I've been meaning to write for weeks about the Army's new, remotely-operated mine system. Defense Tech pal (and Project on Government Oversight investigator) Nick Schwellenbach finally decided to save me the trouble. Here's his rundown...spider.jpgUsing laptops, US soldiers will soon be able to remotely whack enemies approaching their bases with radio-controlled mines, according to the AP on Monday [via Schneier on Security].Sound familiar? It should. Iraqi insurgents have been using a similar tactic with improvised explosive devices that are activated with garage dooropeners.Human Rights Watch has pooh-poohed the system, called 'Matrix' (not to be confused with the movie or the multi-state data-mining exchange), an off-shoot of the 'Spider' smart mine program. "[W]e're putting a 19-year-old soldier in the position of pushing a button when a blip shows up on a computer screen,'" said HRW's senior researcher Mark Hiznay. [Doesn't the Army have 19 year-olds pulling triggers all the time? ed.]Bruce Schneier doesn't think this is a bad thing, "With conventional landmines, the man is out of the loop as soon as he lays the mine. Even a 19-year-old seeing a blip on a computer screen is better than a completely automatic system."Yet, two problems stick out. Could accidental radio interference or clever insurgents trigger the mines? And it might be a bit of a "brain teaser" figuring out which mine to trigger if, say, "you've got 500 of these mines out there [and] the clock's ticking," according to John Pike of Nick SchwellenbachTHERE'S MORE: "Can't get enough of mines?" Nick asks. "Check out Defense Tech's coverage of mines that move and communicate with each other to inflict 'maximum harm' and on temporary mines that stop working within 'hours or days' to reduce their long-term danger.

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