Stun guns are small electrical devices that provide personal protection for those who carry them. They are non-lethal under most circumstances and are often carried by both men and women who want an extra measure of protection when they are alone.
In areas where stun guns are legal, there are generally no licensing requirements and no courses are offered in stun gun safety. This makes it important for each stun gun owner to take the time to familiarize themselves with the way stun guns work and how they should handle their stun gun for the most effective personal protection.
The first thing to do when a stun gun is purchased is to look over the device itself to become familiar with the important components. The button that activates the electric current should be located as well as the two contact probes that dispense this current. The probes are what will be held against an attacker in order to deliver the shock to them. Knowing exactly where they are will prevent the stun gun owner from accidentally shocking themselves when using it or testing it. Be sure to stay away from the contact probes, never touching them in order to avoid an accident.
Once these key parts are identified, the owner should make sure that the battery has enough power. Testing the stun gun periodically by holding it in the air and pushing the button will let the owner know whether the battery is still good. Having a stun gun with a dead battery can be dangerous for those who count on their stun guns for protection.
If a situation arises that calls for the use of the stun gun against an assailant, the stun gun must be close at hand in order to grab it quickly and use it. Plan out a place to keep it for just this type of emergency. Keeping it in a pocket or held onto the wrist with a strap will keep it close by. In a real emergency, there will be no time to dig through a bag to find the stun gun and prevent someone from committing violence.
Before discharging the electric current, make sure that your fingers or any other part of your body are not in contact with the current probes. The object is to shock the other person to allow the stun gun holder to get away. If both parties are shocked, the stun gun user may not get away safely.
The assailant holding on to the stun gun owner does not mean that the current will pass through both parties. Only direct contact with the probes will cause a shock. If the stun gun owners can’t shock the assailant without shocking themselves, they should wait for an opportune moment to do so instead of risking a shock to themselves. Some owners have scared away attackers simply by holding their stun guns in the air and activating the current. This may work in a situation where the attacker can’t be reached with the stun gun.
The bureau whose officers came under federal scrutiny in 2012 for a pattern of unwarranted use of stun guns has used a Taser model X26 since 2005 but the company discontinued making them at the end of last year.…
This cell phone-looking stun gun delivers 1,000,000 volts of lightning protection at the push of a button. Includes safety button extra-bright LED flashlight and case with belt clip. Requires three CR2 batteries included.…
GOOD Easy to use hidden camera disguised as a power adapter, High Definition Camera and no batteries are needed.
BAD Can only be used where an power outlet is available.
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How to search for and find concealed weapons – Places to Hide
Looking for concealed weapons means being thorough. Here are some of the ways they may think they can fool you.
1. Jamaican Holster – Made from thin metal like a coat hanger
2. The Headrest Compartment
The FBI is finding more and more of these compartments, where the back of the headrest flips open like a glove box. Most handguns can fit inside.
3. Hidden Compartments
A kidnap victim pointed out this hidden compartment below in a 2000 Cadillac Seville STS. The gun was found in a compartment that was revealed by pushing down on the tilt steering wheel adjuster.
Other hiding spots include:
3. Book Bombs
On Sept 10, 2001, Colombian National Police discovered this book. It was to have been used to assassinate a prominent presidential candidate. 5 Lbs of plastic explosives were found inside that could be detonated via remote control or cell phone.
4. Shot Gun Shell Booby Traps
During a drug investigation in Tillonsburg, England, 3 of these traps were found protecting a marijuana patch. The barrels were directed at the ground, but could be aimed to injure or kill those who activated the trip wires.
This last example shows how staying vigilant not only gets more contraband off the streets, but also may save your life.
Do you have a story of your own you would like to share? Post it in the comments below. You just may help someone else who finds themselves in the same circumstance later on.
Everyday items can be modified to be used as weapons.
Some are devised by the bad guys.
ALWAYS remember ~ many criminals are smarter than we think. NEVER underestimate the ones who were “dumb enough to get caught.”
Why should we worry?
Cell Phone Guns
Several types have been found.
Several of this model have been confiscated in Holland recently, usually along with high volumes of explosives and narcotics.
Fires 4 .22 caliber ‘short’ rounds by pressing the keypad buttons…
The “Companion,” a 3 D-cell Mag-Lite flashlight converted into a shotgun capable of firing a .410 shotgun round. Manufactured by Ares Defense Systems. May be purchased on the Internet.Fully functional as a flashlight, it also works as a gun by pulling the safety pin, then pushing down on a spring-loaded firing pin. The projectile is discharged through the end cap of the flashlight. The company also sells a Mini-Mag-Lite (next slide). The items are covered by the National Firearms Act and possessing them requires you to have proper documentation of ownership.
4” mini-mag flashlight (2 AA battery size)
Fires a single .380 round
Has an optional end cap that makes it look like a mini kubotan, vs. a flashlight
Used by fishermen and scuba divers to kill sharks and alligators.
Fires a single 38 caliber short Colt, .38 special or .357 magnum cartridge.
Considered to be a firearm when carried in a pocket or around the neck and used for other purposes.
A 5-shot .22 caliber pistol with a grip that folds over the barrel and cylinder
was concealed inside an eyeglass case when discovered
fits in pockets, hats, etc.
World’s Smallest Gun
Fires .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, or .38 Special rounds
A break-down, single-shot, double action weapon made by Downsizer Corp.
3 ¼” long, 2 ¼” tall, and .90” thick.
Imagine where this could be hidden…wallet, cigarette pack, palm, hats, etc., etc….
Hunting Knife Guns
This is a 6-shot .22 caliber ‘pistol’
Cylinder and firing mechanisms are concealed inside the handle.
The handle breaks down and ‘ejects’ what becomes the grip and trigger
Fairly accurate for firing due to it’s overall length
Just under 6” with a 2” barrel
“Stinger” model must be folded in half to fire, forms a handle to grip
.25 caliber, .22 LR, or .380ACP
Some of the most commonly improvised firearms.
A handgun round is inserted snugly into a small diameter tube. That ‘loaded’ tube is then inserted into a larger pipe, which has an end cap with a piece of pointed metal inside it. When you slam the end cap back against a hard surface, the pointed metal strikes the primer of the round like a firing pin and discharges the weapon.
