Marines in Iraq demand LE System's laser-based crowd control system

Published 5 February 2007

Dazzler creates a wall of blinding green light that forces drivers away from senstive areas; while the brass favor a B.E. Meyers-produced device, the troops on the ground prefer LE; safety officials put their foot down

The Compact High Power Laser Dazzler may have a name that belongs in the Power Puff Girls cartoon, but this can be no reflection on the capabilities of this interesting crowd-control device developed by Hartford, Connecticut-based LE Systems. Intended to steer vehicles away from secure or dangerous areas, the $8,000 hand-held laser creates a wall of intense green light that blinds the driver and forces him to stop or veer away — even in full daylight. Obviously, such a device would be of great utility in Iraq, where checkpoint bombings are a major cause of casualties, and in fact Marines in Anbar province have been trying for a year and half to requisition some.

Unfortunately, Marine officials in Quantico, Virginia, citing unmet test requirements, needed safety reviews, and questions about LE’s production capabilities, refused the request. As a result, commanders on the ground bypassed the normal procedures — just as some had done earlier in the war for body armour and Hummer plating — and took money out of their own budget to purchase twenty-eight of the devices. These were duly delivered to Iraq with the full support of Major General Richard Zilmer, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the highest-ranking Marine in Iraq. Nevertheless, officials at Quantico ordered the Marines not to use them. Again, safety and reliability were the reason. Said Quantico spokesman Timothy Keefe: the Dazzler “did not successfully pass the prescribed tests, and it was not approved for use under the tactical conditions expected for its potential employment.” Permanent blindness was just one specific safety concern.

In fact, the Marines seem to prefer a different laser device, one manufactured by Redmond, Washington-based B.E. Meyers and known as the GBD-IIIC. At a price of $10,000 per unit, the Marines have already purchased 400.

-read more in Richard Lardner’s Tampa Bay Observer report