2005 09 28
Timothy L. Thomas | Carlisle-www.army.mil
From Parameters, Spring 1998, pp. 84-92.
"It is completely clear that the state which is first to create
such weapons will achieve incomparable superiority." -- Major I. Chernishev,
The human body, much like a computer, contains
myriad data processors. They include, but are not limited to, the chemical-electrical
activity of the brain, heart, and peripheral nervous system, the signals
sent from the cortex region of the brain to other parts of our body, the
tiny hair cells in the inner ear that process auditory signals, and the
light-sensitive retina and cornea of the eye that process visual activity.
We are on the threshold of an era in which these data processors of the
human body may be manipulated or debilitated. Examples of unplanned attacks
on the body's data-processing capability are well-documented. Strobe lights
have been known to cause epileptic seizures. Not long ago in Japan, children
watching television cartoons were subjected to pulsating lights that caused
seizures in some and made others very sick.
Defending friendly and targeting adversary data-processing capabilities
of the body appears to be an area of weakness in the US approach to information
warfare theory, a theory oriented heavily toward systems data-processing
and designed to attain information dominance on the battlefield. Or so
it would appear from information in the open, unclassified press. This
US shortcoming may be a serious one, since the capabilities to alter the
data- processing systems of the body already exist. A recent edition of
U.S. News and World Report highlighted several of these "wonder
weapons" (acoustics, microwaves, lasers) and noted that scientists
are "searching the electromagnetic and sonic spectrums for wavelengths
that can affect human behavior." A recent Russian military article
offered a slightly different slant to the problem, declaring that "humanity
stands on the brink of a psychotronic war" with the mind and body
as the focus. That article discussed Russian and international attempts
to control the psycho-physical condition of man and his decisionmaking
processes by the use of VHF-generators, "noiseless cassettes,"
and other technologies.
An entirely new arsenal of weapons, based on devices designed to introduce
subliminal messages or to alter the body's psychological and data-processing
capabilities, might be used to incapacitate individuals. These weapons
aim to control or alter the psyche, or to attack the various sensory and
data-processing systems of the human organism. In both cases, the goal
is to confuse or destroy the signals that normally keep the body in equilibrium.
This article examines energy-based weapons, psychotronic weapons, and
other developments designed to alter the ability of the human body to process
stimuli. One consequence of this assessment is that the way we commonly
use the term "information warfare" falls short when the individual
soldier, not his equipment, becomes the target of attack.
Information Warfare Theory and the Data-Processing Element of Humans
In the United States the common conception of information warfare focuses
primarily on the capabilities of hardware systems such as computers, satellites,
and military equipment which process data in its various forms. According
to Department of Defense Directive S-3600.1 of 9 December 1996, information
warfare is defined as "an information operation conducted during time
of crisis or conflict to achieve or promote specific objectives over a
specific adversary or adversaries." An information operation is defined
in the same directive as "actions taken to affect adversary information
and information systems while defending one's own information and information
systems." These "information systems" lie at the heart of
the modernization effort of the US armed forces and other countries, and
manifest themselves as hardware, software, communications capabilities,
and highly trained individuals. Recently, the US Army conducted a mock
battle that tested these systems under simulated combat conditions.
US Army Field Manual 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Graphics
(released 30 September 1997), defines information warfare as "actions
taken to achieve information superiority by affecting a hostile's information,
information based-processes, and information systems, while defending one's
own information, information processes, and information systems."
The same manual defines information operations as a "continuous military
operation within the military information environment that enables, enhances,
and protects friendly forces' ability to collect, process, and act on information
to achieve an advantage across the full range of military operations. [Information
operations include] interacting with the Global Information Environment
. . . and exploiting or denying an adversary's information and decision
This "systems" approach to the study of information warfare
emphasizes the use of data, referred to as information, to penetrate an
adversary's physical defenses that protect data (information) in order
to obtain operational or strategic advantage. It has tended to ignore the
role of the human body as an information- or data-processor in this quest
for dominance except in those cases where an individual's logic or rational
thought may be upset via disinformation or deception. As a consequence
little attention is directed toward protecting the mind and body with a
firewall as we have done with hardware systems. Nor have any techniques
for doing so been prescribed. Yet the body is capable not only of being
deceived, manipulated, or misinformed but also shut down or destroyed--just
as any other data-processing system. The "data" the body receives
from external sources--such as electromagnetic, vortex, or acoustic energy
waves--or creates through its own electrical or chemical stimuli can be
manipulated or changed just as the data (information) in any hardware system
can be altered.
