Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fighting terrorism the Tom Cruise way

Why mess with things like metal detectors at airports? Why bother with real investigations into possible wrong-doers? Let's just read the body language of all passengers and pick out the ones with criminal intent. Doesn't that sound like the best way for the Department of Homeland Security to keep us all safe?

Apparently, Homeland Security is funding a project called Future Attribute Screening Technology. The purpose is to monitor certain psychological signs of travelers to discern which travelers, if any, have the desire or intent to do harm. Certain physical signals can indicate such intent, according to the experts at HS, including heart rate, body temperature, fidgeting, breathing, and eye movement. The general idea is that screening for these body signals will alert security to people whose measurements add up to possible trouble. Those few picked out by the system could then be subjected to secondary screening by actual security personnel.

They're also talking about using this system at places like sports stadiums and other areas posing higher security concerns.

This sounds about as realistic as that Tom Cruise flick "Minority Report". Or polygraph testing. I just don't buy that we can somehow divine a person's intent or read her mind by monitoring basic vital signs. I would guess that fidgety behavior and increased breath and heart rates would also be associated with nervousness. So at an airport, the system could pick out an awful lot of fearful flyers or job-seekers traveling for interviews or college students leaving for a semester abroad. And at a ball park, maybe they'd inadvertently snare the guy planning to propose on the jumbotron after the 3rd inning. Or maybe it just might find a guy who had a few too many brats while tailgating. Basically, like polygraph testing, even if the system can accurately identify people undergoing some sort of stress or nervous reaction, but there's no way for the system to identify the cause of that reaction.

Seems like an awful waste of resources to research this kind of fantastical law enforcement pipe dream.


Heather said...

This post made me think of an episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago where Mac "performed an occular scan just like Homeland Security" and "cleared" a guy "for passage" who eventually ends up robbing them of their car while they are sleeping.

It scares me that our government might be buying into this hooey.

S said...

It sort of reminds me of people who will spend ridiculous sums of money to chase after some perfect way to make a million really fast. Those people never wind up with a million; they wind up with debt trying to pay off whatever gadgets they bought.

Just going out and getting a real job and saving money will get you financially secure a lot faster! Just like plain old police work is a lot more likely to sniff out the bad guys than some mind-reading device.

Language Lover said...

I agree that this is a stupid idea, but I can't help but think it's at least superior to the current method where you look at the amount of melanin in someone's skin to decide whether they're a threat.

S said...

I guess I'm cynical enough to think this system won't really protect against racial profiling.

rakeback said...

As strange as Tom is in in his personal life, he is an extremely talented actor and Im looking forward to watching his next project. He made the some best films of the 1980's and is still going strong.

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