Conspiracy Watch: The Pentagon’s Secret Death Ray

Illustration: Peter Hoey

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The latest installment in our ongoing collection of wonderfully weird (and totally whack) conspiracy theories. Find more Conspiracy Watch entries here.

THE THEORY: The Air Force and Navy say that their High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Gakona, Alaska, does cutting-edge research into the mysteries of the upper atmosphere. Of course, that’s just the cover story. The 35-acre “ionospheric heater,” which can blast 3.6 megawatts of energy skyward and create its own version of the northern lights, is really a high-tech weapon, though promoters of this idea are unclear on exactly what kind. Maybe a massive mind-control device? A death ray (which accidentally shot down the space shuttle in 2003)? A weather-modification system?

THE THEORISTS: The latter theory has been put forward by Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian economics prof who wrote a 2007 article in the normally sane environmental magazine the Ecologist in which he described HAARP as “a weapon of mass destruction.” He accuses global warming researchers of ignoring the impacts of “climatic warfare.” A leading proponent of the mind-control theory is Nick Begich, brother of Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and coauthor of the book Angels Don’t Play This HAARP.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: HAARP, launched in 1990 with an earmark from then-Sen. Ted Stevens, has some secretive uses related to submarines and protecting satellites from nuclear blasts, but there’s no evidence that it’s a weapon. And why build a giant system to wreak global meteorological havoc when our tailpipes are doing such a great job of it?

Kookiness Rating: Tin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat Small (1=maybe they’re on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)

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