Fires a single .22 caliber Stinger. Pull back on spring-loaded hex head to fire.
5/8″ diameter, 4″ long.
The Club Shotgun
The handle end of The Club has been hollowed out to act as a barrel
When the lock end is pulled back, the interior metal cap (altered to act as a firing pin)
is pulled away from the round
Fired by slamming the ends back together
The Screwdriver Gun
The Pressure Gauge Weapon
Converted into .22 caliber pistol
Does not have plastic measuring device in the center
Last 1½ ” is a hardened steel barrel
To fire, remove threaded top, drop in cartridge. Pull the top and let go. Spring-loaded action, just like a zip gun.
ATF says possession is a federal crime, regardless of a person’s record.
There have been reports that venomous bites can be treated by purchasing a stun gun. We’ve all seen movies where the hero burns a wound or tries to suck out poison from a wound and then moves on to get the bad guy. Unfortunately, these things do not always work when tested in reality. To answer this question, we have sourced a paragraph from the national institute of health, which reads:
“During the past 2 decades, articles suggesting that stun guns be utilized to treat venomous bites and stings have appeared in both the lay and medical press. Although never widely considered to be standard therapy for venomous bites and stings, stun guns are still considered to be a treatment option by some medical practitioners and outdoor enthusiasts. A Medline search was performed using these terms: venomous bites, venomous stings, snake bites, spider bites, electrical, stun gun, high voltage electricity, low amperage electricity, direct current, and shock therapy. Articles selected included laboratory-based isolated venom studies, animal studies, and case reports involving humans in which a stun gun or some other source of high voltage, low amperage direct current electric shocks were used to treat actual or simulated venomous bites or stings. We concluded that the use of stun guns or other sources of high voltage, low amperage direct current electric shocks to treat venomous bites and stings is not supported by the literature.”
It seems like from time to time we read about Tasers causing heart failure in certain people. However, people often confuse tasers with stun guns and although there are plenty of studies regarding the use of tasers (which is a brand of EMD weapons), stun guns fit into a much broader category. If you are looking for our free online stun gun buying guide click here.
So the question remains. Do Electro Shock Weapons Stimulate the Heart?
The ability of an electrical discharge to stimulate the heart depends on the duration of the pulse, the voltage and the current density that reaches the heart. Stun guns deliver very short electrical pulses with minimal amount of current at high voltages. We discuss external stimulation of the heart by high voltage discharges and review studies that have evaluated the potential of stun guns to stimulate cardiac muscle. Despite theoretical analyses and animal studies which suggest that stun guns cannot and do not affect the heart, 3 independent investigators have shown cardiac stimulation by stun guns. Additional research studies involving people are needed to resolve the conflicting theoretical and experimental findings and to aid in the design of stun guns that are unable to stimulate the heart.
Stun guns are used to physically incapacitate a person by discharging controlled electrical energy into the body, thereby preventing effective muscular activity. Although the intention is to provide a safe means of subduing an uncooperative person, some studies have suggested that stun guns can stimulate cardiac muscle in addition to skeletal muscle, thus potentially promoting lethal cardiac arrhythmias. In this article, we review the scientific data about the direct effects of stun gun discharges on the heart during shock delivery. We discuss these issues in terms of electro-stimulation and correlate them with theoretical and experimental data in the literature. We discuss the principles of cardiac stimulation from internal and external stimulation and examine the evidence for and against cardiac stimulation by stun gun discharges.
Stun gun discharges
An older method of stun guns application, called “drive-stun,” functioned like a cattle prod, which required direct contact between the electrodes of the source and the target. Stun guns are manufactured by different manufacturers (e.g., Aegis Industries, Stinger Systems, Taser International) and they operate under the general principle of high-voltage discharge with short pulse durations. However, their operation and shock characteristics vary by manufacturer. For example, a recent model (X26, TASER International) feature 2 barbs attached to long copper wires that are rapidly propelled by compressed nitrogen and adhere to the target’s skin or clothes. This stun gun generates an initial 3 microsecond electric pulse, which produces an electrical arc that creates a low-impedance pathway for electricity to reach the body with or without skin contact.1 The initial pulse is followed by longer pulses (100 microseconds) that deliver electrical energy to the target’s body, which stimulates his or her nerves and skeletal muscles and results in incapacitation. This pattern is repeated at a frequency of 19 pulses per second. Incapacitation lasts for the duration of the discharge, which is typically 5 seconds but can be 15 seconds or longer if pressure on the trigger is maintained. The TASER X26 battery has the capacity to deliver up to 195 discharges of 5 seconds each,1 which corresponds to a duration of over 15 minutes. Other devices that have been studied include the M26 (TASER International) and the MK63 Trident (Aegis Industries), which is a stun baton. Each of these devices uses high frequency electrical pulses to incapacitate the target.
Method of stunning
Stunning can be attributed to 1 of 2 methods, which depend on the mode of application. In the “drive stun” method, the overwhelming factor is the creation of pain and hence compliance. The second method, in which electrodes are fired toward the target as projectiles, neuromuscular stimulation occurs over a larger area. In addition to pain, the device incapacitates the target by stimulating his or her motor nerves and muscles as well as sensory neurons. The duration and frequency of the pulses have been optimized to incapacitate the target, and different devices have varying effects depending on the frequency of stimulation and the shape of the electrical pulse.
Electrical stimulation of the heart
Since the early 1900s, various equations have been proposed to describe the relation between the current and pulse duration required for electro-stimulation of the heart. These formulas showed an inverse relation between the duration and the current of the stimulating pulse, which means that if the pulse duration is short, a higher current is required for stimulation.4
For an electrical pulse to stimulate the heart, it must depolarize the cardiac membrane below a certain level and the induced depolarization must be propagated throughout the heart. The duration and strength of the pulse must be sufficient to allow cell membranes to react and reach an excitation threshold above which activation is triggered. This activation produces a wave front resulting in mechanical contraction of the heart muscle. Shorter pulse durations require larger amounts of current or charge to stimulate the heart. Thus, one must consider whether a stun gun discharge, which is external to the heart, can deliver enough current to stimulate the heart. Below we discuss the external stimulation of the heart under other known circumstances and relate it to a typical electrical pulse generated by a stun gun.
Effect of external electrical discharges on the heart
The ability of external electrical discharges to alter the internal electrical activity of the heart (e.g., to induce ventricular fibrillation) has long been recognized. Depending on the method of delivery and the amount, timing and location of the electrical discharge, an external discharge can produce a beat when one is absent, induce fatal cardiac arrhythmias or restore a normal heart beat to a heart in arrhythmia.6 The use of external electrical discharges to influence the heart has resulted in the development of external pacemakers (e.g., Zoll stimulator) and defibrillator devices to treat ventricular fibrillation. However, these discharges are delivered under controlled conditions at rates that are physiologic or that are delivered during the safe part of the cardiac cycle. High voltage discharges commonly occur in various forms, from electrostatic discharge (most common) to electrocution or lightning strike (least common). Internal cardiac defibrillators also use high voltage pulses for terminating ventricular fibrillation. The relative values for voltage, current and energy for some common sources of high-voltage shocks, along with the most common type of stun gun in use, are shown below.
Evidence that stun guns cannot stimulate the heart
Despite the fact that stun guns are widely used and that their practical safety is under scrutiny, the majority of these analyses are theoretical in nature. These theoretical analyses suggest that stun guns cannot deliver the amount of energy required to stimulate the heart or cause ventricular fibrillation. Most theoretical studies base their arguments on the following principles: only a small portion (4%–10%) of the current that reaches the chest will affect the heart and the time constant of the cardiac cell membrane is much longer than the pulse duration generated by stun guns. According to the law of electrostimulation and given the electrical characteristics of stun gun pulses and cardiac cells, cardiac electrostimulation should not occur during a stun gun shock. These analyses support the claim that electrical pulses generated by stun guns are designed to specifically target skeletal muscle, which has a much smaller time constant (i.e., refractoriness) compared with cardiac cells.
Experimental studies that support the claim that stun guns do not stimulate the heart base their arguments on conservative device settings and experimental designs that often do not reflect a clinically relevant or “worst case” scenario. The studies by Lakkireddy and colleagues and McDaniel and colleagues, both involving swine, used a modified stun gun for which the output power could be controlled, allowing the authors to specify a safety margin for the device and to demonstrate that it could not induce ventricular fibrillation. McDaniel and colleagues used arterial blood pressure tracing, which showed no perturbations during discharge from the stun gun simulator However, intracardiac electrograms from the study by Lakkireddy and colleagues showed that the pulses did influence heart rate during shock delivery if the barbs were located such that they formed a vector crossing the heart. In contrast, the MK63 stun baton in the “drive stun” mode applied to the anterior thigh16 or thorax of Yucatan miniature pigs did not induce acute arrhythmias. The authors of both studies attributed their findings of a lack of cardiac stimulation to possible differences in electrode spacing, proprietary waveform or power generated by the device.
Other studies have been performed using healthy volunteers (police officers). Each volunteer received a single 5 second stun gun pulse to his or her back. This does not reflect the common scenario, in which multiple, prolonged shocks are delivered with the possibility of the barbs landing near the thorax. These studies recorded electrocardiogram findings before and after, but not during, the stun gun discharge. This, however, does not rule out the possibility of disturbances in the rhythm during the discharge owing to the artifacts in recorded electrocardiograms during the discharge. These limitations prevented the researchers from observing transient changes in heart rhythm during discharges. The immediate recordings after the discharges18 showed shortening and lengthening of QT complexes without assigning any significance to these changes.
Stun gun discharges have been recorded in the field and there have been no claims of deaths medically attributed to these discharges. These recordings were made immediately after, but not during, the discharge. Although this does not affect the claim of no related deaths, these studies cannot verify whether the heart was stimulated during discharge. In cases of recorded deaths, the mode of death had never been established, though a state of “excited delirium” has been reported. However, excited delirium has not been listed as a cause of sudden cardiac death in the arrhythmia literature.
Evidence that stun guns can stimulate the heart
Deaths have occurred shortly after stun gun discharges. However, association alone does not prove causality. The possible mechanisms of short-term or immediate-term cardiac effects relate to the stimulation of the heart or induction of ventricular fibrillation. Stimulation of the heart is a separate issue compared with induction of arrhythmia, as stimulation may happen only during discharge and may not be evident even immediately following the discharge. In contrast, induction of arrhythmia may relate to stimulation of the heart because, depending on pre-existing defects (e.g., a previous heart attack, drug intoxication), each person’s heart may have a different susceptibility to life-threatening arrhythmia during stimulation. Podgorski and colleagues found that the direct application of an older version of a stun gun to a pig heart, which was exposed but covered by a towel, produced stimulation of the heart.
Because the theory of electrical stimulation suggests that stun gun discharges should not stimulate the heart, we tested the hypothesis using a closed-chest in vivo animal model. A unique feature of our study was that real stun guns were used and operated by qualified law enforcement personnel, which simulated real-world conditions. Two different models (TASER X26 and M26) that deliver different pulse waveforms were used on an anesthetized pig. Recording the electrical activity of the heart is challenging, because the acquisition system is usually completely saturated by the electromagnetic interference generated by the stun gun discharge. However, we found that the pig’s arterial blood pressure was occasionally abruptly lost during stimulation. To further verify that this blood pressure modulation was not a recording artifact, we opened the artery to air and found that the pumping of blood stopped during the discharge of the stun gun. This made us suspicious that either an arrhythmia was being induced or the heart was being stimulated so rapidly that it was not capable of producing pulsatile pressure. To test this, we shielded our mapping system and recorded the electrical activity during discharge.
