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News Link • Homeland Security

Detecting a crime before it happens: We Are All Suspects Now

"This is like eugenics 100 years ago when scientists said you could tell criminals by the shape of their eyes or the slope of their head," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It was bogus science then and it's bogus science now."

3 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ross Wolf
Entered on:

On May 27, 2010 Obama gave a speech stating he wanted the power to override the U.S. Constitution, to detain indefinitely in prolonged detention without probable cause or evidence, any U.S. Citizen based on he assumption someone is likely to commit a violent act in the future.

TSA’s scheme to uncover Terrorists before boarding flights, using the new technology “Spot–Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques” is believed by many to be a scam. Government paid millions of dollars for this alleged technology and to train hundreds of TSA personnel to implement it. The new Screening Techniques include TSA security at airports tracking and monitoring a "Set Of Involuntary Physiological Reactions" to detect when a person “harbors malicious intent” as opposed to when someone is late for a flight or annoyed by something else. It should have been apparent to TSA/Homeland Security that few humans even trained psychiatrists, have the capability to differentiate-sets of involuntary physiological reactions in Americans and different ethic groups and cultures to determine when someone is harboring malice intent; for example certain Asian cultures do not always show emotion; other cultures might overly express emotion. Any American salesman boarding a flight may harbor malice to smash his business competition once arriving at his business destination and could show “A Set Involuntary Physiological Reactions” that appear to harbor malicious intent.” More recently it was reported TSA is considering buying a new technology that supposedly can analyze body-odor from a distance at airports to determine whether a potential passenger is under a certain kind of stress that signals hostility. This idea so absurd it isn’t worth discussing.

TSA’s new technology “Spot–Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques” may actually help sophisticated terrorists escape detection at airport checkpoints: Could TSA’s training narrow the observation capability of TSA trained security personnel at airports to uncover terrorists, by conditioning TSA observers to rely on specific techniques to Spot–Screen Passengers? It is relevant to mention that Russian KGB Agents and (spies) were trained to monitor their own physiological reactions under stress and to pass lie detector tests when they were lying. U.S. Homeland Security recently was quoted in the LA Times as having said they stop people that show no emotion. For the most part that could be a wasted effort, millions of Americans are medicated for psychological issues and often don’t show normal or any emotion at all. Russian KGB agents were taught not only to "monitor" their body language, but copy and implement other people’s' body language including mannerisms while on a mission to prevent their own body language from being read. KGB training included covertly filming their agents’ “body language” during a mission, then providing the film to the agent so he or she could repeatedly review the film and modify their body language to avoid detection. It is foreseeable sophisticated terrorists could also copy and emulate other people’s non-threatening body language and portray different character types, just like actors do, to avoid detection by TSA airport security and other government security. TSA airport Security and other government-trained security may constrain their ability to catch terrorists by relying too much on “Spot–Screening Passenger Techniques” at airports and by over relying on communication patterns of phone calls and emails.  It is also a concern whether U.S. Government can keep their passenger observation techniques secret when they provide that training information to so may trainees. It is foreseeable more sophisticated terrorists could use that training information to implement verbal and non-verbal elements (body language) to map around TSA’s security personnel training to avoid detection in the future should TSA passenger screening techniques and technology ever prove successful. 

Comment by Chip Saunders
Entered on:

 The real dangerous part of this is how it sets the stage for the eventual obliteration of the need for probable cause. Currently, probably cause for an officer to pull someone out of line or off the road must be "articulatable". In otherwords, the officer must be able to explain in a courtroom before a jury what it was the suspect did or didn't do that was suspicious or captured his attention. This standard is far from perfect, as we already have seen how it can be bent and stretched to ridiculous degrees.

But imagine a future where where an officer is asked why he had detained or arrested someone, the answer is "the computer told me to".

By surrendering the officer's own common sense and judgement to a machine, a grand jury would be unable to evaluate whether there was sufficient probable cause, because the officer didn't make the actual evaluation, and a computer is unable to testify. If an expert on the science used by the computer's software to arrive at the determination of probable cause were to testify,... he likely would (perhaps by design) do nothing more than to confuse the jurors hopelessly about how the process were to supposedly work, and as juries usually do, would likely just approve the incident out of "faith" that the scientists and gov't employees would never put a system like that into use unless it worked sufficiently. Eventually, the use of computerized intruction as to suspicion would become so accepted, no one would question it. And just as juries currently convict people based on the idea that the authorities wouldn't put someone on trial who isn't guilty,...they will give great weight to computerized determinations of mal-intent.

Once this stage is reached, what is to prevent some over-zealous law enforcement types from tweeking the software to point the dirty finger of accusation whenever they see fit, regardless of the science? Think of all the tainted evidence that sent people away already.

Imagine having an IRS computer analyse your financial data and determine that the gold you buy and all the cash payments you make indicate some sort of attempt to cheat the gov't out of tax income. Then imagine attending a resulting audit where one of these computerized behavioral interpretation devices scrutinizes you as you confer with the IRS accountant. If it decides from your nervousness and obvious hostility to the whole situation that you are likely committing a crime, a case might be filed against you,...based primarily on determinations made not by any human being.

Comment by Sharon Secor
Entered on:

 Well... I've already accepted that I will never fly again. I don't have the temperament for the special search my dreads would be sure to garner me (if I wasn't on *the list* when I arrived, I'd surely be on it when I left). And now, with this pre-crime potential assessment... there's just no way I can mask the complete and total contempt I feel for the power-rabid minimum wage 'security' staff in charge of intimidating and shuffling sheeple from one place to another, so I can't imagine myself being allowed on a flight. Ah, just as well... slow food, slow travel, slow living... all good for the soul.  

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