Weapons of the Future

Fearsome Weapons of Future Wars

Source: 20/20 Wednesday February 10, 1999

(This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.)

SAM DONALDSON, ABCNEWS Good evening, and welcome to 20/20 Wednesday. Tonight, weíre going to take you to a future already here. Weíll show you strange and astonishing weapons that have already been used against American soldiers and the police in other countries. In fact, because of these weapons, some people believe some day in the future we may face a kind of electronic Pearl Harbor, as you discovered, Diane.

DIANE SAWYER, ABCNEWS That is exactly the phrase you hear people using. Because what weíve been investigating tonight is so new and so exotic, much of it remains secret military information. But tonight, some experts and a naval intelligence officer have decided to go public for a simple reason, they say. Itís time to face the facts. (VO=voice over) It starts when the lights go out. Next, the phones go dead. Misrouted trains collide. Air traffic control screens go blank. Cars mysteriously come to a dead halt. And in not one instance is the cause visible to the naked eye. Welcome to the brave new world of directed energy warfare. Itís already begun to claim victims. Just ask Jack Daly (ph), who says heís a casualty of a particularly terrifying new technology.

JACK DALY, NAVAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER The doctor at the emergency room told me, "I donít know what you have. Iíve never seen anything like this before."

DIANE SAWYER (VO) It happened two years ago. Daly, a naval intelligence officer, was sent out onboard a helicopter to photograph a Russian ship called the Kapitan Man, which he says was monitoring US submarines off Washington state. (on camera) So you have suspicion that this is a Russian spy ship?




DIANE SAWYER (VO) Daly takes 30 surveillance photos. He and his pilot fly back toward home. They were on the ground when both feel their eyes throbbing, their vision blurred, horrible headaches. But why? It was a mystery until Dalyís photos were developed. (on camera) Do you recognize this?

JACK DALY Yes, I do.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Itís one of his surveillance pictures, frame 16. Look closely. Look closer still. That red dot below the bridge.

JACK DALY This may be the first time that a laser was actually ever photographed during routine operations.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) And medical exams showed Dalyís eyes had been burned, and the lesions were consistent with laser exposure. Weíre not talking about those little pointers kids use, but a blinding laser, much more powerful, that can be used for pin-point attacks from hundreds of feet away. (on camera) Tell me what it was like and is like to look out your eyes.

JACK DALY They always hurt. Iíve been in constant pain since the 4th of April í97, without a momentís relief.

DIANE SAWYER Constant pain?

JACK DALY Constant pain.


JACK DALY I get these surges of pain that can be anything from being jabbed in the eye with an ice pick to being hit in the face with a baseball bat.


JACK DALY Both eyes.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) And itís not just Daly. The pilot of his helicopter also suffered eye damage. And no one knows the long-term effects. Daly fears heíll go blind. (on camera) You really seem to be saying that this is the dawn of a new weapons era, and everybody better wake up.

JACK DALY Well, this particular weapon has indiscriminate effects. Thereís no gaping hole in the back of my head. There was no blood gushing out of the front of my face when this incident happened. If itís a new device, if itís a new type of laser, we may not know anything about that.

DIANE SAWYER And lasers that can blind people are just the beginning. Tonight, we are going to tell you about a wide range of weapons that donít use bullets, but beams of electromagnetic energy at different frequencies. (VO) Each different kind of energy is defined by different frequencies. Lasers are short waves at high frequencies. At their highest levels, they are so hot they can burn through metal.


DIANE SAWYER (VO) The US military wants to use them to shoot down enemy missiles, though in the wrong hands, these lasers could slice open an aircraft when itís flying in the sky. And lasers arenít the only kind of energy that can do serious damage. Radio waves and microwaves are long waves at lower frequency. But theyíre perfect for penetrating computers and disrupting the circuitry without exterior damage to the machine. You could concentrate them on a computer and set a fire inside, and no one would know how it happened.

DAVID SCHRINER (PH), RETIRED NAVY ENGINEER I think we have a problem, and I think we may have a very, very big problem.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Until recently it was thought any kind of radio frequency - or RF - weapon would have to be large, expensive and sophisticated. But David Schriner, a retired Navy engineer advising the military, says that idea is wrong.

