Now that Lyddie England has copped a plea, the issue of how American troops treat their prisoners is back on page one, at least for a day.So maybe it's appropriate to revist an issue Defense Tech first examined almost 18 months ago: U.S. soldiers' use of Taser electrical weapons to put down unruly prisoners in Iraq.Since then, there have been momentary glances at how G.I.s policing Iraqi jails are using their stun guns and other non-lethal arms. But a new report from the UK's University of Bradford gives the most complete picture I've seen yet on how U.S. troops are employing these weapons. Click here to read an excerpt.
A military police Master Sergeant recently returned from Camp Bucca, now the main prison camp operated by the US military in Iraq, gave a presentation on the types of non-lethal weapons used there. He described a riot which occurred at Camp Bucca in January 2005, during which time prisoners had used slingshots to hurl rocks at troops. After the use of nonlethal weapons had failed to bring the situation under control, troops opened fire with lethal weapons killing four prisoners.The speaker said that non-lethal weapons are used in various situations including as a punishment tool if prisoners do not comply with the rules of the camp. The camp itself consists of a series of large compounds, each guarded by two 30-foot towers and a perimeter. Prisoners are housed in a series of 25 x 30 foot tents, each holding 25-30 people. The size of each compound and the height of the guard towers means that range is the main limiting factor to the utility of NLWs [non-lethal weapons] from the point of view of the military police. Weapons used at the camp include the 12-gauge shotgun with non-lethal munitions, OC [pepper spray] canisters, M203 grenade launcher with various munitions, X26 Taser, [and the non-lethal mine] Modular Crowd Control MunitionBoth small OC canisters and large OC foggers were used, OC being described as effective during the transfer and escort of prisoners. OC sprayers were also used for area denial to keep prisoners away from the perimeter fence, but effectiveness was dependent on the weather. If sprayed at a large crowd it was only be effective against the people at the front. Reportedly a water truck with hose was also used to spray prisoners and was deployed when temperatures got below freezing. The Modular Crowd Control Munition (MCCM), a variant of the claymore land mine but filled with rubber balls, was also used for perimeter security, although it could not be permanently deployed because the heat would melt the rubber balls inside. Wardens improvised by mounting the MCCM on the front of humvee vehicles from which they could be fired at groups of prisoners.Apparently the X26 Taser was used to maintain compliance during close detainee operations including escorting prisoners. Reportedly it was not as effective in winter because the barbs could not penetrate the additional clothing worn by prisoners. (Taser Inc. subsequently developed a longer barb version of the cartridge that overcame this problem)The speaker summarised that non-lethal weapons had been effective at conditioning a response, but that it was important from their point of view for the guards to use multiple weapons and rounds so that prisoners could not predict what was being used and employ countermeasures. The M203 grenade launcher had been most effective due to its long range and effectiveness at keeping people down for a significant amount of time. However, it appears that the M203 launcher was not available to military police during the riot (described above) when they resorted to lethal force. Apparently the policy with non-lethal munitions is to fire a point (individual) round first before using an area round to avoid affecting surrounding prisoners.THERE'S MORE: New Scientist takes a look at three next-gen non-lethal weapons programs funded by the Justice Department -- including "the first man-portable heat compliance weapon of its kind."AND MORE: "A man suspected of assaulting a police officer died Tuesday after being shocked multiple times with Taser stun guns during a struggle with police," according to the AP.AND MORE: The Globe and Mail is reporting that "A man who died in police custody after being shot three times by a taser didn't die from the device, Ontario's deputy chief coroner told an inquest yesterday."AND MORE: Either way, it's probably a good thing police aren't using this 110,000 Volt Taser Cannon! (via Gizmodo)