Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind

This is my weekly "holy crap" we're living in an Orwellian nightmare post. Well, maybe we're not there yet, but when you put together just what we know from the past 8 years (i.e. Real ID, Wiretapping, Surveillance, Patriot Act, etc.), what recently took place at the Republican Convention in St. Paul Minnesota, and then stories like these regarding new technologies that can read minds, let's just say being paranoid doesn't mean you're wrong.

Yes, it's our good friends at the Department of Homeland Security and the testing they've been doing of the next generation of security screening — a body scanner that can read your mind. Of course its ONLY to catch those nasty terrorists at airports...yeah, sure it is...

So let's get to the article from none other than Fox News (yes, I realize the irony of the story being from the government's propaganda arm):

Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person — not the device — set to wreak havoc and terror.

MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.

It has a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate and respiration for unconscious tells invisible to the naked eye — signals terrorists and criminals may display in advance of an attack.


So here's how it works. When the sensors identify that something is off, they transmit warning data to analysts, who decide whether to flag passengers for further questioning. The next step involves micro-facial scanning, which involves measuring minute muscle movements in the face for clues to mood and intention.

Homeland Security has developed a system to recognize, define and measure seven primary emotions and emotional cues that are reflected in contractions of facial muscles. MALINTENT identifies these emotions and relays the information back to a security screener almost in real-time.

This whole security array — the scanners and screeners who make up the mobile lab — is called "Future Attribute Screening Technology" — or FAST — because it is designed to get passengers through security in two to four minutes, and often faster.

If you're rushed or stressed, you may send out signals of anxiety, but FAST isn't fooled. It's already good enough to tell the difference between a harried traveler and a terrorist. Even if you sweat heavily by nature, FAST won't mistake you for a baddie.


But the testing — and the device itself — are not without their problems. This invasive scanner, which catalogues your vital signs for non-medical reasons, seems like an uninvited doctor's exam and raises many privacy issues.

Now, I don't know about you, but I found it unsurprising that not one privacy advocate was quoted in this article. I mean, it is Fox News mind you. I don't know if there's a better example of Big Brother, Orwellian wordplay in action than the last paragraph of the article, where it says:

Burns noted his team's goal is to "restore a sense of freedom." Once MALINTENT is rolled out in airports, it could give us a future where we can once again wander onto planes with super-sized cosmetics and all the bottles of water we can carry — and most importantly without that sense of foreboding that has haunted Americans since Sept. 11.

Is it just me, or do you too find the concepts of "freedom" and "government mind reading technology" as antithetical?

No comments: