On this day in history (December 29, 1890): The Wounded knee Massacre

Wounded knee massacre - Mass Grave
U.S. troops posing for a photo beside a mass grave dug for the victims of the massacre at Wounded Knee

December 29, 1890:

Chief Spotted Elk was deathly sick with pneumonia. His band of Lakota set off in the snow from Cheyenne River to seek shelter with Red Cloud at Pine Ridge reservation. They were intercepted by Major Samuel Whitside and a battalion of the Seventh Cavalry and escorted five miles to Wounded Knee Creek.

That evening (just a few weeks after the murder of Sitting Bull), Colonel James Forsyth arrived to take command and ordered his guards to place four rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns in position under cover of darkness around the camp.

The soldiers then came into the camp and began disarming the Lakota at gunpoint. A scuffle broke out between one of the Lakota and a group of soldiers, causing a rifle to go off, and the Army opened fire on the encampment. The families with their children tried to run for cover, but were cut down by the rapid crossfire of the Hotchkiss guns and rifles (and most of the few who did manage to escape were methodically hunted down and killed, or died of exposure). Ultimately 300 people were killed, and were afterwards buried in a mass grave at the site of the massacre.

Twenty of the soldiers that day were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Bodies lying in the snow after the massacre at Wounded Knee

Inside the U.S. Military’s Chemical Weapon’s Tests

“In 1949, L. Wilson Greene, Edgewood Arsenal’s scientific director, typed up a classified report, “Psychochemical Warfare: A New Concept of War,” that called for a search for compounds that would create the same debilitating mental side effects as nerve gas, but without the lethality. “Throughout recorded history, wars have been characterized by death, human misery, and the destruction of property; each major conflict being more catastrophic than the one preceding it,” Greene argued. “I am convinced that it is possible, by means of the techniques of psychochemical warfare, to conquer an enemy without the wholesale killing of his people or the mass destruction of his property.”

In its broad strokes, “Psychochemical Warfare” fit within the evolving ethos at Edgewood: better fighting through chemistry. The first commanding general of the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service had extolled the “effectiveness and humaneness” of gases: they killed quickly, and kept infrastructure intact. Psychochemical warfare certainly promised a form of conflict less deadly than clouds of sarin—even more humane, in that sense, perhaps. But Greene did not want to elevate consciousness; he wanted to debilitate, in ways that would inspire terror. As he put it, “The symptoms which are considered to be of value in strategic and tactical operations include the following: fits or seizures, dizziness, fear, panic, hysteria, hallucinations, migraine, delirium, extreme depression, notions of hopelessness, lack of initiative to do even simple things, suicidal mania.”

Greene drew up a list of chemicals to investigate, ranging from barbiturates to carbon monoxide, and he urged a deeper inquiry into the psychological effects of nerve gas. […]

In the mid-nineteen-fifties, psychochemical warfare was formally added to Edgewood’s clinical research, and approval was granted to recruit soldiers from around the country for the experiments, in a systematic effort called the Medical Research Volunteer Program. The Army assured Congress that the chemicals were “perfectly safe” and offered “a new vista of controlling people without any deaths”—even though early efforts to make weapons from mescaline and LSD were dropped, because the drugs were too unsafe or too unpredictable. […]

Edgewood began reviewing hundreds of chemicals, many provided by pharmaceutical companies. One officer remarked, “The characteristics we are looking for in these agents are in general exactly opposite to what the pharmaceutical firms want in drugs, that is the undesirable side effects.”

— Raffi Khatchadourian in “Operation Delirium: Inside the U.S. Military’s Chemical Weapon’s Tests” (New Yorker, 17 December 2012)

Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War (Eileen Welsome)The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War (Eileen Welsome)

Latif Letter About Guantanamo Speaks From the Grave: ‘I Am Being Pushed Toward Death Every Moment’

Camp X-Ray Detainees, Guantanamo BayExplosive claims in a letter to his lawyers reveal a Gitmo detainee’s fears about his captors’ intentions, well in advance of his mysterious death. Meanwhile, the investigation into his apparent suicide centers on the protocols meant to prevent it.

