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Rand Corporation Research Report: Plaques, Cyborgs and Supersoldiers - Human Body Is Now An Official Warfare Domain

JAN 29, 2024

I am reposting this research article by the RAND Corporation. The entire document should be read, because it is eye opening. The human body is now considered a warfare domain that can be attacked via engineered pathogens, hacking the intra body network, hacking the brain computer interface, altering the genome and more. Future scenarios sound just too close to reality now. Please read below that a Russian commander was killed via app use and Geo location services. Genomics can be used to identify “minority groups for persecution.” Warfare strategies are to hack the human intra body network and the brain computer interface. We have been warning about the dangers of this technology. The targeting program is literally what this report is discussing, via more sophisticated technologies. If you have not seen our symposium on targeted individuals and you do not understand how much of this technology is already deployed against the citizens, please watch this now, as your life may depend on it. Targeted Individuals symposium

Please read and share.

Advances in biotechnology within the past half decade have renewed questions about the use of biotechnologies in a warfighting context. Prior to advances of the past few years and with respect to nation-states, biological weapons were usually deemed too liable to inflict harm on one’s own forces to be of much strategic value; past military applications of genomics are viewed largely as misguided eugenicist pseudoscience; and, until recently, such technologies as brain-computer interfaces (BCI) were too unwieldy for the battlefield. As of this writing in 2023, technological improvements— including messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines, the use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene sequences as genetic engineering tools, and advances in BCI—and their accessibility to both friendly forces and adversaries—could shift these strategic calculations. This report explores how recently achieved or likely future technologies change strategic choices for the human body as a warfighting domain. The analyses and recommendations in this report should be of interest to policymakers in the biotechnology, defense, and intelligence communities, as well as to a general audience.

RAND National Security Research Division

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD), which operates the National Defense Research Institute (NDRI), a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense intelligence enterprise.

Vignette 1 is science fiction, but it is not far-fetched. Although it remains unresolved whether genetic manipulations, such as gain-of-function research or an unintentional lab leak,1 played a role in the origins of SARS-CoV-2, advances in biotechnology make it straightforward for any suitably trained and equipped laboratory to produce coronaviruses—or other pathogens—that will escape immunity from prior infections or vaccines.
The COVID-19 pandemic enabled the first test of mRNA vaccine technology, which facilitates much faster vaccine design and production than afforded by prior techniques. The mRNA technology allowed the vaccine for COVID-19 to be developed within a single year, whereas the previous record was four years for the development of the mumps vaccine (Ball, 2020). The facts that (1) pathogens can be engineered to escape immunity and (2) mRNA vaccines can be rapidly developed introduce the potential for strategic use of bioweapons that previously would have been much less tractable. From a purely technical standpoint, at this time, many countries could engineer pathogens to infect others while rendering their own populations immune through mRNA vaccines. The use of a coronavirus bioweapon in the scenario described in Vignette 1 could make rational strategic sense for such U.S. adversaries as the Chinese government because such a weapon might be able to paralyze U.S. naval responses without incurring the military cost from a U.S. response to an opening salvo of kinetic strikes against the U.S. military. This is possible because the origins of an engineered pathogen would be highly uncertain, scientists would likely presume natural zoonosis (crossing from animals to humans) as the simplest explanation, and it would take years of research to ascertain the origin empirically. This ambiguity could serve a nation-state well in a scenario like Vignette 1, especially considered in contrast to the lack of ambiguity once a country begins kinetic strikes against the U.S.
The China-Taiwan scenario described in Vignette 1 postulates that an engineered bioweapon could be used in close coordination with actions in other domains (e.g., sea and air) to achieve a strategic goal (e.g., conquest of Taiwan). Warfighting domains are conceived as spatial or virtual places in which conflict can take place. Land, sea, and air are the traditionally recognized warfighting domains (space having been added in the past decade). Whether other zones of warfare, such as cyber, constitute domains is contested by researchers and strategists.
But can the human body itself be a warfighting domain? Can the body be an offensive or defensive weapon or a very specialized kind of target? As one approach to understanding the ways in which the human body might or might not be a distinct domain of warfighting, our team identified domain features mentioned in the research literature on warfighting domains and then assigned proposed domains for each of the features.

