-DHS works on physiological screening of John Q. Public.

Posted: September 22, 2008 in 2008, Articles
Tags: , ,

September 22, 2008

They must be having a heck of a sci-fi good time over there at the Homeland Security Department’s research division.

On Thursday, the department showed off an early version of “physiological screeners” being designed to spot terrorists, USA Today reported. They are called “Future Attribute Screening Technology” (FAST) scans. The idea: People walk by a set of cameras, which would “read them,” looking for signs of anxiety, which will identify the bad guys.

The body polygraph is part of a five-year project in which the department is trying to devise ways to thwart terrorism. Another part is the Transportation Security Administration’s program — Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT). Their screeners have been trained in “behavior detection” — they pull people out of line in airports based on their “suspicious behavior.” By April, more than 100,000 people had been questioned, and fewer than 700 arrested. No would-be terrorists have been arrested.

The FAST scans, if they ever become reality, will be similarly intrusive and just as ineffective.

Homeland Security researchers are currently conducting experiments to determine what physiological reactions a person experiences when they mean to do others harm. Such characteristics would then be used as a comparative measure when Jane Doe walks past the cameras and lights them up with her anxiety. (What physiological reactions are experienced by a terrorist who means to do harm, but is not anxious because he is joyful about carrying out his mission? That would be a tough experiment to carry out.)

Does it not make more sense to focus on identifying weapons than trying to spot behavioral clues that may or may not mean anything?

How much money are we spending on such “research?”

There aren’t many monetary figures to be found on the Homeland Security Web site. But they do have a list of other projects, the descriptions of which are so impenetrable, there must be some way to use them for actual protection.

For example: The Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation Project. Overview: The project develops intelligence analysis frameworks, including extraction of terrorist intention signatures, systematic estimation of future terrorist behavior based on social and behavioral sciences, and modeling and simulations of future terrorist behavior influences. It identifies leading edge social science modeling and simulation technologies and advances social science modeling and data fusion capabilities in such areas as hybrids of neural nets, structural equations, genetic algorithms, social networks, etc.

Gotta love that “etc.” at the end. Oh, yes, genetic algorithms and the systemic estimation of blah blah blah.

If only we could wear jargon like armor.


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