Forget RFID chips that merely trace our physical movements in airports–The Wall Street Journal tells us of recent testing in a Knoxville airport of a computerized polygraph test that allegedly will trace our most sinister thoughts, ferreting out hidden terroristic intent on the part of would-be airline passengers:
With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses—blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels—that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.
The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have "hostile intent."
Even more interesting than the details on this lie-detectorish technique, not yet ready for full roll out, are discussions of the already-in-place "Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT)" method, in use at "about a dozen airports."
Trained teams watch travelers in security lines and elsewhere. They look for obvious things like someone wearing a heavy coat on a hot day, but also for subtle signs like vocal timbre, gestures and tiny facial movements that indicate someone is trying to disguise an emotion.
TSA officers observe passengers while consulting a list of more than 30 questionable behaviors, each of which has a numerical score. If someone scores high enough, an officer approaches the person and asks a few questions….More than 80% of those approached are quickly dismissed…
If suspicions remain, the traveler is interviewed at greater length by a screener with more specialized training.
A possibly disturbing, but useful and necessary, post-9/11 tool against terror, right? Of course, we must recognize that Things Have Changed. But some things, like law enforcement desire to use any tools they can scare us into allowing them to have for whatever purpose they choose, have not:
SPOT teams have identified about 100 people who were trying to smuggle drugs, use fake IDs and commit other crimes, but not terrorist acts.
Well, there's always tomorrow. The piece is filled with fascinating and disturbing details, and well worth a full read.
[Hat tip to Reason reader Ken Bourque.]