The only body-related information warfare element considered by the
United States is psychological operations (PSYOP). In Joint Publication
3-13.1, for example, PSYOP is listed as one of the elements of command
and control warfare. The publication notes that "the ultimate target
of [information warfare] is the information dependent process, whether
human or automated . . . . Command and control warfare (C2W) is an application
of information warfare in military operations. . . . C2W is the integrated
use of PSYOP, military deception, operations security, electronic warfare
and physical destruction."
One source defines information as a "nonaccidental signal used
as an input to a computer or communications system." The human
body is a complex communication system constantly receiving nonaccidental
and accidental signal inputs, both external and internal. If the ultimate
target of information warfare is the information-dependent process, "whether
human or automated," then the definition in the joint publication
implies that human data-processing of internal and external signals can
clearly be considered an aspect of information warfare. Foreign researchers
have noted the link between humans as data processors and the conduct of
information warfare. While some study only the PSYOP link, others go beyond
it. As an example of the former, one recent Russian article described offensive
information warfare as designed to "use the Internet channels for
the purpose of organizing PSYOP as well as for `early political warning'
of threats to American interests." The author's assertion was based
on the fact that "all mass media are used for PSYOP . . . [and] today
this must include the Internet." The author asserted that the Pentagon
wanted to use the Internet to "reinforce psychological influences"
during special operations conducted outside of US borders to enlist sympathizers,
who would accomplish many of the tasks previously entrusted to special
units of the US armed forces.
Others, however, look beyond simple PSYOP ties to consider other aspects
of the body's data-processing capability. One of the principal open source
researchers on the relationship of information warfare to the body's data-processing
capability is Russian Dr. Victor Solntsev of the Baumann Technical Institute
in Moscow. Solntsev is a young, well-intentioned researcher striving to
point out to the world the potential dangers of the computer operator interface.
Supported by a network of institutes and academies, Solntsev has produced
some interesting concepts. He insists that man must be viewed as an
open system instead of simply as an organism or closed system. As an open
system, man communicates with his environment through information flows
and communications media. One's physical environment, whether through electromagnetic,
gravitational, acoustic, or other effects, can cause a change in the psycho-physiological
condition of an organism, in Solntsev's opinion. Change of this sort could
directly affect the mental state and consciousness of a computer operator.
This would not be electronic war or information warfare in the traditional
sense, but rather in a nontraditional and non-US sense. It might encompass,
for example, a computer modified to become a weapon by using its energy
output to emit acoustics that debilitate the operator. It also might encompass,
as indicated below, futuristic weapons aimed against man's "open system."
Solntsev also examined the problem of "information noise,"
which creates a dense shield between a person and external reality. This
noise may manifest itself in the form of signals, messages, images, or
other items of information. The main target of this noise would be the
consciousness of a person or a group of people. Behavior modification could
be one objective of information noise; another could be to upset an individual's
mental capacity to such an extent as to prevent reaction to any stimulus.
Solntsev concludes that all levels of a person's psyche (subconscious,
conscious, and "superconscious") are potential targets for destabilization.
According to Solntsev, one computer virus capable of affecting a person's
psyche is Russian Virus 666. It manifests itself in every 25th frame of
a visual display, where it produces a combination of colors that allegedly
put computer operators into a trance. The subconscious perception of the
new pattern eventually results in arrhythmia of the heart. Other Russian
computer specialists, not just Solntsev, talk openly about this "25th
frame effect" and its ability to subtly manage a computer user's perceptions.
The purpose of this technique is to inject a thought into the viewer's
subconscious. It may remind some of the subliminal advertising controversy
in the United States in the late 1950s.