More than two years before he was found dead in his cell at Guantanamo Bay, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif reported that the people who oversaw his every move were facilitating his demise.

In a letter sent to his attorneys on May 28, 2010, the Yemeni detainee claimed he was given “contraband” items, such as a spoon and a “big pair of scissors … by the person responsible for Camp 5,” where uncooperative prisoners are sent.

“I am being pushed toward death every moment,” Latif wrote to human rights attorneys David Remes and Marc Falkoff. The communication was written in Arabic and translated into English by a translator Remes has worked with for nearly a decade.

“The way they deal with me proves to me that they want to get rid of me, but in a way that they cannot be accused of causing it,” Latif wrote.

On September 8, Latif was found “motionless and unresponsive” by guards in a cell in the very same Camp 5 cellblock he had cited in his letter. Two months later, the military produced a report that said he committed suicide.

The mystery surrounding the death of the eldest son of a Yemeni merchant who, by all accounts, did not belong at the offshore prison for suspected terrorists, is underscored by the almost prophetic nature of this singular letter. […]”

From Jason Leopold & Jeffrey Kaye in “Latif Letter About Guantanamo Speaks From the Grave: ‘I Am Being Pushed Toward Death Every Moment’” (Truthout, 10 December 2012)

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… And, on a side note:

“The Justice Department has ruled that the Obama administration does not have to disclose video showing the forced extraction of Guantanamo Bay prison detainees because doing so would be detrimental to national security.

US District Judge John Bate has decided that the Pentagon does not have to produce dozens of recordings taken at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military detention facility, closing the case on a long-standing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by plaintiffs with the International Counsel Bureau (ICB) and the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

The attorneys and ICB have been asking to see 45 video clips of forced cell extractions recorded at Gitmo as well as another tape showing a detainee shackled by guards against his will so that they could administer a haircut. On December 4, Judge Bate granted summary judgment to the government, giving Uncle Sam the go-ahead to keep the materials classified. […]”

Pentagon’s secret Guantanamo videos will stay classified (RT, 11 December 2012)

Hummingbird robo-drone gets 1.8-gigapixel camera

“The U.S. Army is getting ready to deploy a trio of prototype A160 Hummingbird drones as it evaluates the aircraft for a more full-fledged development program. One key characteristic that sets these unmanned air vehicles apart from others, such as the Predator, already more famously serving in the war zone is that the Hummingbirds are rotorcraft–that is, they fly like helicopters rather than planes.
A160 Hummingbird Drone (U.S. Army)The Hummingbirds will be equipped with DARPA’s Argus-IS sensor system, which features a 1.8-gigapixel color camera–gear that the Army a year ago described as “the largest video sensor ever used to conduct tactical missions.” The Army said at the time that Argus can track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet and, attached to an A160, should be able to scan almost 25 square miles. It will allow operators to scan a wide field of view and download images in real time.

Here’s more on the cutting-edge capabilities that Argus offers:

This represents a big technological leap over current airborne surveillance systems…Those that deliver high-resolution images are limited to very small fields of view…and those covering broader areas provide low-resolution imagery.

In addition, ARGUS-IS operators on the ground can designate “windows” around up to 65 specific sites or targets they want to monitor. They can choose buildings, road intersections or other fixed locations the system will “stare” at, or people or vehicles to trail, even if they’re moving in different directions.

“And if you have a bunch of people leaving a place at the same time, they no longer have to say, ‘Do I follow vehicle one, two, three or four'” [Argus program manager Brian] Leininger said. “They can say, ‘I will follow all of them, simultaneously and automatically.'”

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Excerpt from “Hummingbird robo-drone gets 1.8-gigapixel camera” by Jonathan Skillings (CNet, 27 December 2011)