Air Force Wants Neuroweapons to Overwhelm Enemy Minds
By Noah Shachtman
November 2, 2010
It sounds like something a wild-eyed basement-dweller would come up with, after he complained about the fit of his tinfoil hat. But military bureaucrats really are asking scientists to help them “degrade enemy performance” by attacking the brain’s “chemical pathway[s].” Let the conspiracy theories begin.
Late last month, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing revamped a call for research proposals examining “Advances in Bioscience for Airmen Performance.” It’s a six-year, $49 million effort to deploy extreme neuroscience and biotechnology in the service of warfare.
One suggested research thrust is to use “external stimulant technology to enable the airman to maintain focus on aerospace tasks and to receive and process greater amounts of operationally relevant information.” (Something other than modafinil, I guess.) Another asks scientists to look into “fus[ing] multiple human sensing modalities” to develop the “capability for Special Operations Forces to rapidly identify human-borne threats.” No, this is not a page from The Men Who Stare at Goats.
But perhaps the oddest, and most disturbing, of the program’s many suggested directions is the one that notes: “Conversely, the chemical pathway area could include methods to degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm enemy cognitive capabilities.” That’s right: the Air Force wants a way to fry foes’ minds — or at least make ‘em a little dumber.
It’s the kind of official statement that’s seized on by anyone who is sure that the CIA planted a microchip in his head, or thinks that the Air Force is controlling minds with an antenna array in Alaska. The same could be said about the 711th’s call to “develo[p] technologies to anticipate, find, fix, track, identify, characterize human intent and physiological status anywhere and at anytime.”