We studied a total of 150 discharges in 6 pigs. Of these, 74 of these discharges resulted in stimulation of the myocardium, as documented electrical capture (a provoked response in the myocardium) (mean ventricular rate during stimulation and capture, 324 [standard error 66] beats/min) (Figure 1). Of the 94 discharges across the heart, 74 stimulated the myocardium. We took care to ensure that the gun barbs did not pierce deep into the tissue. We also placed the barbs such that they were oriented across the heart, simulating the worst case scenario of creating a current vector that directly passes through the heart. If these barbs were placed away from the chest and across the abdomen, none of the 56 discharges across the abdomen stimulated the heart (Figure 2), suggesting that the location of the barbs had a crucial influence on stimulating the heart. We also observed that the waveform (pulse shape) produced by the device affected stimulation, because when we used a different model of the stun gun (TASER M26), we observed a lower incidence of cardiac stimulation.
Cardiac stimulation and hypotension from a stun gun discharge. Note the corruption of the surface electrocardiographic leads in panel B and the electrical activity of the intracardiac electrograms. After stun gun discharge, a spontaneous and immediate return of regular sinus rhythm and blood pressure occurs (panel C). Panel D and E show magnified intracardiac electrograms of similar duration. It is evident in panel E that the rate is much faster and the rhythm is wider than in panel D. The morphology of the tachycardia in panel E is wider than the morphology in panel D. There is a constant stun gun stimulus artifact to electrogram duration as illustrated in panel E, with every fourth stun gun discharge resulting in stimulation of the heart. Note the loss of blood pressure during the stimulation and the recovery of blood pressure once the discharge is completed. Reproduced with permission from Elsevier (Nanthakumar et al24). Note: CS = coronary sinus, RV = right ventricular, BP = blood pressure.
A typical episode of a stun gun shock across the abdomen (nonthoracic vector) that does not result in stimulation of the myocardium. The surface electrocardiogram lead 1, intracardiac electrograms from the coronary sinus, the right ventricle apex and blood pressure in the descending aorta are shown. Panel A illustrates the regular rhythm before the discharge, which is very similar to the rhythm and rate in panel C. The intracardiac electrograms, as illustrated in panels D and E, do not show any significant change in rate morphology and are not phase-locked (no temporal relation between stimuli and the electrogram) with the stun gun discharge. Note also the lack of perturbation of blood pressure during the discharge. Reproduced with permission from Elsevier (Nanthakumar et al24). Note: CS = coronary sinus, RV = right ventricular, BP = blood pressure.
In addition, we simulated an excited state infusing pigs with epinephrine, which renders the myocardium more excitable and prone to arrhythmias. Of 16 discharges, there were 13 episodes of myocardial stimulation, of which 1 induced ventricular fibrillation and 1 caused ventricular tachycardia. In contrast, another study, which simulated an excited stated by infusing cocaine into pigs, did not report induction of ventricular fibrillation during discharge. The main conclusions of this study was that stun gun use in the presence of cocaine does not increase the chance of arrhythmia. However, this study used a waveform simulator, not an actual stun gun, and although ventricular fibrillation was not induced, there was stimulation of the heart.
Three different studies involving pigs, 1 of which was performed by us, have shown that a stun gun discharge can stimulate the heart. In particular, 1 studyreported the deaths of 2 animals caused by ventricular fibrillation immediately after the stun gun discharge. This study also reported severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis caused by discharge. This suggests that sufficient current density was produced by the stun gun to stimulate the heart, which according to theory should not occur. A potential explanation of why, despite the theory, stimulation was observed is that there were metallic objects (e.g., catheter or pacemaker leads) inside the heart, which probably carried currents induced by the electromagnetic interference generated during the shock. One could argue that these currents could instead be the primary source of heart stimulation. Because capture could only be observed using intracardiac electrograms, this remains speculative. The fact that in our study we did not observe capture when the stun gun shocks were administered away from the chest suggests that the dart locations play a more important role in stimulation than the presence of metallic objects in the heart. In addition, in our study, we removed all electrical catheters from the heart and still observed the cessation of arterial pumping during discharge. We also confirmed that even without catheters in the heart, stun gun discharges on the chest can stimulate the heart and, at the least, can result in a loss of blood pressure during discharge.
Indeed, a human’s chest is different from that of a pig, and there may be differences in electrophysiology between human and pig hearts. One should be prudent in extrapolating data from animals to humans because of this fact. The corollary, though, is that most of the basic mechanistic concepts in cardiac fibrillation and defibrillation are derived from animal studies, not humans. In addition, the safety margins for energy of stun gun discharge established by manufacturers were derived from animal models.
Researchers from San Francisco recently published the case of a patient with a pacemaker who received a stun gun shock. They observed that discharges from the stun gun provoked a response in the myocardium (Figure 3). It is unknown if this would have occurred without the presence of pacemaker wires, although without these wires, verifying the presence of cardiac capture would not have been possible. In addition, John Webster’s research group reported in a conference abstract that stun gun discharges can stimulate the heart. Although published theoretical analyses about stun gun safety have scientific merit, we should be aware that theories are only as good as the assumptions and conditions defined based on available data or knowledge.
Magnified summed intracardiac electrograms from a patient’s internal pacemaker log during stun gun discharge. Cardiac capture is shown by the high-rate ventricular sensing (cycle length 203–289 milliseconds); the cyclic, low-frequency modulation of high-frequency noise (stun gun pulses) during ventricular sensing; a single, long ventricular interval (648 milliseconds) after the energy stops; and postdischarge resumption of atrial and ventricular sensing at a rate similar to predischarge cardiac rate. The high-frequency pulses (15 pps, 66 milliseconds) are labelled on the tracing. The intracardiac electrograms from the last sensed ventricular event during stun gun application are superimposed on each prior ventricular sensed event, showing that the disruption of the high-frequency stun gun signal is consistent with modulation of the signal by a repeating R wave with morphology different than the intrinsic R wave (right side of the image). Reproduced with permission from Blackwell
Explaining the discrepancies between theory and observation
Why have 3 independent groups of investigators reported in peer-reviewed journals that cardiac stimulation can occur when the theory says it cannot happen? Theoretical safety calculations may not hold true if the theory used to calculate the membrane time constant using external pacing parameters (i.e., with large pads that do not break the skin barrier, without rapid stimulation at high voltage) does not apply to stun gun stimulation across the chest wall. Although the membrane constant is usually considered an intrinsic property of cardiac muscle, various studies have measured time constants during human trans-chest pacing from 0.5 milliseconds to 1.1 milliseconds. However, another study with direct pacing on dog myocardium reported an average value of 2.4 milliseconds, suggesting that the time constant is actually a characteristic of not only the cell membrane but also the stimulator, and the size and the position of the electrode used. This suggests a large variability over the population; thus, an identical pulse with a specific duration and strength could have different stimulation effects on different people.