US Views on "Wonder Weapons": Altering the Data-Processing
Ability of the Body
What technologies have been examined by the United States that possess
the potential to disrupt the data-processing capabilities of the human
organism? The 7 July 1997 issue of U.S. News and World Report described
several of them designed, among other things, to vibrate the insides of
humans, stun or nauseate them, put them to sleep, heat them up, or knock
them down with a shock wave. The technologies include dazzling lasers
that can force the pupils to close; acoustic or sonic frequencies that
cause the hair cells in the inner ear to vibrate and cause motion sickness,
vertigo, and nausea, or frequencies that resonate the internal organs causing
pain and spasms; and shock waves with the potential to knock down humans
or airplanes and which can be mixed with pepper spray or chemicals.
With modification, these technological applications can have many uses.
Acoustic weapons, for example, could be adapted for use as acoustic rifles
or as acoustic fields that, once established, might protect facilities,
assist in hostage rescues, control riots, or clear paths for convoys. These
waves, which can penetrate buildings, offer a host of opportunities for
military and law enforcement officials. Microwave weapons, by stimulating
the peripheral nervous system, can heat up the body, induce epileptic-like
seizures, or cause cardiac arrest. Low-frequency radiation affects the
electrical activity of the brain and can cause flu-like symptoms and nausea.
Other projects sought to induce or prevent sleep, or to affect the signal
from the motor cortex portion of the brain, overriding voluntary muscle
movements. The latter are referred to as pulse wave weapons, and the Russian
government has reportedly bought over 100,000 copies of the "Black
Widow" version of them.
However, this view of "wonder weapons" was contested by someone
who should understand them. Brigadier General Larry Dodgen, Deputy Assistant
to the Secretary of Defense for Policy and Missions, wrote a letter to
the editor about the "numerous inaccuracies" in the U.S. News
and World Report article that "misrepresent the Department of
Defense's views." Dodgen's primary complaint seemed to have been
that the magazine misrepresented the use of these technologies and their
value to the armed forces. He also underscored the US intent to work within
the scope of any international treaty concerning their application, as
well as plans to abandon (or at least redesign) any weapon for which countermeasures
are known. One is left with the feeling, however, that research in this
area is intense. A concern not mentioned by Dodgen is that other countries
or non-state actors may not be bound by the same constraints. It is hard
to imagine someone with a greater desire than terrorists to get their hands
on these technologies. "Psycho-terrorism" could be the next buzzword.
Russian Views on "Psychotronic War"
The term "psycho-terrorism" was coined by Russian writer N.
Anisimov of the Moscow Anti-Psychotronic Center. According to Anisimov,
psychotronic weapons are those that act to "take away a part of the
information which is stored in a man's brain. It is sent to a computer,
which reworks it to the level needed for those who need to control the
man, and the modified information is then reinserted into the brain."
These weapons are used against the mind to induce hallucinations, sickness,
mutations in human cells, "zombification," or even death. Included
in the arsenal are VHF generators, X-rays, ultrasound, and radio waves.
Russian army Major I. Chernishev, writing in the military journal Orienteer
in February 1997, asserted that "psy" weapons are under development
all over the globe. Specific types of weapons noted by Chernishev (not
all of which have prototypes) were:
* A psychotronic generator, which produces a powerful electromagnetic
emanation capable of being sent through telephone lines, TV, radio networks,
supply pipes, and incandescent lamps.
* An autonomous generator, a device that operates in the 10-150 Hertz
band, which at the 10-20 Hertz band forms an infrasonic oscillation that
is destructive to all living creatures.
* A nervous system generator, designed to paralyze the central nervous
systems of insects, which could have the same applicability to humans.
* Ultrasound emanations, which one institute claims to have developed.
Devices using ultrasound emanations are supposedly capable of carrying
out bloodless internal operations without leaving a mark on the skin. They
can also, according to Chernishev, be used to kill.
