US goes after bloggers for writing about imaginary laser weapon that could set insurgents’ clothes on fire

A number of journalists I know believe the Obama administration is the most secretive administration yet.

When I read news like this, I am inclined to believe them: the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is going after our pals at Danger Room, over a 5-year-old leak about a weapon that was never built.

"Federal agents are also chasing a leaker who gave Danger Room a document asking for a futuristic laser weapon that could set insurgents’ clothes on fire from nine miles away."

Total bullshit.


  1. That doesn’t sound that imaginary — that sounds an awful lot like reports I heard from ex-pat Panamanians about weapons used by the US during the invasion of Panama. These weapons needed to be a lot closer than 9 miles to be effective, but given the intervening timespan to do the R&D…

    Having expressed that little piece of paranoia, I don’t think NCIS has any right to go after journalists doing their job. 

    1. I always heard those were close range microwave based weapons, not laser in the conventional sense.  Of course from what I seen of IR lasers they would fit the bill as well.

      Besides who needs a weak laser that can only set your clothes on fire from 9 miles away?  Considering we have drone based weapons now it almost seems like a moot point.  Now a spaced based laser, well that’s a different story.

      1.  Seriously. Clothes on fire seems pretty insufficient compared to even just putting a bullet in someones head, let alone dropping a missile on them.

          1.  “They said ‘no purchase necessary, enter as often as you like’ so I did.”

            (Yeah, I know, not Val Kilmer… but Greenfeld was the best character in that movie, bar none)

  2. “A number of journalists I know believe the Obama administration is the most secretive administration yet.”
    Oh, you know…
    Bradley Manning’s rotting in a jail cell for spilling harmless diplomatic chitchat…
    DEA FOIA rejections are up over 114% since Bush left office…
    Secret treaties and legislation are being negotiated and rammed through with zero notice and chance for review…
    Homeland Security is able to prosecute you for even mentioning that you are being targeted for investigation…
    The president has a secret kill list (that includes American citizens) which is under no scrutiny by any other branch of our govt…
    We’re rolling out drone warfare to countries not even at war with us, as well as our home borders…

    But, nope, nothing to see here. In spite of all this proof, he’s the guy who ran on “100% transparency” and “doing things different” in Washington.  Unfortunately in this case, “different” meant “worse”, not “better”.

        1. He’s head of PR; damage reduction for the corporations really pulling the political strings.

    1.  This is what happens when the anti-war movement, as well as coverage of it in the media, and its support in the legislature, drops off to cricket-chirp level on or about 20 January 2009.

      But not to worry!!! If Romney’s elected, it’ll be back, champin’ at the bit for action.

  3. This is directed at no one on particular;

    If you don’t vote for Obama despite his suspect record about issues we can only guess about, then you are a tool, a fool, and a victim of your own over-weaning skepticism. Politics is not about you, OK?

    1. Bradley Manning should vote for Obama, and stop being a victim of his own over-weaning skepticism.

      “his suspect record about issues we can only guess about”
      You are not reading or listening to enough news if you think Obama’s war crimes and violations of the Constitution are things that we can only guess about. They’re in plain sight for everyone to see. This is not to say that we should vote for the other guy. Maybe if people seriously pressed for this president to be jailed for war crimes (for the rule of law to be upheld, like Republicans and Dems sometimes argue when it benefits their team), it would put a little fright into future presidents of either stripe. We shouldn’t forgive Obama just because his stated policies are probably less criminal than what his opponent might do.

  4. Why is it so hard to believe that the government wants a laser heat gun? 
    They already have a  Microwave Crowd Control Weapon:

    I presume a laser heat gun would be perfectly wedded to the thousands of drones scheduled to patrol the US. Giving hotfoots to unsuspecting schmoes would give much yuk-yuks to the remote pilots.

    1. It sure beats slug-flinging weapons on a drone. But, you know who benefits from small and cheap drone weapons? Someone who can’t afford unmanned drones the size of airplanes. You know who can afford unmanned drones the size of airplanes? The US military. You know who can’t? Everyone else’s military.

  5. I mean it’s kind of a dicey thing to say, but what’s so bad about a very pinpoint weapon that can take out a single person?  As opposed to say, dropping a bomb on them (and a lot of other people).   Cut down that collateral damage to an absolute minimum.