DAVID SCHRINER Iím trying to do things just like a terrorist would.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) So Schriner gathered components available in places like salvage yards and hardware stores and catalogs. He says for a tinkerer who knows engineering, RF weapons are not hard to create or expensive. He used these components to build a machine which is a kind of direct-energy Uzi. He says he can take out not just computers but whole computerized systems.

DAVID SCHRINER I can build the things here. I can design them here. But when it comes down to the turning them on, we have to go to a safe and legal place to do that.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) He takes us far away from people and towns and highways, to the China Lake Navy desert test range north of Los Angeles. We decided to test his device on a lot of things we use every day. Schriner wonít let us reveal exactly whatís in the machine. Thatís classified. Though it doesnít have the look of a high-tech weapon. (on camera) You know, this is not a beautiful thing. I donít want to hurt your feelings, but itís not.

DAVID SCHRINER Itís rather crudely made. You know, we just kind of used whatever we had in my lab to build it.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) But will it work? We take precautions with our cables and computerized cameras by enclosing them in copper shielding. Schriner and his assistant use copper mesh masks to protect their eyes and face.

DAVID SCHRINER Ray one is ready for testing.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) The first target, two computers. The objective - to crash them.


DIANE SAWYER (VO) Every short burst has the energy of 100 radio stations, a million watts. Watch the computer on the left. In just three seconds, it crashes. And a few seconds later, so does the other one.

DAVID SCHRINER We had a system kill.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Next target? An IV pump, provided by Dr Larry Cosner (ph) from the local hospital.

DR LARRY COSNER (?) Someone with the power to stop this suddenly or make it work wrong suddenly would have the power to devastate a medical facility.

DAVID SCHRINER High voltage going hot.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) The effect is almost instantaneous.

DAVID SCHRINER Yeah, boy, it sure did kill it.

DR LARRY COSNER It stopped it dead, and it totally reset all the delivery indicators.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) But if you wanted to cause havoc in a large city, imagine someone out of view able to shut down cars.

DAVID SCHRINER I have a shutdown.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) And it happened not once, but every time he fired. The computerized engine in this car started to stall.

DAVID SCHRINER Very erratic operation. You can hear the jiggling and burning.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) And he doesnít have to be this close.


DIANE SAWYER (VO) Weíre told there are other devices that work from thousands of feet away.

DAVID SCHRINER I have a kill.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Virtually any car with a computer-controlled engine is vulnerable. Since Schriner supplied that car, we asked him to test one of our choice. (on camera) All right, so just in case thereís any chance you think some of this could have been rigged with his car, letís see what happens with this one.

DAVID SCHRINER Thereís a definite effect. Itís dropped the rpm way low, and itís intermittently chugging.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Watch the tachometer. Schrinerís device gives the car an electronic nervous breakdown. It sets off the car alarm.

DAVID SCHRINER Something bad happened.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) It makes the doors lock and unlock and twice kills the engine dead.

DAVID SCHRINER I have a shutdown. I know that I could put some of this stuff into a little briefcase and go up to a airlines counter or to a bank counter and probably take down their computer. I know I could do that. I havenít done it yet, but Iím confident that I could do that.

DIANE SAWYER (on camera) We keep reading that the Russians are very far ahead on this. What do you think?

DAVID SCHRINER Well, for years weíve been noting that they have been probably ahead of us on building high-powered microwave devices.

VICTOR SHEYMOV (PH), FORMER KGB COMMUNICATIONS SECURITY EXPERT Russians certainly do have that technology and highly developed technology. The KBG had it.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) This is Victor Sheymov, a Soviet defector. His job - communications security for the KBG. He told us how Russia has been developing RF devices for years. This is the first time heís given a television interview on the subject. (on camera) And has the KBG ever used it against the United States?


DIANE SAWYER (VO) Sheymov told us something shocking - that years ago, the KBG used a primitive RF weapon to start a fire at the US embassy in Moscow. (on camera) Was the KBG aware thatís what would happen?