Over the last century, various studies have been performed on the strength–duration relation of electric impulses and their effect on cardiac stimulation. From some of these studies, it is evident that the assumptions made about membrane time constants and contact electrode sizes strongly influence the outcome. Typically, electrodes in contact within the myocardium may stimulate with 50 milliamperes when the current is injected over a period of 50 microseconds. However, shorter pulse durations would require a larger amount of current to stimulate the heart. There is a possibility of inducing a lethal cardiac arrhythmias when factors (e.g., strength, duration and frequency of the electric pulses; membrane time constant; contact impedance; and timing of electrical discharge) favour triggering the heart during a vulnerable period of the cardiac cycle.
Although there have been deaths reported following stun gun discharges, this appears to be rare. In addition, some animal studies suggest that stun gun shocks may have cardiovascular effects. Whether the reported deaths were related to the external shocks is unknown. It is also unknown whether cardiac stimulation occurs only during discharge. The observational studies involving human volunteers thus far could be considered phase I studies because they relate mainly to tolerability and do not prove the safety of the devices. It is very important that tolerability should not be misconstrued as safety. The largest knowledge gap is the lack of appropriate studies involving humans to establish the safety margins for stun gun shock energies when the vector of discharge is across the heart.
The effects of potential modifying factors such as sex, body mass, cardiac and noncardiac diseases, alcohol, medications and psychotropic drugs also need to be evaluated. It is evident that psychotropic drugs such as cocaine heighten the sympathetic state in animal studies. The effect of these drugs and their influence on human autonomic physiology during stun gun discharges is an important aspect that needs urgent evaluation.
Despite many studies suggesting that stun guns do not affect the heart, the evidence and studies presented in this review suggest that, in some circumstances, stun guns may stimulate the heart while discharges are being applied. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show whether stun gun stimulation (under certain electrophysiological conditions) can result in cardiac arrhythmias late after stun gun discharge. In our view, it is inappropriate to conclude that stun gun discharges cannot lead to adverse cardiac consequences in all real world settings.
We believe that the findings that stun gun discharges are able, under specific circumstances, to stimulate the heart should be taken into account in future studies involving people. Whether stun guns can stimulate the heart can only be established if one can record electrical activity in the heart during a discharge, especially when the vector of discharge is directed across the heart. Additional research studies involving people will help to resolve the conflicting theoretical and experimental findings, and they could lead to the design of devices with electrical pulses that cannot stimulate the heart.
A never-Ending Necessity – The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence
The need for counterintelligence (CI) has not gone away, nor is it likely to. The end of the Cold War has not even meant an end to the CI threat from the former Soviet Union. The foreign intelligence service of the new democratic Russia, the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki Rossii (SVRR), has remained active against us. It was the SVRR that took over the handling of Aldrich Ames from its predecessor, the KGB, in 1991. It was the SVRR that ran CIA officer Harold James Nicholson against us from 1994 to 1996. It was the SVRR that was handling FBI special agent Earl Pitts when he was arrested for espionage in 1996. It was the SVRR that planted one of their listening devices in a conference room of the State Department in Washington in the summer of 1999. And it was the SVRR that was handling FBI special agent Robert Hanssen when he was arrested on charges of espionage in February 2001.
The Russians are not alone. There have been serious, well-publicized concerns about Chinese espionage in the United States. The Department of Energy significantly increased security at its national laboratories last year in response to allegations that China had stolen US nuclear weapons secrets.
Paul Redmond, the former Associate Deputy Director of Operations for Counterintelligence at the CIA, told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in early 2000 that a total of at least 41 countries are trying to spy on the United States. Besides mentioning Russia, China, and Cuba, he also cited several “friends,” including France, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. He warned of a pervasive CI threat to the United States.
The United States, as the world’s only remaining superpower, will be the constant target of jealousies, resentments, rivalries, and challenges to its economic well-being, security, and leadership in the world. This inevitably means that the United States will be the target of large-scale foreign espionage.
A Choice Assignment
When I joined the CIA, one of my first interim assignments was with the old CI Staff. I found it fascinating. I was assigned to write a history of the Rote Kapelle, the Soviet espionage network in Nazi-occupied Western Europe during World War II.
With its expanded computer power, NSA was breaking out the actual messages sent between the NKVD center in Moscow and the clandestine radios of the various cells in Western Europe. Incredibly, these messages came to me.
There I was, a brand new junior officer, literally the first person in the CIA to see the day-to-day traffic from these life-and-death operations. I was deeply affected by the fear, heroism, and drama in these messages. Above all, I felt privileged to have been given such an opportunity.
Building on an earlier study of the Rote Kapelle by the CI Staff, I completed a draft several months later that incorporated the new material. To my great surprise, this study was well received by my immediate superiors, and I was told that I was to be rewarded with a personal interview and congratulations from James Jesus Angleton, the legendary head of the CI Staff from 1954 to 1974.
Angleton’s office was on the second floor of the Original Headquarters Building. I was first ushered into an outer office, where Angleton’s aides briefed me on how to conduct myself. Then I went alone into the inner sanctum.
The room was dark, the curtains were drawn, and there was just one small lamp on Angleton’s desk. I later heard that Angleton had eye trouble and that the light hurt his eyes, but I was convinced the real reason for the semidarkness was to add to his mystique. It certainly worked on me!
I nervously briefed Angleton on my study, and he listened without interrupting, just nodding from time to time. When I finished, he methodically attacked every one of my conclusions. Didn’t I know the traffic was a deception? Hadn’t it occurred to me that Leopold Trepper, the leader of the Rote Kapelle, was a German double? He went on and on, getting further and further out.
Even I, as a brand new officer, could tell that this great mind, this CI genius, had lost it. I thought he was around the bend. It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my career.