Table 1.1 therefore helps qualify aspects of disagreement about whether the human body can be a warfighting domain. If the domain concept does not require domain-specific movement, then the human body can be a warfighting domain in that it exhibits at least half of the remaining domain characteristics. The domain characteristics exhibited by the human body include specific modes of attack (e.g., pathogens, hacking IoB devices) that do not apply to other domains specifically.
Another intersection of traditional domains with the human body as a domain; specifically, that traditional warfare on land, at sea, or in the air is focused on the destruction of human bodies. This begs the question of whether the human body is a domain of war distinct from the taking of human life during land, sea, or air domain operations. Medieval use of infections during sieges may be considered rightly as simply a form of bioweapon deployed strategically within the land domain. Thus, it is perhaps contingent on the ongoing development of biotechnology and the greater ability to leverage bio capabilities independent of conflict in traditional domains that will cause the human body to emerge increasingly as a distinct domain of warfighting.
China has made exploiting advancements in biotechnology and genetic engineering a high priority—especially for enhancing warfare and national defense—because its military leaders consider biotechnology the next revolution in military affairs. A significant amount of this research is conducted in military hospitals, especially the People’s Liberation Army General Hospital. China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, the National University for Defense Technology, and the Central Military Committee’s Science and Technology Commission have made significant investments in “biology-enabled warfare” (Kania, 2019), which includes BCIs, brain networking, advanced biometric systems, human performance enhancements, and genetic engineering.
Chinese military leaders have also indicated that they consider biotechnology as among the new “strategic commanding heights” and are considering it a new military domain (Kania, 2019). Chinese military texts discuss offensive and defensive approaches to the biological domain, including dominance and deterrence through “ethnic-specific genetic weapons” .Regardless of what U.S. academics and strategists conclude on this definitional matter, that Chinese military leaders consider the human body to be a warfighting domain underscores the importance of our research.
We identified three aspects of biotechnology—engineered pathogens, IoB technologies, and genomics—that collectively comprise what we refer to as human domain biotech and whose further development could substantially influence warfighting. These areas overlap significantly with the field of synthetic biology. Given the broad scope of synthetic biology, we limited our insights to the three aspects of biotechnology discussed here.
For example, the potential consequences of adversary progress in the bioeconomy holistically—including (1) synthetic biology technologies related to agriculture and alternative energy sources and (2) genome-adjacent technologies, such as the microbiome or RNA modification—may affect national security and grand strategy considerations but are out of the scope of analysis for this report.

Engineered Pathogens

We consulted several existing databases compiled by academics, including one that was the most comprehensive (Peters, 2018), to assess the number of BSL-3 laboratories. We focused on BSL-3 because most BSL-4 pathogens, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, are so lethal that they are unlikely to cause major disruption to the U.S. military or U.S. society more generally. This assessment is based on experience, which has shown that the U.S. public health system’s epidemiological protocols—which focus primarily on diagnosis, isolation, treatment, and contact tracing—have been highly effective in preventing community spread of Ebola

Internet of Bodies

The IoB includes such devices as fitness trackers, wearables, and other smart consumer devices, as well as such internet-connected medical devices as pacemakers, exoskeletons, and prosthetic limbs.
Advanced IoB devices, such as smart contact lenses, are also under development characterizes the IoB as a progression of the Internet of Things and defines the IoB in three generations: body external, body internal, and body melded. Such technologies have the potential to transform warfighting. IoB and related technologies present a variety of potential opportunities to warfighters. For example, the U.S. Army is running studies to determine whether wearables can help with soldier well- being and fitness. Australian researchers have shown that military robot quadrupeds can be steered by brain signals collected and translated by a graphene sensor worn behind the ear of a nearby soldier (Tucker, 2023). In May 2023, the U.S. Space Force (USSF) announced plans for a large study in which guardians can choose between using wearable devices and participation in the traditional annual physical fitness tests to assess physical fitness (Hadley, 2023).4 This plan can help USSF track fitness continuously and focus on year-round health rather than driving its personnel to engage in dangerous habits, such as eating disorders, in the months leading up to annual body weight checks and fitness tests (Schmid, 2022).
Combining IoB data with advanced machine learning (ML) and AI algorithms can potentially enable tremendous advancements in health care, particularly precision medicine. AI has opened the door for more-efficient and automated analysis of complex data from across diverse sources. These algorithms speed up the data pipelines that are often necessary to support the complex interaction of human-machine interface. The collection and analysis of data collected on human physiology, activity, and genetics require efficient algorithms to manifest practical results (Hinkel, 2022). AI/ML algorithms can be trained on the vast amount of data collected by the network of IoB devices and predict acute or chronic changes in health status. For example, DoD is investing in wearable technologies using AI algorithms that could predict infection up to 48 hours before symptoms appear (Vergun, 2023).
Although IoB technologies offer significant potential and have already realized benefits, some have also been shown to incur risks to the warfighter and to national security. One type of IoB risk derives from information security issues with IoB-collected data. In early 2018, it was discovered that the publication of a heatmap of users’ running routes by the fitness app Strava revealed sensitive location and layout information of U.S. military bases around the world. A security vulnerability in the Strava app reportedly allowed unknown users to identify and track the movements of Israeli service members inside military bases, even if users limited who could view their Strava profiles. In 2023, it was reported that the Strava app might have been used to track a Russian submarine commander who was killed while jogging. In response to the first Strava incident, in August 2018, DoD banned personnel from using apps with geolocators while in overseas operational areas. However, these devices are in wide use outside military operational contexts. We present a scenario in Vignette 3 in which an insider threat uses an IoB device to capture sensitive government data.