* Noiseless cassettes. Chernishev claims that the Japanese have developed
the ability to place infra-low frequency voice patterns over music, patterns
that are detected by the subconscious. Russians claim to be using similar
"bombardments" with computer programming to treat alcoholism
* The 25th-frame effect, alluded to above, a technique wherein each 25th
frame of a movie reel or film footage contains a message that is picked
up by the subconscious. This technique, if it works, could possibly be
used to curb smoking and alcoholism, but it has wider, more sinister applications
if used on a TV audience or a computer operator.
* Psychotropics, defined as medical preparations used to induce a trance,
euphoria, or depression. Referred to as "slow-acting mines,"
they could be slipped into the food of a politician or into the water supply
of an entire city. Symptoms include headaches, noises, voices or commands
in the brain, dizziness, pain in the abdominal cavities, cardiac arrhythmia,
or even the destruction of the cardiovascular system.
There is confirmation from US researchers that this type of study is
going on. Dr. Janet Morris, coauthor of The Warrior's Edge, reportedly
went to the Moscow Institute of Psychocorrelations in 1991. There she was
shown a technique pioneered by the Russian Department of Psycho-Correction
at Moscow Medical Academy in which researchers electronically analyze the
human mind in order to influence it. They input subliminal command messages,
using key words transmitted in "white noise" or music. Using
an infra-sound, very low frequency transmission, the acoustic psycho-correction
message is transmitted via bone conduction.
In summary, Chernishev noted that some of the militarily significant
aspects of the "psy" weaponry deserve closer research, including
the following nontraditional methods for disrupting the psyche of an individual:
* ESP research: determining the properties and condition of objects without
ever making contact with them and "reading" peoples' thoughts
* Clairvoyance research: observing objects that are located just beyond
the world of the visible--used for intelligence purposes
* Telepathy research: transmitting thoughts over a distance--used for
* Telekinesis research: actions involving the manipulation of physical
objects using thought power, causing them to move or break apart--used
against command and control systems, or to disrupt the functioning of weapons
of mass destruction
* Psychokinesis research: interfering with the thoughts of individuals,
on either the strategic or tactical level
While many US scientists undoubtedly question this research, it receives
strong support in Moscow. The point to underscore is that individuals in
Russia (and other countries as well) believe these means can be used to
attack or steal from the data-processing unit of the human body.
Solntsev's research, mentioned above, differs slightly from that of
Chernishev. For example, Solntsev is more interested in hardware capabilities,
specifically the study of the information-energy source associated with
the computer-operator interface. He stresses that if these energy sources
can be captured and integrated into the modern computer, the result will
be a network worth more than "a simple sum of its components."
Other researchers are studying high-frequency generators (those designed
to stun the psyche with high frequency waves such as electromagnetic, acoustic,
and gravitational); the manipulation or reconstruction of someone's thinking
through planned measures such as reflexive control processes; the use of
psychotronics, parapsychology, bioenergy, bio fields, and psychoenergy;
and unspecified "special operations" or anti-ESP training.
The last item is of particular interest. According to a Russian TV broadcast,
the strategic rocket forces have begun anti-ESP training to ensure that
no outside force can take over command and control functions of the force.
That is, they are trying to construct a firewall around the heads of the
At the end of July 1997, planners for Joint Warrior Interoperability
Demonstration '97 "focused on technologies that enhance real-time
collaborative planning in a multinational task force of the type used in
Bosnia and in Operation Desert Storm. The JWID '97 network, called the
Coalition Wide-Area Network (CWAN), is the first military network that
allows allied nations to participate as full and equal partners."
The demonstration in effect was a trade fair for private companies to demonstrate
their goods; defense ministries got to decide where and how to spend their
money wiser, in many cases without incurring the cost of prototypes. It
is a good example of doing business better with less. Technologies demonstrated
* Soldiers using laptop computers to drag cross-hairs over maps to call
* Soldiers carrying beepers and mobile phones rather than guns
* Generals tracking movements of every unit, counting the precise number
of shells fired around the globe, and inspecting real-time damage inflicted
on an enemy, all with multicolored graphics
Every account of this exercise emphasized the ability of systems to
process data and provide information feedback via the power invested in
their microprocessors. The ability to affect or defend the data-processing
capability of the human operators of these systems was never mentioned
during the exercise; it has received only slight attention during countless
exercises over the past several years. The time has come to ask why we
appear to be ignoring the operators of our systems. Clearly the information
operator, exposed before a vast array of potentially immobilizing weapons,
is the weak spot in any nation's military assets. There are few international
agreements protecting the individual soldier, and these rely on the good
will of the combatants. Some nations, and terrorists of every stripe, don't
care about such agreements.