When the meeting was over, I was glad to get out of there, and I vowed to myself that I would never go anywhere near CI again. I did not keep that vow. In my overseas assignments with the Agency, I found myself drawn toward Soviet CI operations. Nothing seemed to quicken my pulse more, and I was delighted when I was called back to Headquarters in 1989 to join the new Counterintelligence Center (CIC) as Ted Price’s deputy. When Ted moved upstairs in early 1991 to become the Associate Deputy Director for Operations, I was named chief of the Center.
Today, many years after that initial disagreeable encounter with CI, I find it hard to believe that it is actually my picture on the wall of the CIC conference room at CIA Headquarters, where the photos of all former CIA counterintelligence chiefs are displayed. There I am, number seven in a row that begins with Angleton.
So, after a career that ended up being far more CI-oriented than I could ever have imagined, I would like to offer some personal observations in the form of “The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence.” I have chosen the form of commandments because I believe the basic rules of CI are immutable and should be scrupulously followed. In my view, it makes little difference whether the adversary is the Russians, the Cubans, the East Germans, the Chinese, or someone else. It likewise makes little difference whether we are talking about good CI practices in 1985 or in 2005. Unfortunately, as I watch US CI today, I am increasingly concerned that the principles I consider fundamental to effective CI are not being followed as carefully and consistently as they should be.
These commandments were not handed down to me from a mountaintop, and I make no claim that they are inspired or even definitive. They are simply the culmination, for what they are worth, of my experience. They are intended primarily for my fellow practitioners in CI today, but also for any younger officers in the Intelligence Community (IC) who might someday want to join us.
The First Commandment: Be Offensive
CI that is passive and defensive will fail. We cannot hunker down in a defensive mode and wait for things to happen. I believe we are spending far too much money on fences, safes, alarms, and other purely defensive measures to protect our secrets. That is not how we have been hurt in recent years. Spies have hurt us. Our CI mindset should be relentlessly offensive. We need to go after our CI adversaries.
Aggressive double agent (DA) operations are essential to any CI program, but not the predictable, hackneyed kind we have so often pursued. We need to push our bright and imaginative people to produce clever new scenarios for controlled operations, and we need more of them. The opposition services should be kept constantly off guard so that they never suspect that we have actually controlled the operations they believe they initiated from the beginning. When the requirements, modus operandi, and personality objectives of the DA operation have been achieved, we should in a greater number of cases pitch the opposition case officer. If only one out of 10 or 20 of these recruitments takes, it is worth it. And CI professionals, of course, should not rely exclusively on their own efforts. They should constantly prod their HUMINT colleagues to identify, target, and recruit officers from the opposition intelligence services. The key to CI success is penetration. For every American spy, there are several members of the opposition service who know who he or she is. No matter what it takes, we have to have penetrations.
We should operate aggressively against the nontraditional as well as the traditional adversaries. How many examples do we need of operations against Americans by so-called friendly countries to convince us that the old intelligence adage is correct: there are friendly nations, but no friendly intelligence services. If we suspect for whatever reason that the operatives of a foreign intelligence service, friend or foe, are operating against us, we should test them. We should dress up an enticing morsel, made to order for that specific target, and send it by them. If they take it, we have learned something we needed to know, and we have an operation. If they reject it, as true friends should, we have learned something, too. In either event, because we are testing a “friend,” plausible deniability has to be strictly preserved. Every foreign service is a potential nontraditional adversary; no service should get a lifetime pass from US offensive CI operations.
The Second Commandment: Honor Your Professionals
It has been true for years—to varying degrees throughout the IC—that CI professionals have not been favored, to the extent they deserved, with promotions, assignments, awards, praise, esteem, or other recognition. The truth is that CI officers are not popular. They are not always welcome when they walk in. They usually bring bad news. They are easy marks to criticize when things go wrong. Their successes are their failures. If they catch a spy, they are roasted for having taken so long. If they are not catching anyone, why not? What have they done with all that money they spent on CI? It is no-win.
For much of my career, many of our best people avoided becoming CI specialists. CI was not prestigious. It had a bad reputation. It was not fast track. It did not lead to promotions or good assignments. Angleton left a distasteful legacy that for years discredited the CI profession. Ted Price did more than anyone else in the Agency to reverse that trend and to rehabilitate CI as a respected professional discipline.
Nevertheless, that battle is still not completely won. We have to do more to get our CI people promoted, recognized, and respected so that our best young officers will be attracted to follow us into what we know is a noble profession and where the need is so great.
The Third Commandment: Own the Street
This is so fundamental to CI, but it is probably the least followed of the commandments. Any CI program worthy of the name has to be able to engage the opposition on the street, the field of play for espionage. And when we do go to the street, we have to be the best service there. If we are beaten on the street, it is worse than not having been there at all.
For years, we virtually conceded the streets of the world’s capitals, including the major espionage centers, to the KGB, the GRU, and the East European services because we either did not know how to do it or we were not willing to pay the price for a thoroughly professional, reliable, full-time, local surveillance capability.
Opposition intelligence officers have to be watched, known meeting areas have to be observed, and, when an operation goes down—often on short notice—undetectable surveillance has to cover it, identify the participants, and obtain evidence.
This capability is expensive—selection, training, vehicles, photo gear, video, radios, other real spy equipment, safe apartments, observation posts, and on and on—but, if we do not have it, we will be a second-rate CI service and will not break the major cases.
The Fourth Commandment: Know Your History
I am very discouraged when I talk to young CI officers today to find how little they know about the history of American CI. CI is a difficult and dangerous discipline. Many good, well-meaning CI people have gone wrong and made horrendous mistakes. Their failures in most cases are well documented, but the lessons are lost if our officers do not read the CI literature.
I find it inconceivable that any CI practitioner today could ply his or her trade without an in-depth knowledge of the Angleton era. Have our officers read Mangold? Have they read Legend and Wilderness of Mirrors? Do they know the Loginov case, HONETOL, MHCHAOS, Nosenko, Pollard, and Shadrin? Are they familiar with Aspillaga and the Cuban DA debacle? Have they examined our mistakes in the Ames and Howard cases? Are they staying current with recent releases like The Mitrokhin Archive and The Haunted Wood?
