Communion Of Dreams

“You’re in the desert, you see a tortoise lying on its back, struggling, and you’re not helping — why is that?”*

So, according to FOX News, our friends at the Department of Homeland Security will soon have a new trick up their sleeve: MALINTENT.

Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind

Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening — a body scanner that can read your mind.

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.

I’m . . . sceptical.  Let me put it like this: if this thing actually, dependably, reliably works the way they tout it in the article (go read the whole thing, even if it is from FOX), then the TSA would be perfectly fine with allowing me to carry a gun onto a plane.  After all, I have a legitimate CCW permit, have been vetted by a background check and accuracy test, have had the permit for three years, and have never demonstrated the slightest inclination to use my weapon inappropriately.  If I could pass their MALINTENT scanners as well, they should be completely willing to let me (and anyone else who had a similar background and permit) carry a weapon on board.

Just how likely do you think that is?

Right.  Because this sort of technology does not, will not, demonstrate reliability to the degree they claim.  There will be far too many “false positives”, as there always are with any kind of lie detector.  That’s why multiple questions are asked when a lie detector is used, and even then many jurisdictions do not allow the results of a lie detector to be admitted into courts of law.

Furthermore, the risk of a “false negative” would be far too high.  Someone who was trained/drugged/unaware/elated with being a terrorist and slipped by the scanners would still be a threat.  As Bruce Schneier just posted about Two Classes of Airport Contraband:

This is why articles about how screeners don’t catch every — or even a majority — of guns and bombs that go through the checkpoints don’t bother me. The screeners don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough. No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.

Contrast that with a terrorist plot that requires a 12-ounce bottle of liquid. There’s no evidence that the London liquid bombers actually had a workable plot, but assume for the moment they did. If some copycat terrorists try to bring their liquid bomb through airport security and the screeners catch them — like they caught me with my bottle of pasta sauce — the terrorists can simply try again. They can try again and again. They can keep trying until they succeed. Because there are no consequences to trying and failing, the screeners have to be 100 percent effective. Even if they slip up one in a hundred times, the plot can succeed.

OK, so then why do it?  Why introduce these scanners at all?  Why intrude on the privacy of people wanting to get on an airplane?

Control.  As I noted earlier this year, about the news that the US military was deploying hand-held ‘lie detectors’ for use in Iraq:

The device is being tested by the military. They just don’t know it. And once it is in use, some version of the technology will be adapted for more generalized police use. Just consider how it will be promoted to the law enforcement community: as a way of screening suspects. Then, as a way of finding suspects. Then, as a way of checking anyone who wants access to some critical facility. Then, as a way of checking anyone who wants access to an airplane, train, or bus.

Just how long do you think it will be before you have to pass a test by one of these types of devices in your day-to-day life? I give it maybe ten years.  But I worry that I am an optimist.

An optimist, indeed.  Because here’s another bit from the FOXNews article:

And because FAST is a mobile screening laboratory, it could be set up at entrances to stadiums, malls and in airports, making it ever more difficult for terrorists to live and work among us.

This is about scanning the public, making people *afraid*.  Afraid not just of being a terrorist, but of being thought to be a terrorist by others, of being an outsider.  Of being a critic of the government in power. The first step is to get you afraid of terrorists, because then they could use that fear, and build on it, to slowly, methodically, destroy your privacy.  Sure, the DHS claims that they will not keep the information gathered from such scanners.  And you’re a fool if you think you can trust that.

Jim Downey

Via BoingBoing. Cross posted to UTI.

*Recognize the quote?

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Do YOUR androids dream at all?
“Blade Runner” test question determining (un)humanity of a suspected replicant.

Comment by GvonR

Got it in one, GvonR. Of course, the link at the bottom to the Voight-Kampff machine may have helped . . . 😉

I’ll have to ask Marvin if he dreams.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

Does this mean that the people who wrap their heads in tinfoil to foil (no pun intended) the Guv’mint brainscanners – were RIGHT?????

Comment by ML

Hence the term: “That’s a wrap!”

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

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