The Department of Homeland Security recently announced the development of futuristic sounding technology with a bizarre “Minority Report” twist. The criminals they’re looking for haven’t committed a crime yet.
The program called Project Hostile Intent is part of the Human Factors Division of the DHS. DHS says that they need a way to detect possible “future” terrorists without a criminal past and with no known ties to terrorist organizations and therefore do not appear in any government databases. The technology will use advanced biometric technology in an attempt to “read minds” of people in public places, like airports.
If a computer determines that you are thinking about committing a terrorist act, either imminently, or at some point during your stay in the US, then you will be picked up by security officers for an interview. What is especially creepy about this upcoming program is that since it is specifically targeting people with no known terrorists ties—the only evidence is the “opinion” of a invariably flawed computer program.
The potential for abuse is staggering. Imagine that you get tagged by the computer, and the next thing you know you’re dragged off and treated like you were about to blow up an airplane. The only evidence against you would be that a computer deemed that you had some sort of undefined “hostile intent”. The fact that you did nothing wrong wouldn’t stop you from being detained, interrogated, and harassed. Missing your flight home will be the least of your worries! Some people are becoming more frightened by the governments secretive and vague “war on terror” than they are of terrorist attacks.
The DHS says that with 400 million people entering the country every year, they have to be vigilant in finding individuals who may harbor hostile intent toward the United States. Their ultimate goal is to implement technology that can exceed the abilities of any of today’s screening methods—without anyone ever knowing that they’re being screened. The project aims to start testing the technology at airports, borders and ports as soon as 2010 and to deploy the system at all points of entry to the US by 2012.
The program manager for Project Hostile Intent, Larry Willis, says that everything is coming along smoothly and soon things are going to change. “The early test results have us cautiously optimistic. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the screening and interviewing process supporting access control for borders and critical infrastructure.”
But however successful the program might be at identifying future
terrorists, there is something very wrong with preemptively retaining
individuals for having a supposed “intent”. Is this kind of
“pre-emptive” technology seeding a Minority Report future, where
harming the innocent is justified as being for the “greater good”? Unless, of course, it could premepted a Cheney & Bush from invading Iraq.
Posted by Rebecca Sato.
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