Newsbrief: US Explores Drugging Rioters 10/4/02

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As part of its research into non-lethal weapons, the Pentagon has been exploring the use of drugs such as Valium to incapacitate unruly crowds. Officials in the Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate have been discussing the use of chemical "calmatives" for at least two years, and British military officials have also joined in the discussions. Pennsylvania State University researchers have also prepared a 50-page report saying calmative weapons are "achievable and desirable" and suggesting drugs like Valium for further research.

The chemical warfare plan came to light thanks to the Sunshine Project (http://www.sunshine-project.org), a chemical and biological weapons watchdog group that acquired the Penn State study and hundreds of pages of other non-lethal weapons documents under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond, the research violates international treaties and federal laws against chemical weapons.

"It is a rotten idea to drug rioters," Hammond told the Associated Press. "Beyond being a horrible idea, it's illegal. If the US is going to denounce countries around the world for violating chemical and biological arms control treaties, it better make sure its own house is in order first," he said.

The chemical weapons treaty allows security forces to use temporary irritants, such as pepper spray and tear gas, as riot control weapons, but bans the use of chemicals that incapacitate people.

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