Days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a Pentagon agency was given a top-secret assignment to come up with technology to protect the president. What they looked at—from gassing bystanders to arming Secret Service agents with nonlethal squirt guns—was a lesson in the futility of perfect security.

Imagine angry protesters surrounding President Donald Trump’s motorcade as it heads down Fifth Avenue in New York. Now, imagine Secret Service agents spraying a gas that instantly pacifies those protesters; the hostility melts away and the crowd is suddenly docile.

In late 1963, just weeks after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, scientists taking part in a top-secret Pentagon project came up with just such an outlandish proposal, as well as many others, including a squirt gun that could incapacitate bystanders.


Inside DARPA