microwave energy that we don't typically see in the world around us. It's not the continuous wave energy that comes out of our cell phones or out of our microwaves. It's not that," Relman explained. "It is a high energy, very short delivery of this microwave energy. It's a form that isn't common in the world around us, but is used, for example, by militaries for radar." 

The CIA’s Polymeropolous described the brain fog and loss of long-distance vision. "It became pretty clear that something pretty terrible happened."

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At first, he says, when he raised the issue with doctors at the CIA, few believed him. He says he is now getting more support from the new director of CIA, William Burns, who promised to help at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the Annual Threat Assessment hearing: "I said in my confirmation hearing before the Senate that I would make this a very high priority to ensure that my colleagues get the care that they deserve and that we get to the bottom of what caused these incidents and who was responsible. And, I've tried very hard in the three weeks now that I've been at CIA to demonstrate that commitment. I've visited Walter Reed and NIH to thank the wonderful professionals there for the support they've provided."

After facing frustrating bureaucracy for 3 years, Polymeropolous is finally getting treated at Walter Reed’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which specializes in traumatic brain injuries.

"There's conventional wisdom that this is a portable weapon, a microwave weapon that we knew the Soviet Union and the Russians certainly developed and tested for a long time. And it's designed to incapacitate. I mean, it's pretty insidious because it also doesn't leave any kind of open scars or wounds," Polymeropolous said.

"It's a terror weapon that I think the Russians, in my view, have employed. And they've done so to very good effect because it's caused a great deal of worry and fear among the US diplomatic community. 

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The majority of senior US government officials, including the intelligence community, believe it's the Russians," he said.       

Now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want answers from the CIA, State Department, Pentagon and FBI about who is responsible for these attacks that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee says are ongoing and increasing.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently confirmed he had received a classified briefing but would not divulge any details. "There’s some confidential things that we are not going to be talking about and that’s one of them," he said.  Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also confirmed the briefing. "I’m very concerned about a number of attacks that have been reported publicly, the American people deserve to know more about anything what’s happening covertly that is hostile to our personnel, whether it’s in this country or abroad," he said.

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and is based out of the Washington D.C. bureau. She joined the network in October as a Jerusalem-based correspondent.

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