I believe it is an indispensable part of the formation of any American CI officer—and certainly a professional obligation—to study the CI failures of the past, to reflect on them, and to make sure they are not repeated.
The many CI courses being offered now are a positive step, but there will never be a substitute for a personal commitment on the part of our CI professionals to read their history, usually on their own time at home.
The Fifth Commandment: Do Not Ignore Analysis
Analysis has too often been the stepchild of CI. Throughout the CI community, we have fairly consistently understaffed it. We have sometimes tried to make it up as we go along. We have tried to do it on the cheap.
Generally speaking, operators make bad analysts. We are different kinds of people. Operators are actors, doers, movers and shakers; we are quick, maybe a little impulsive, maybe a little “cowboy.” Our best times are away from our desks. We love the street. Research and analysis is really not our thing—and when we have tried to do it, we have not been good at it.
True analysts are different. They love it. They are more cerebral, patient, and sedentary. They find things we could not. They write better.
A lot of CI programs in the past have tried to make operators double as their own analysts. As a result, in the United States, CI analysis historically has been the weakest part of the business. Professional CI analysts have been undervalued and underappreciated.
A good CI program will recruit and train true analysts in sizable numbers. I do not think it would be excessive as a rule of thumb in a top notch CI service to be evenly divided between operators and analysts. Very few of our US CI agencies come anywhere close to that ratio.
Wonderful things happen when good analysts in sufficient numbers pore over our DA reports, presence lists, SIGINT, audio and teltap transcripts, maps, travel data, and surveillance reports. They find the clues, make the connections, and focus our efforts in the areas that will be most productive.
Many parts of the US CI community have gotten the message and have incorporated trained analysts into their operations, but others have not. Across the board, we still have serious shortfalls in good, solid CI analysis.
The Sixth Commandment: Do Not Be Parochial
More harm probably has been done to US CI over the years by inter-agency sniping and obstruction than by our enemies. I remember when the CIA and the FBI did not even talk to each other—and both had disdain for the military services. It is no wonder that CI was in shambles and that some incredibly damaging spies went uncovered for so long.
Occasionally in my career, I encountered instances of sarcasm or outright bad mouthing of other US Government agencies by my officers. That kind of attitude and cynicism infected our junior officers and got in the way of cooperation. These comments often were intended to flaunt our supposed “superiority” by demeaning the capabilities of the other organizations. I dealt with these situations by telling the officers to “knock it off,” and I would encourage other CI supervisors around the community to do the same.
CI is so difficult, even in the best of circumstances, that the only way to do it is together. We should not let personalities, or jealousies, or turf battles get in the way of our common mission. Our colleagues in our sister services are as dedicated, professional, hardworking, and patriotic as we are, and they deserve our respect and cooperation. The best people I have known in my career have been CI people, regardless of their organizational affiliation. So let us be collegial.
The Seventh Commandment: Train Your People
CI is a distinct discipline and an acquired skill. It is not automatically infused in us when we get our wings as case officers. It is not just a matter of applying logic and common sense to operations, but is instead a highly specialized way of seeing things and analyzing them. CI has to be learned.
I do not know how many times in my career I have heard, “No, we do not really need a separate CI section. We are all CI officers; we’ll do our own CI.” That is a recipe for compromise and failure.
There are no substitutes for professional CI officers, and only extensive, regular, and specialized CI training can produce them. Such training is expensive, so whenever possible we should do it on a Community basis to avoid duplication and to ensure quality.
CI is a conglomerate of several disciplines and skills. A typical operation, for example, might include analysts, surveillance specialists, case officers, technical experts, and DA specialists. Each area requires its own specialized training curriculum. It takes a long time to develop CI specialists, and that means a sustained investment in CI training. We are getting better, but we are not there yet.
The Eighth Commandment: Do Not Be Shoved Aside
There are people in the intelligence business and other groups in the US Government who do not particularly like CI officers. CI officers have a mixed reputation. We see problems everywhere. We can be overzealous. We get in the way of operations. We cause headaches. We are the original “black hatters.”
Case officers want their operations to be bonafide. Senior operations managers do not want to believe that their operations are controlled or penetrated by the opposition. There is a natural human tendency on the part of both case officers and senior operations managers to resist outside CI scrutiny. They believe that they are practicing good CI themselves and do not welcome being second-guessed or told how to run their operations by so-called CI specialists who are not directly involved in the operations. I have seen far more examples of this in my CI career than I care to remember.
By the same token, defense and intelligence contractors and bureaucrats running sensitive US Government programs have too often tended to minimize CI threats and to resist professional CI intervention. CI officers, in their view, stir up problems and overreact to them. Their “successes” in preventing CI problems are invisible and impossible to measure, but their whistle blowing when problems are uncovered generate tremendous heat. It is not surprising that they are often viewed as a net nuisance.
When necessary, a CI service has to impose itself on the organizations and groups it is assigned to protect. A CI professional who is locked out or invited in only when it is convenient to the host cannot do his job.
My advice to my CI colleagues has always been this: “If you are blocked by some senior, obtuse, anti-CI officer, go around him or through him by going to higher management. And document all instances of denied access, lack of cooperation, or other obstruction to carrying out your CI mission. If not, when something goes wrong, as it likely will in that kind of situation, you in CI will take the blame.”
The Ninth Commandment: Do Not Stay Too Long
CI is a hazardous profession. There should be warning signs on the walls: “A steady diet of CI can be dangerous to your health.”
I do not believe anyone should make an entire, uninterrupted career of CI. We all who work in CI have seen it: the old CI hand who has gotten a bit spooky. It is hard to immerse oneself daily in the arcane and twisted world of CI without falling prey eventually to creeping paranoia, distortion, warping, and over zealousness in one’s thinking. It is precisely these traits that led to some of the worst CI disasters in our history. Angleton and his coterie sadly succumbed, with devastating results. Others in the CIA and elsewhere have as well. The danger is always there.