This article has used the term data-processing to demonstrate its importance
to ascertaining what so-called information warfare and information operations
are all about. Data-processing is the action this nation and others need
to protect. Information is nothing more than the output of this activity.
As a result, the emphasis on information-related warfare terminology ("information
dominance," "information carousel") that has proliferated
for a decade does not seem to fit the situation before us. In some cases
the battle to affect or protect data-processing elements pits one mechanical
system against another. In other cases, mechanical systems may be confronted
by the human organism, or vice versa, since humans can usually shut down
any mechanical system with the flip of a switch. In reality, the game is
about protecting or affecting signals, waves, and impulses that can influence
the data-processing elements of systems, computers, or people. We are potentially
the biggest victims of information warfare, because we have neglected to
Our obsession with a "system of systems," "information
dominance," and other such terminology is most likely a leading cause
of our neglect of the human factor in our theories of information warfare.
It is time to change our terminology and our conceptual paradigm. Our terminology
is confusing us and sending us in directions that deal primarily with the
hardware, software, and communications components of the data-processing
spectrum. We need to spend more time researching how to protect the humans
in our data management structures. Nothing in those structures can be sustained
if our operators have been debilitated by potential adversaries or terrorists
who--right now--may be designing the means to disrupt the human component
of our carefully constructed notion of a system of systems.
1. I. Chernishev, "Can Rulers Make `Zombies' and Control the World?"
Orienteer, February 1997, pp. 58-62.
2. Douglas Pasternak, "Wonder Weapons," U.S. News and World
Report, 7 July 1997, pp. 38-46.
3. Ibid., p. 38.
4. FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Graphics, 30 September 1997,
5. Joint Pub 3-13.1, Joint Doctrine for Command and Control Warfare
(C2W), 7 February 1996, p. v.
6. The American Heritage Dictionary (2d College Ed.; Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1982), p. 660, definition 4.
7. Denis Snezhnyy, "Cybernetic Battlefield & National Security,"
Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, No. 10, 15-21 March 1997, p.
8. Victor I. Solntsev, "Information War and Some Aspects of a Computer
Operator's Defense," talk given at an Infowar Conference in Washington,
D.C., September 1996, sponsored by the National Computer Security Association.
Information in this section is based on notes from Dr. Solntsev's talk.
9. Pasternak, p. 40.
10. Ibid., pp. 40-46.
12. Larry Dodgen, "Nonlethal Weapons," U.S. News and World
Report, 4 August 1997, p. 5.
13. "Background on the Aviary," Nexus Magazine, downloaded
from the Internet on 13 July 1997 from www.execpc.com/vjentpr/nexusavi.html,
14. Aleksandr Cherkasov, "The Front Where Shots Aren't Fired,"
Orienteer, May 1995, p. 45. This article was based on information
in the foreign and Russian press, according to the author, making it impossible
to pinpoint what his source was for this reference.
15. Bob Brewin, "DOD looks for IT `golden nuggets,'" Federal
Computer Week, 28 July 1997, p. 31, as taken from the Earlybird Supplement,
4 August 1997, p. B 17.
16. Oliver August, "Zap! Hard day at the office for NATO's laptop
warriors," The Times, 28 July 1997, as taken from the Earlybird
Supplement, 4 August 1997, p. B 16.
Lieutenant Colonel Timothy L. Thomas (USA Ret.) is an analyst at the
Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Recently he
has written extensively on the Russian view of information operations and
on current Russian military-political issues. During his military career
he served in the 82d Airborne Division and was the Department Head of Soviet
Military-Political Affairs at the US Army's Russian Institute in Garmisch,
Article from: http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/98spring/thomas.htm
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