VICTOR SHEYMOV Oh, they hoped it would. And it did work, so ...

DIANE SAWYER That was their intention?


DIANE SAWYER (VO) And they did it, Sheymov says, as a pretext for sending in so-called "firemen" who were, in fact, KBG agents trying to plant bugs. We asked the State Department about this. "No comment" was the response. Itís not just the KBG. 20/20 has also learned from a well-placed Russian official that those rebels in Chechnya also used an RF weapon to knock out police communications during a hostage situation. And not only that, Russian criminals have used an RF weapon, weíre told, to disarm security and rob a bank. There are actually Russian-made devices on the market like this state-of-the-art "radan," which experts say could be sold and used as a weapon against power plants, banks or aircraft. (on camera) Paint a portrait for me of the US vulnerability.

VICTOR SHEYMOV Everything. These days, virtually everything is controlled by computers.

DIANE SAWYER We assume that if there is a growing threat, that thereís at least some anxiety about it.

VICTOR SHEYMOV Should be. Should be a lot of anxiety.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) Back at the China Lake test site, theyíre worried. (on camera) Consider what happened just a year ago right here, when the military decided to bombard this Huey Cobra helicopter, which isnít even a highly computerized machine, with some high&emdash;powered pulses. The results - theyíre classified. All theyíll say is they were surprised, and they didnít like what they saw. (VO) Finally, let us tell you about two other weapons which could be ready in the not-so-distant future. A company has created what it calls a "vortex launcher" for the Air Force. In time, the cannonball of air should be powerful enough to knock someone down. And the Marine Corps is intrigued by still another kind of weapon. This is a videotape of recent military war game. The weapon at issue - sound waves which, at certain frequencies, can penetrate the human body and vibrate the internal organs. Here, soldiers simulate the expected effect, writhing in pain and convulsions. Which brings us back to the real-life experience of Jack Daly, who says the US government is afraid to take on the Russians for their use of laser weapons on his eyes. (on camera) You feel betrayed?

JACK DALY I feel very betrayed.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) He says after his eyes were injured, the Navy ordered a search of that ship, the Kapitan Man, but they gave the Russians 24 hoursí notice. No surprise, no laser was found. (on camera) And you really believe it was a calculated decision not to rock the boat?

JACK DALY Yes, exactly.

DIANE SAWYER With the Russians.

JACK DALY Yes, I do.

DIANE SAWYER You think theyíre afraid of looking vulnerable?

JACK DALY Thatís a distinct possibility. Because there are devices that are being produced that current technology may not be able to counter.

DIANE SAWYER All the Pentagon will say is that Daly probably suffered laser eye damage, but thereís no proof it came from the Kapitan Man or that this photo really captured a laser. Even though just a few months ago, it seemed to happen again. Another helicopter pilot and crewman, this time in Bosnia. And the Pentagon confirms that their eyes were damaged with lasers.

JACK DALY When I spoke with the pilot the other night, he told me that the laser signature that he saw was a red halo with a white center. That was almost exactly what we saw in that picture.

DIANE SAWYER (VO) And Daly says even though heís been told by the Navy to keep silent about all this, heís speaking out because the US has to face the reality of the future.

JACK DALY Even though Iím probably solidifying the fact that my career is coming to an end by going public like this, I feel the most important thing is, if I can prevent this from happening to someone else, then I need to do this. Itís my duty. Itís my responsibility to do this.

DIANE SAWYER Lieutenant Daly is expected to testify about his experience tomorrow before a House Armed Services subcommittee. And by the way, since that recent attack in Bosnia, US forces there have been given special goggles designed to protect their eyes against laser attacks.

SAM DONALDSON What about other countries? I assume they are working on this problem?

DIANE SAWYER The Europeans are already far ahead of us. The components in their computers come with better metal shielding than ours do. So they are better protected already. By the way, the Swedes sent word to us of something. They have been testing all of these electromagnetic weapons, and they told us that they recently blasted a car from 3,000 feet away with microwaves and not only disabled it, blew up the headlights. So this new world is at hand.

SAM DONALDSON Thank you, Diane.

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