    1. First, weapons that are designed to kill, torture and maim fewer people never seem to end up doing that.

      Second, you might be an insurgent some day, unless you’re utterly devoid of morals. Would you like to be set on fire because some 22 year-old operating a remote drone doesn’t like the way that you look?

      1. To your second point – I would rather sacrifice my body hair and be set on fire by a precise laser than have that 22-year-old send bombs/missiles or massive amounts of machine gun fire my way, killing not only me but everyone around me. I know you like hairy dudes but hey, it might grow back.

        1. This whole line of thinking seems a bit off the topic of how dangerously secretive our government has become, but I’ll bite. 

          Sure, it would be nice not to kill a whole bucketful of innocent people when you just need to kill one dude.  Problem is, the threshold for pulling that trigger gets much lower, I would think, when there is no collateral damage (and consequently less political fallout).  I don’t think that lowering the perceived costs of government-sanctioned assassination (even more) is good for anyone. 

          1. I know, just picking nits so I could make a joke about hairy dudes :)

            Unfortunately, I don’t see an immediate future where these sorts of remote strikes are completely off the table – which of course would be my preference. 

            So given that these strikes will continue to take place, I suddenly find it possible to put up a defense for more accurate strike capability. Even if the threshold for making strikes is dramatically lowered, as undoubtedly it would be, because it steal beats indiscriminately killing women and children and innocent bystanders.

            Makes me feel dirty all over to make that argument, but, there you go. Given the reality of the situation it’s the lesser of two evils. As in many cases, the choice should be “no evil” but good luck with that, in the US anyway.

          2. When the lesser of two evils involves setting people on fire, the principle no longer applies.

          3. Good point, it’s like the thing that happens when cops get tasers or “less-lethal” weapons. Suddenly they figure the threshold is lower for using the taser, because it has a lower chance of killing a person than a gun, so they start using the taser instead of talking someone out of a bad situation. It causes new kinds of problems, especially when the less lethal weapons are still sometimes lethal.

      2.  Obviously, Obama has learned that just killing suspected terrists carries much less political baggage than making decisions about where to jail and try them if captured.

        Remember when Gitmo was a subject of outrage to Democrats?  It seems much longer ago than it actually is.

  6. To the US administration – In general I do not approve of your actions but for the love of all things pixelly: HIRE ME TO DO YOUR MOCKUPS BECAUSE THE CURRENT ONES SUCK SHIT. Plus: Courier New… really? Do the three letter acronym groups think it looks “spyish” or something?

  7. They’d have to watch out for collateral damage if that laser hit a particularly “gassy” insurgent.

    Obama’s post-election turnabouts on government secrecy, the war on drugs, etc, makes the paranoid part of me wonder if there is more behind the story than just empty campaign promises which were never meant to be kept.  Could it be that when a new President is elected, he gets visited by various agency heads, Pentagon brass, Industry leaders and the like, who tell him basically, “Yeah, we know what platform you ran on, now here’s the way it is going to be.”

    1.  I think it’s more of a case where to get to that position in your political career, you need to be  immoral, venal, and full of prevarication.

    2. Go back through the copious photos of Obama shortly after he was elected. I recall noticing a distinct change a few weeks later. At the time I assumed that was when he had been given The Talk.

    3.  I think “This is whatcho gonna do, capice?” might be a bit much… but “Here’s all the crap you never got to hear about. Here’s all the irons we have in the fire you never dreamed about. Here’s what we’re really up to. Oh, and here’s what our latest study thinks the voting public will do if they hear about it.”

      How any given person will react to being told they’re suddenly in charge of a raging clusterfuck of a more disastrous scale than they ever dreamed of is hard to predict.

  8. True info: some genius wants to put a HEL into the next-gen fighter and, yes, use it to burn human beings (not just their clothes).    Good luck w/ that targeting accuracy.
    Posted anonymously even tho’ this is all in the open, for obvious reasons. 

  9. I’ll guess that the issue was not that the information was especially sensitive, but that the document came from somewhere it wasn’t supposed to come from.

    As for igniting clothing with a laser from 9 miles away, I think that’s possible- but not with hardware that a small aircraft can carry. Aiming is one technical issue, beam focusing is another,  “flight weight” power supplies are another.

    Imaginary? Yes- but probably not forever.

Comments are closed.