My wife, who was working at the CIA when I met her, was well acquainted with this reputation of CI and the stories about its practitioners. When I was serving overseas and received the cable offering me the position as Ted Price’s deputy in the new Counterintelligence Center, I discussed it with her that evening at home. Her response, I thought, was right on the mark: “Okay, but do not stay too long.”
Sensible and productive CI needs lots of ventilation and fresh thinking. There should be constant flow through. Non-CI officers should be brought in regularly on rotational tours. I also believe it is imperative that a good CI service build in rotational assignments outside CI for its CI specialists. They should go spend two or three years with the operators or with the other groups they are charged to protect. They will come back refreshed, smarter, and less likely to fall into the nether world of professional CI: the school of doublethink, the us-against-them mindset, the nothing-is-what-it-seems syndrome, or the wilderness of mirrors.
The Tenth Commandment: Never Give Up
The tenth and last commandment is the most important. What if the Ames mole hunters had quit after eight years instead of going into the ninth? What if, in my own experience, we had discontinued a certain surveillance operation after five months instead of continuing into the sixth? CI history is full of such examples.
The FBI is making cases against Americans today that involved espionage committed in the 1960s and 1970s. The Army’s Foreign Counterintelligence Activity is doing the same. The name of the game in CI is persistence. CI officers who are not patient need not apply. There is no statute of limitations for espionage, and we should not create one by our own inaction. Traitors should know that they will never be safe and will never have a peaceful night’s sleep. I applauded my CI colleagues in the FBI when I read not long ago of their arrest in Florida of a former US Army Reserve colonel for alleged espionage against the United States many years earlier. They obviously never gave up.
If we keep a CI investigation alive and stay on it, the next defector, the next penetration, the next tip, the next surveillance, or the next clue will break it for us.
If there were ever to be a mascot for US counterintelligence, it should be the pit bull.
These are my ten commandments of CI. Other CI professionals will have their own priorities and exhortations and will disagree with mine. That is as it should be, because as a country and as an Intelligence Community we need a vigorous debate on the future direction of US CI. Not everyone will agree with the specifics, or even the priorities. What we should agree on, however, is that strong CI has to be a national priority. Recent news reports from Los Alamos, Washington, and elsewhere have again underscored the continuing need for CI vigilance.
Original Article by James M. Olson
James M. Olson served in the Directorate of Operations and is now on the faculty of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
When we think of “Real Spy Gear” we think of advanced espionage equipment used by the CIA and other agencies, but just because a spy gadget is “out of date” does not mean it isn’t real. In fact some of the older surveillance equipment and spy gadgets from WWII and the cold war, are also some of the coolest.
The first intelligence agency in the USA was the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services. OSS activities created an ongoing demand for spying devices and surveillance equipment that could be used to trick, attack, or demoralize the enemy. Finding few agencies or corporations willing to undertake this sort of low-volume, highly specialized work, Franklin D Roosevelt recruited General Donovan (The Father of American Intelligence) to fabricate the tools that OSS needed for its clandestine missions (Similar to the British MI6). By the end of the war, OSS engineers and technicians had formed a collection of labs, workshops, and experts that occasionally gave OSS a technological edge over its Axis foes.
The “Beano” grenade exploded on impact while the uniform button concealed a hidden compass
The Special Operations and Secret Intelligence Branches frequently called on the technical prowess assembled in the Research & Development Branch (R&D) and related offices. R&D proved adept at inventing weapons and James Bond type spy gadgets and in adapting Allied equipment to new missions. General Donovan hired Boston chemist and executive Stanley P. Lovell to be his “Professor Moriarty” in charge of R&D. The Division’s products ranged from silenced pistols to limpet mines to “Aunt Jemima,” an allegedly explosive powder packaged in Chinese flour bags. Tiny cameras and inconspicuous letter-drops were devised to assist OSS agents in enemy territory. A companion unit, located in the Communications Branch but also confusingly titled the Research and Development Division, developed wiretap devices, electronic beacons for agents in the field, and excellent portable radios (particularly the “Joan-Eleanor” system, which allowed an agent to converse securely with an aircraft circling high overhead).
The “Liberator Pistol” was very easy to conceal, while the Caltrops were designed to puncture tires.
R&D’s components also fabricated the myriad papers that an agent needed to create a plausible identity behind enemy lines. The latest German and Japanese-issued ration cards, work passes, identification cards, and even occupation currency all had to be secretly acquired, perfectly imitated, and securely passed to operatives preparing for missions that could end in sudden death if any part of their cover stories went awry. An agent’s appearance had to be just as carefully prepared. In the words of the OSS official history:
…each agent had to be equipped with clothing sewn exactly as it would have been sewn if it were made in the local area for which he was destined; his eyeglasses, dental work, toothbrush, razor, brief case, travelling bag, shoes, and every item of wearing apparel had to be microscopically accurate.
The growing number of OSS coastal infiltration and sabotage projects eventually gave rise to an independent branch, the Maritime Unit, to develop specialized boats, equipment, and explosives. The Unit fashioned underwater breathing gear, waterproof watches and compasses, an inflatable motorized surfboard, and a two-man kayak that proved so promising that 275 were ordered by the British.
A deck of playing cards conceal a map which would be revealed when the top layer was soaked off.
Some OSS schemes had a Rube Goldberg feel about them that seems almost comical today. Project CAMPBELL, for instance, was a remote-controlled speedboat, disguised as a local fishing craft and guided by aircraft, that would detonate against an anchored Japanese ship. The prototype sank a derelict freighter in trials, but the US Navy had no way of getting close enough to a Japanese harbor to launch CAMPBELL, and declined to develop the weapon. R&D built plenty of devices of its own that looked good on paper but either failed in tests or proved too impractical for combat use. But America was locked in a war for its very survival, and R&D chief Stanley Lovell felt that no idea could be overlooked: “It was my policy to consider any method whatever that might aid the war, however unorthodox or untried.” Failures were accepted as a cost of doing business.
Acetone Time Delay Fuses for limpet mines to be used against ships. A 16mm Kodak camera in the shape of a matchbox.
For More information on weapons and spy gear see theoriginal publication in the library section of the Central Intelligence Agency’s website.