One IoB technology—BCIs—may have a particular impact on warfighting. BCIs collect electrical signals from the brain and translate them into external outputs, such as commands. BCIs can be body external (e.g., a noninvasive electroencephalogram [EEG] wearable cap) or body internal (e.g., implanted into the brain). Some BCI technologies have shown promise for people who have lost the function of certain limbs or neuromuscular capabilities by reading brain signals. A fighter pilot who has lost function of their limbs could thus potentially use this technology to connect to and operate an aircraft. Future BCIs might even have the ability to write to the brain. A military commander could use this technology to communicate with their forces about a change in commander intent or a pivot in battlefield tactics. But if this technology were hacked, a malicious adversary could potentially inject fear, confusion, or anger into the commander’s brain and cause them to make decisions that result in serious harm. In fact, several organizations based in China were found to “use biotechnology processes to support Chinese military end uses and end users, to include purported brain-control weaponry” (Department of Commerce, 2021), and, because of this, these entities were added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List to restrict trade with those organizations.

Genomic Surveillance

Genomic surveillance is a near-term capability already in use in the private sector and deployed by other countries to identify genomic patterns. These technologies are used to analyze ancestry, track viral mutations within human cells, and survey microbial evolution within the environment (CDC, 2023). The biggest challenge to applying genomic surveillance to warfighting forces is to find robust correlations of genotypes with characteristics (phenotypes) that effectively align with military roles.
The most future-focused of our typologies is genomic enhancement—the ability to temporarily or permanently enhance an individual’s genomic traits. Genomic enhancement has been the stuff of science fiction and comic books for many decades. The desire to create supersoldiers has deep historical roots in early experimentations, starting as far back as the late 19th century. Much of eugenics—the attempt to use reproduction to increase the proportion of individuals with desirable traits—derives from a fundamental misunderstanding of human genomics and a desire to enhance genetic traits in fighting forces. These pseudoscience theories contributed to the justification of ethnic cleansing and the rise of genocide later in the 20th century.
Understanding the landscape of genomics research is critical to understanding global competition in this area. We examined recent (within the past ten years) genomic publications, using data from the Web of Science, to track the progress of genomic-focused research, and found that the United States and China are leading the way and are neck-and-neck in overall publications.
To understand these trends better, we segmented the publication dataset into five categories of genomics research. These categories represent five key technology areas that enable the warfighting genomic typologies of surveillance and enhancement that we described previously:
1.   Genomic editing: Also called gene editing, this is an area of research seeking to modify genes of living organisms to improve our understanding of gene function and develop ways to treat genetic or acquired diseases (Committee on Human Gene Editing, 2017).
2.      Epigenomics: This is a field of study, also sometimes called epigenetics, that is focused on changes in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) structure that do not involve alterations to the underlying gene sequence (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2023b).
3.      Transcriptomics: The DNA sequence of genes carries the instructions, or code, for building proteins. As the first step, a gene is transcribed into a related molecule, mRNA. The transcriptome is a collection of all the mRNA molecules (gene readouts) present in a cell, at any given time (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2020).
4.       Proteomics: The mRNA molecules serve as intermediate templates that are then translated into proteins; proteomics characterizes the total and individual pattern of proteins in a tissue or organ (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2018).
5.       Sequencing: To sequence a person’s DNA, researchers follow three major steps: (1) purify and copy the DNA, (2) read the sequence, and (3) compare it with other sequences (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2023a).
The clear pattern across all keyword groups in this analysis is that the United States has dominated in all areas of genomic research publications, but an emergent China shows an upward trend in publications that threatens to overtake those of the United States (Figure 2.4).

There is more to read in this article, please see the posted original.


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